Bollywood and Hip-Hop Meet in Slumdog Millionaire

A.R. Rahman -  Slumdog Millionaire
A.R. Rahman – Slumdog Millionaire
Renowned Indian musician A.R. Rahman is the composer of the soundtrack of Slumdog Millionaire, director Danny Boyle’s movie, which is nominated for an Oscar this year. Filmed in the streets and slums of Mumbai, India, Boyle needed just the right music to compliment the film’s urban realism. He turned to Rahman, who is a huge star in South Asia–selling more than 100 million albums worldwide and 200 million cassettes, and who is also popular in international world music circles.

The film’s score is central to the propulsive modern grit that pervades the story, but is also a nod to classic Bollywood productions where the music is front and center. And loud. Says Rahman, "We wanted it edgy, upfront. Danny wanted it loud."

Popular British singer M.I.A. participated in the soundtrack. She jumped at the chance to work on the song "O… Saya" with the famed composer. Rahman says, "She’s a real powerhouse. Somebody played me her CD and I thought, `Who is this girl? She came here and knew all my work, had followed my work for ages. I said, `Cut the crap, this "my idol" crap. You have to teach me.’"

M.I.A. crops up again, later in the film, with the remix of her worldwide hit "Paper Planes" seemingly made for Slumdog, as the lyrics pronounce, "Sometimes I feel like sitting on trains…" while a light blue locomotive chugs and hurls its way through India, young boys perched up top in the sepia sunlight scoping out for a scrap of food.

Other songs on the soundtrack include "Gangsta Blues," featuring hip-hop artist BlaaZe, which flutters with the rhythms of a film projector, capturing a bit of the madness of crowds as they disperse in a thousand directions to escape the claustrophobia of back alleys. The triumphant climax is "Jai Ho," closing out the film in a rousing sing-a-long that’s had film audiences burst into spontaneous applause.

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