AR Rahman's father KA Sekhar was a music conductor in Malayalam movies. His mother's name is Kareema Begum. His sister Rihannah who recently made her playback singing debut with Sivaji.
Rahman started learning the piano at the tender age of four and joined Ilayaraja's troupe as a keyboard player at the age of 11. He was forced to drop out of school as he travelled a lot with various orchestras.
He accompanied the great tabla maestro Zakir Hussain on a few world tours and also won a scholarship to the Trinity College of Music at Oxford University, where he studied Western classical music and obtained a degree in music.
In 1991, Rahman began his own music recording and mixing studio, attached to backyard of his house, called the Panchathan Record Inn. He initially composed music jingles for advertisements, television channels and music scores for documentaries, among other projects.
1992, he was approached by film director Mani Ratnam to compose the score and soundtrack for Ratnam's Tamil film Roja. The debut led Rahman to receive the Rajat Kamal award for Best Music Director at the National Film Awards, the first time ever by a first-time film composer.
The enormous success of his first venture was followed by the chart-topping soundtrack albums of films such as Bombay (1995), Dil Se (1998), Taal (1999), Zubeidaa (2001), and Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India (2001), which was nominated for best foreign-language film at the 2002 Academy Awards.
He was nominated for a 2003 Laurence Olivier Theatre Award (The Hilton Award) for Best New Musical of 2002, Bombay Dreams, performed at the Apollo Theatre, West End, London, and on Broadway in New York City.
On August 15, 1997, he released an album called Vande Mataram, on Columbia/SME Records, to commemorate 50 years of Indian independence. A tribute to the motherland, it featured songs for each of the Indian flag colors. The album was released simultaneously across the world in 28 countries, and Rahman himself performed in New Delhi to a packed audience including the honorable Indian Prime Minister. Over one million copies were sold in India alone.
AR Rahman has been redefining the country's widely popular film music. Generally regarded as the finest Indian film composer of his time . He is also known as the John Williams of the Indian Film Industry.
He has worked with many of his country's brightest music stars and a growing list of international luminaries like Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Zakir Hussain, L Shankar and Apache Indian.
AR Rahman has won the 2009 Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score for Slumdog Millionaire, as well as the 2009 BAFTA Award for Best Music for the same film. All eyes are on the Academy Awards now, for which the maestro has three nominations.