Culture: The Mozart of Madras

The billboard outside the Broadway Theatre reads, A R RAHMAN'S BOMBAY DREAMS. That name may mean little to musical-theater devotees, but in the rest of the world it's golden. Like Gershwin or Lennon-McCartney, the name stands for melody, quality, energy, instant hummability--a sound both personal and universal, devouring many older forms and transforming them into something gorgeously new.

At 38, Rahman is nothing new to fans of Indian films. They know by heart his scores and songs for some 70 movies. And they buy his CDs--do they ever! By some counts, 150 million albums of Rahman music have been sold,...

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