The ‘Alternate Space’ of A.R. Rahman’s Film Music
This essay examines A. R. Rahman’s film music through a comparative study of aspects of Indian and Western musical and cinematic conventions, and analyses five of Rahman’s scores: two collaborations with Tamil director Mani Ratnam, (Roja, 1992 and Bombay, 1995), one collaboration with Indian-Canadian director Deepa Mehta (Fire, 1996), and two collaborations with Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire, 2008 and 127 Hours, 2010). These films together represent important aspects of Tamil, Hindi, multinational and Western cinemas, and Rahman’s naturally multicultural approach to composition offers an ‘alternate space’ that is key to his ability to imbue his scores with meaning that successfully complements filmic narrative across cultures. His soundtracks draw on scoring conventions that translate from East to West, blending traditional Indian instruments and tonality with Western symphonic instruments and musical structures, and electronic layers and beats with melodies articulated in his own Eastern singing style. Through analysis of the diverse musical aspects of his oeuvre in both Indian and international contexts, this essay offers insights into how Rahman’s film music so successfully bridges the cultural and aesthetic divide between East and West.
KeywordsFemale Voice Popular Music Music Genre Indian Film Alternate Space
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