Discussion Post: Important Question! AR Rahman or RD Burman? Choose and Defend!

This will either get people very passionate, or not caring at all. No idea which! Also, not really sure which one I would choose?

Oh heck, I can’t choose! You all have to convince me, and then whatever you say will be the official DCIB policy.

Is the greatest film composer of Indian history RD Burman, who brought film music out of jazz and light classical and into rock and disco and the greater world of modern music, not to mention wrote innumerable classic songs that influence very composer in Indian film today?

Or is it AR Rahman, who brought Indian film music out of India to the world and is still composing today?

Or, I suppose, it could be a third person but I can’t think who. No really, it has to be one of those two.

Pick! And then convince me.

20 thoughts on “Discussion Post: Important Question! AR Rahman or RD Burman? Choose and Defend!

  1. Rahman’s greatest skill seems to be fusion

    It is like a chef who mixes several ingredients/styles into a single dish

    There are lots of chefs who could have done master pieces using one of the ingredients/style but none to mix all of them together the way Rahman does it

    Btw my favourite Rahman album is Kadhalar Dhinam


    • I was thinking for his next birthday, I might do a “Rahman in every genre” post. Rock, jazz, classical, pop, he’s really done it all. And done it so well that in each genre, I think “oh, this must be his REAL passion” and then he surprises me with something else.

      On Thu, Jun 27, 2019 at 8:44 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:


      Liked by 1 person

    • I love this reason! And I would never have thought of it like that, but you are so right. Maybe not when they first started out, Rahman had some really out there Tamil-Rap influenced stuff that the youth loved. But age has mellowed him.

      On Thu, Jun 27, 2019 at 9:54 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:



  2. This is a no-brainer for me – Pancham all the way. I enjoyed ARR when he first started out and through most of the 90s, but sometime in late 2000s he lost me. I feel like for the last decade or so Rahman’s been composing for himself rather than *me*, and that’s just wrong. 🙂 RDB, on the other hand, is just *home* for me musically speaking. His songs seem to strike just the perfect balance of melody and rhythm, heart and head.


    • Oh, I like this argument! Maybe that’s what I’ve been noticing with Rahman’s latest soundtracks? It seems like he throws in a song like “Azhigaye” or “Mental Manadhil” or “Macho” just to keep us happy, but mostly is more interested in pursuing his own vision. Which is great for him, I am sure he is breaking musical boundaries and what not, but isn’t always fun to listen to. Meanwhile RD, straight through 1942, made songs that were just a joy to listen to.

      On Thu, Jun 27, 2019 at 1:03 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:



    • All right, RD is climbing up the list! He may end up the official DCIB choice as “greatest ever”.

      On Thu, Jun 27, 2019 at 3:29 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:



  3. When it comes to Hindi film music, old really is gold. The old music really defined the music, the rest is merely the evolution, combined with the amalgamation with outside influences. The old composers had to start from scratch.

    1. Shankar Jaikishnan
    2. SD Burman
    3. RD Burman
    4. AR Rahmann

    Also I would invert your statement to “AR Rahman, who brought world music to Indian film music”. If you were listening to the then-newly-coined format “World Music” in the 1990s, you can recognize AR Rahmann’s approach to music fitting right in to that genre. Resonant, instrument-heavy, variety of instruments, insistent and sure-footed. This might be why his music sounds so dated nowadays, and why he wasn’t heavily influential on other composers after him. Though of the 4 I’d consider him the best to listen to live (probably because of the resonant, instrument-heavy quality), and arguably the most original (I.e. not heavily influenced by prior music of Hindi film). Maybe coming from tamil film gave him a freedom to think outside the box.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I like your timeline of composers! As soon as I read it, I could hear their music in my head.

      Going with your theory of composers advancing the music, would you put RD on top or not? Because I would. I think he took film music farther than anyone else, compared to where it was when he started.

      On Thu, Jun 27, 2019 at 4:36 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:



  4. Yes, I agree that the “delta” from what he started with and what he ended with was astounding. Otoh, that was the same delta that the world of western music was going through during that same time period. So one could argue that he was merely adapting western influences contemporaneously. Otoh again, he adapted those western influences with such skill and finesse, the likes of which we haven’t seen until today’s edm hip/hop era (the deepika-raabta song is an excellent adaptation of edm to Hindi film music, also yo yo honey Singh and baadshah have done a great job of adapting “party-hop” and “chill-hop”, just look at YYHS reboot of Dheere Dheere).

    Liked by 1 person

    • What’s also fascinating is that RD was able to move back as needed. The songs from 1942, and Parinda, they could have fit easily in a film from 1960. His range was amazing, to drive music that far forward, and then be able to double back on himself to where he started as needed.

      On Thu, Jun 27, 2019 at 5:59 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:



  5. I’d say Rahman but for me its nostalgia driven. His music was my childhood so its hard for me to be objective. I can listen to an R.D.Burman song and love it but I always tend to go back to Rahman because there’s a familiarity to it that’s incredibly comforting. Probably fitting that I also tend to really prefer 90s Rahman. I also have a soft spot for his more folkish albums like Kizhakku Chemaiyile or Karuthamma.

    I do feel it incumbent to point out that among Tamil music lovers, the perennial argument is Ilaiyaraaja vs A.R. Rahman. And those arguments get intense!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I was wondering if Ilaiyaraaja should be in the mix here! He’s never super impressed me, but then I barely know Tamil music.

      Since you are my Rahman voter, I can also point out that Rahman has the advantage of being revered in multiple industries, something I don’t think RD ever achieved. Perhaps another reason for Rahman?

      On Thu, Jun 27, 2019 at 7:08 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:



      • I’d agree with that. I never really listened to RD Burman until I was older and actively looking for non-Tamil Indian music. If I didn’t have an interest in doing that, I wouldn’t really know RD Burman’s music at all. I would say that’s probably Rahman’s biggest strength. We’ve had amazing composers but he was maybe the first truly pan-Indian composer. I could be missing someone else here.

        Re Ilaiyaraaja – he’s ubiquitous in Tamil cinema. So much so that a lot of directors now will use a snippet of Ilaiyaraaja’s songs as shorthand to convey a specific emotion. Surya singing En Iniya pon nilave in Vaaranam Aayiram or all the songs used in 96.

        I feel like I’ve got to leave my favorite Ilaiyaraaja song here.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I like Rahman, but R.D Burman has been the soundtrack to my life for the past ten years. I can listen to his songs over and over.

    Not super relevant, but I haven’t had a chance to tell this story: I went to dinner in a fancy restaurant where the background music was Muzak versions of R.D. Burman songs. When Pyaar Deewana Hota Hai came on, I couldn’t help humming along unconsciously and the lady next to me turned and said “I can’t believe you know this song!” We kind of sung the rest of it together–she knew the lyrics but I didn’t/don’t. R.D Burman brings people together all over South Asia!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Forgot to say: restaurant was in Bangladesh. I’ve never run across a restaurant that plays R.D. Burman outside of Asia.


      • I have! But, like, Indian restaurants. That instrumental muzak version that must be sold specifically to fancy restaurants.

        On Fri, Jun 28, 2019 at 12:20 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:



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