Calling A.R. Rahman "the Mozart of Madras" is not my idea, but beyond all the marketing panache, he is a major presence in music across many genres. Chances are he is familiar — with or without recognizing the name — as the composer for more than 120 films, including the Oscar- and GRAMMY-winner Slumdog Millionaire, and the West End hit musical Bombay Dreams. Lest you think of Rahman as "only" pop or crossover, his works have been performed by the London Philharmonic and other orchestras.
Speaking of awards, Rahman has won two Academy Awards, two GRAMMY Awards, a BAFTA Award, a Golden Globe, four National Film Awards, 15 Filmfare Awards and 13 Filmfare Awards South in addition to numerous other awards and nominations.
To make your acquaintance quickly and memorably, watch his "Khwaja Mere Khwaja" from Jodhaa Akbar, and then the same song performed by the composer. If you do that, chances are you will become a fan (although it's more Stravinsky than Mozart).
The first major documentary about Rahman's life and work, Jai Ho, is opening the 13th annual 3rd i S.F. International South Asian Film Festival, Oct. 22-25 in San Francisco, Nov. 1 in Palo Alto.
The film, whose title means "Let There Be Victory," the theme song of Slumdog Millionaire, had a screening at the White House earlier this year. The festival-opener is at 7:15 p.m. on Oct. 22, in New People Cinema, where most of the San Francisco shows take place.
Other highlights of the festival:
- Me, My Mom, and Sharmila, Oct. 23, followed by a live performance and Q&A with Fawzia Mirza. Her film chronicles her struggle to connect with her mother as she grapples with her own emerging identity as a queer woman of color.
- Haider (Hamlet), Oct. 24, Vishal Bharadwaj’s adaptation of Shakespeare, fusing Bollywood scale and spectacle with indie sensibilities. Basharat Peer’s script transposes Hamlet to the conflict in Kashmir. The cast includes Shahid Kapoor, Tabu (of Life of Pi, and Irrfan Khan (The Lunchbox, Slumdog Millionaire).
- Asha Jaoar Majhe (Labor of Love), Oct. 25, delves into the lives of an ordinary couple whose competing work schedules keep them apart.
- Petals in the Dust, Nov. 1, Palo Alto, followed by panel discussion with filmmaker Nyna Pais Caputi. A documentary examining "the condition of an endangered class of people in modern India – women," dealing with the consequences of the estimate that by 2020 there will be 20% more men than women in India.