A.R. Rahman

Why Do People Hate A.R. Rahman?

A.R. Rahman is one of India’s most accomplished and decorated music composers. He has worked in Hindi, Tamil, and Telugu films and has composed some of the most popular and memorable film soundtracks of the past three decades.

However, despite his success and accolades, Rahman has also faced criticism and backlash from some people over the years. Here is an in-depth look at some of the reasons why certain groups have expressed dislike or hatred towards Rahman’s music and persona.

What criticisms have been leveled against A.R. Rahman?

Some of the key criticisms and complaints against Rahman have been:

Accusations of Plagiarism

  • Rahman has been accused of plagiarizing or copying beats and tunes from other composers. Some claim his compositions for films like Roja, Bombay, Dil Se, and more have identifiable similarities to existing songs.
  • In the late 1990s, Rahman was sued by Pakistani composer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan for allegedly recreating Khan’s compositions. The case was settled out of court later on.
  • Music directors like Bappi Lahiri have claimed that Rahman has copied their compositions in some of his songs.

Repetitive and Unoriginal Sound

  • Rahman has been criticized for lacking originality in his music and relying too much on repetitive beats and keys.
  • Some say he uses the same sounding arrangements and styles repeatedly in his soundtracks.
  • Critics believe he relies too much on synthesisers, drum loops, and repetitive chorus lines.

Promoting Religious Conversion

  • Hardline Hindu groups have accused Rahman of diluting Indian culture and promoting religious conversion.
  • They believe his songs mix Islamic/Sufi elements into the music to spread Christianity.
  • The songs from the film Bombay were cited as an example of promoting conversion by critics.

Disrespect of Legends

  • Rahman has been criticized for showing disrespect to legendary singers and composers like Lata Mangeshkar.
  • He has been accused of arrogance by older musicians for disregarding their stature.
  • His comments about singers like Mangeshkar needing to retire have caused controversy.

Not Enough Melody

  • For some critics, Rahman’s music lacks proper melodic development and structure.
  • Overuse of techno beats and synthesized sounds is seen as a compromise of Indian musical sensibilities.
  • Many miss the pure melodic quality and raga-based compositions of old legends in Rahman’s work.

Association with Specific Directors

  • Rahman has often been accused of favoritism, especially towards Mani Ratnam and Subhash Ghai.
  • Critics believe he reserves his best work only for directors he’s close to.
  • Overdependence on specific filmmakers shows lack of range as per critics.

When did criticism against Rahman become more prominent?

Rahman faced detractors early on too, but criticism against him gained more prominence and ferocity around the mid to late 1990s, especially after albums like:

  • Roja: The 1992 soundtrack was a massive breakthrough for Rahman. But it also drew flak for its unconventional compositions and fusion style. Accusations of plagiarism arose.
  • Rangeela: The 1995 album was again very experimental and avant-garde. The electronic sound was panned as un-Indian.
  • Dil Se: Rahman explored more Sufi influences in this 1998 soundtrack. It lead to religious conversion controversy.
  • Taal: The 1999 soundtrack saw significant criticism for not having “enough melody” and being “too techno.”

Rahman’s rise coincided with a shift towards more electronic and techno music in India during the 1990s. His unique style divided opinions sharply for breaking conventions.

Which groups have particularly criticized Rahman’s music?

Some of the distinct socio-political groups that have criticized Rahman include:

Religious Conservatives

  • Hardline Hindu right-wing groups have trashed Rahman for diluting Indian culture through “alien” religious elements.
  • They believe he promotes Christianity or Islam through his lyrics and Sufi/folk music influences.

Classical Music Purists

  • Carnatic musicians and Hindustani classical experts accuse Rahman of “cheapening” ragas by his fusion style.
  • They believe he makes Indian melodic forms subservient to modern beats and synthesized sounds.

Older Generation Musicians

  • Legends from film music’s golden age like Naushad, Madan Mohan see Rahman as arrogant and disrespectful.
  • They feel he disregarded their stature and contribution to Indian music.

Political Opponents in South

  • Regional rivals DMK in Tamil Nadu and TDP in Andhra have used Rahman’s background to criticize him.
  • His religious roots have been exploited for political mudslinging.

Competitor Music Directors

  • Contemporaries like Anu Malik have derided Rahman’s success as a temporary fad.
  • Younger composers also rebelled against Rahman’s dominance of the industry.

What are some of the notable controversies involving Rahman?

Plagiarism allegations over Album Thiruda ThirudaRahman accused of copying Vangelis’s ‘Chariots of Fire’ for the track “Thee Thee”Vangelis never officially pursued legal action. But it added to plagiarism accusations.
Lata Mangeshkar’s displeasure over swan song remarksWhen asked if he would compose a swan song for Mangeshkar, Rahman joked she should retire firstRemark perceived as disrespectful. Mangeshkar criticized Rahman for not knowing enough Hindu devotional music.
Rangeela soundtrack panned by criticsAlbum called too westernized, lacking Indian melodic sensibilitiesAdded to criticism of Rahman diluting Indian music
Comments on Star Singer show in KeralaRahman said a contestant singing his song was better than the originalRemarks seen as arrogant. Original singer Sujatha Mohan criticized him.
His conversion to IslamHardline groups jumped on Rahman embracing Sufi strain of Islam, claimed he was promoting conversion through songsIncreased religious criticism regarding his intent and agenda

What are some of the online platforms where criticism against Rahman is prominent?

Rahman faces criticism online from various entities:

Social Media

  • Facebook pages like “Boycott A.R. Rahman” carry hate messages & trolling comments against him.
  • Music discussion groups on Facebook & Reddit have threads criticizing Rahman’s talent.
  • YouTube comments on his songs include bashing by classical music fans.

Review Sites

  • Bloggers on sites like Spicy Onion, Sahinahi, Milliblog offer critical analyses of Rahman’s work.
  • Online magazines like Rolling Stone India have published articles with skeptical views about him.

Newspaper Articles

  • Editorials and think pieces in newspapers like The Hindu, Hindustan Times have carried some anti-Rahman sentiment.
  • Interviews with old-timers in the media bash Rahman for “arrogance” and “lack of respect.”

YouTube Channels

  • Channels like Think School offer social-political commentary and question Rahman’s image.
  • Some music listening channels criticize Rahman for ruining Indian compositions.

What impact has the criticism had on A.R. Rahman’s career?

While Rahman continues to have a very successful career, the criticism has impacted it in some visible ways:

  • His film work in the early 2000s decade slowed down, partially due to negative reviews of albums.
  • He avoided media interactions for a long time due to constant scrutiny and tendency to misquote.
  • The plagiarism allegations have led him to be extra cautious and even avoid composing sometimes.
  • He has tried to adapt and experiment less with his sound per critics’ feedback.
  • Marketing and branding himself through social causes and humanitarian work has been one way to rebuild image.
  • Focus on non-film albums and concerts increased to diversify beyond just films.

How has Rahman responded to the criticism over the years?

Rahman generally avoids reacting to controversies and criticism directly. But some of his responses over the years have been:

  • He has clarified that there is “no substance” to the religious conversion accusations against him.
  • In regards to plagiarism complaints, he has maintained that “inspiration” is not copying.
  • Rahman stands by his fusion style and believes Indian music needs to evolve.
  • He has acknowledged mistakes like the comments on Lata Mangeshkar and apologized.
  • Though frustrated by baseless criticism, he does not believe in “pleasing everybody.”
  • Rahman focuses on his spirituality and Sufi beliefs to stay centered amidst controversies.

What are some reasons behind A.R. Rahman’s continued success and stardom?

Despite the criticism, Rahman’s stardom remains undimmed due to some key factors:

  • His composing talent and ability to use technology combined with Indian melodies appeals to many.
  • Rahman’s humility, ethics, and spiritual image garner respect.
  • Directors like Mani Ratnam, Subhash Ghai vouch for him and trust him implicitly.
  • He delivers chartbuster soundtracks for every new generation like Roja in 90s, Rangeela in 2000s, Rockstar in 2010s.
  • Rahman constantly reinvents his sound and adapts to new styles be it romantic songs, Sufi music, EDM, etc.
  • He diversifies into new avenues like Hollywood (Slumdog Millionaire), Indie albums, concerts etc.
  • Strong fan following across India, Tamil community worldwide continue to appreciate his work.
  • Awards like Oscars, Grammys validate him as an artist both in India and globally.


A.R. Rahman’s stupendous success has made him a cultural icon in India. However, his unique style and reformist approach to Indian film music led to some criticism and controversies.

Hardline religious groups, classical music purists, and old generation artists have been most critical due to fears of diluting Indian traditions. Plagiarism allegations and remarks perceived as arrogant have also added scrutiny.

But Rahman’s spirituality, uncompromising talent and ability to re-invent himself for newer generations sustains his popularity. While criticism may rise from time to time, Rahman’s profound impact on Indian film music remains undisputed.

His vision of giving Indian melodies a global resonance makes him a pioneering force, respected both in the country and worldwide.

FAQs About Criticism Against A.R. Rahman

Why is A.R. Rahman accused of promoting religious conversion in India?

Some Hindu groups accuse Rahman of promoting conversion to Islam or Christianity through his lyrics and fusion of Islamic-Sufi elements in his music. They especially objected to songs from Bombay film which talked of inter-faith love.

Who are some of the singers who have criticized A.R. Rahman?

Older singers like Lata Mangeshkar have criticized him for disrespecting legends. Younger singers like Sujatha Mohan have also complained about his comments regarding their singing abilities.

What was the plagiarism controversy regarding the Thiruda Thiruda album?

Rahman was accused of copying acclaimed Greek composer Vangelis’s Oscar-winning track “Chariots of Fire” for the song “Thee Thee” in the 1993 Tamil film Thiruda Thiruda.

Why do certain classical musicians dislike A.R. Rahman’s music?

Carnatic and Hindustani classical experts accuse Rahman of subverting the purity of Indian ragas by fusing them with modern beats and electronic sounds in a “synthetic” manner.

Which rival music directors have publicly criticized A.R. Rahman?

Composers like Bappi Lahiri and Anu Malik have mocked Rahman’s success as a short-lived fad and accused him of lifting tunes from their compositions.

How did A.R. Rahman respond to Lata Mangeshkar’s criticism?

When Lata Mangeshkar criticized him for suggesting she retire, Rahman apologized and clarified that his swan song remarks were misconstrued. He maintained immense respect for the legendary singer.

Has criticism affected A.R. Rahman’s film music work?

Negative reviews in the 2000s did slow down Rahman’s work for a while. He also seems to have reduced experimentation in his sound based on feedback.

Why do certain groups in South India criticize A.R. Rahman’s background?

Regional rivals like DMK have exploited Rahman’s Hindu to Muslim conversion to criticize him for votebank politics and to question his “Tamil identity”.

Does criticism hamper A.R. Rahman’s musical performances?

No, live concerts by Rahman remain extremely popular globally. Negative commentary is mostly limited to certain groups online or in the media.

How has A.R. Rahman diversified his career in the face of detractors?

Rahman has reduced dependence just on film music by composing for Hollywood films, indie albums, and doing more live shows. His humanitarian work and teaching roles have also enhanced his public persona.

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