A.R. Rahman: The Mozart of Madras

If you haven’t heard of composer A.R. Rahman before, it may be because you are a fan of Hollywood but not Bollywood. Mr. Rahman has sold more than 100 million records, and with the success of Slumdog Millionaire, his music is now becoming familiar to Western audiences. Born in Madras (now Chennai) India in 1966, Mr. Rahman, a convert to Sufi Islam, continues to live and work there.

Slumdog Millionaire soundtrack

Slumdog Millionaire soundtrack

His score for Slumdog Millionaire has been nominated for two Academy Awards. He also has two nominations for Best Song from the same movie, “O Saya” and “Jai Ho” (which means “be victorious”). Only two Indians have ever won an Oscar. In 1983, Bhanu Athaiya won for best costume design for Gandhi, and Satyajit Ray, the director of The Apu Trilogy (Pather Panchali, Aparajito, The World of Apu) received a lifetime achievement award in 1992.

Slumdog Millionaire has already been a big winner in the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA). The award for best music went to A.R. Rahman for the original score of Slumdog Millionaire, beating out the competition from The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Alexandre Desplat), Dark Knight (Hans Zimmer, James Newton Howard), Mamma Mia! (Benny Andersson, Björn Ulvaeus), and Wall•E (Thomas Newman). The BAFTA was presented to Mr. Rahman by Kylie Minogue, the Australian pop singer/songwriter who is collaborating with him on his next project, a film called Blue.

See Also:
Talking Shop: AR Rahman [BBC News; February 17, 2009]
‘Slumdog’ Composer Rahman, ‘Mozart of Madras,’ Vies for Oscars [Bloomberg.com; February 22, 2009]
‘Slumdog’ Fusionist in Oscar Spotlight [NY Times; February 20, 2009]

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Israel Recognizes the Righteous: Wilm Hosenfeld

The 2002 film The Pianist was nominated for seven Academy Awards and earned three, the Oscar for Best Direct (Roman Polanski), Best Actor in a Leading Role (Adrien Brody) and Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay (Ronald Harwood). The movie tells the true story of the survival of pianist and composer Wladyslaw Szpilman, a Polish Jew, beginning with the onset of World War II.

One of the people who came to the aid of Mr. Szpilman was a Nazi officer, Captain Wilm Hosenfeld. Mr. Szpilman had written to Yad Vashem, the Israeli Holocaust Memorial, and also in his diaries that “in November 1944 Hosenfeld helped him find a hiding place and that he provided blankets, food and moral support.”

On Monday, February 16, 2009, Yad Vashem posthumously honored Mr. Hosenfeld as Righteous Among Nations, a recognition bestowed on men and women who helped the Jews during the Holocaust.

Mr. Hosenfeld’s diaries revealed “his growing disgust with the regime’s oppression of Poles, the persecution of Polish clergy, abuse of the Jews and, with the beginning of the ‘Final Solution,’ his horror at the extermination of the Jewish people,” according to Yad Vashem.

The Soviet Union arrested Mr. Hosenfeld at the end of the war. His sentence of life in prison was commuted to 25 years. He died in a Soviet prison in 1952.

See Also:
German Officer Made Famous in ‘The Pianist’ Named as Righteous [Bloomberg.com; February 16, 2009]
Nazi officer who saved Jews honored [International Herald Tribune; February 16, 2009]
German officer of ‘Pianist’ fame honoured in Israel [AFP; February 16, 2009]