Time’s Richard Corliss eulogizes Golden Globe winning ‘Slumdog’ composer AR Rahman

My job description — critic — suggests that I'm here to criticize, point out mistakes in movies and shows, pull the wings off works of art to keep them from flying. But there's a missionary impulse in those of us who write about entertainment. We're the Murine of journalism: we want to open your eyes to see what you might have missed in familiar pop culture. We also want you to see estimable works that don't get the publicity or endorsements that might persuade you to seek them out.

Every 20 years or so, I get missionary about a Broadway show — to be exact, about the music I love in a certain Broadway show. In the 80s the show was Chess, with book and lyrics by Tim Rice and music by Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus, late of the Swedish pop group ABBA. For me, Chess was by far the finest score of the decade, rich and varied and powerful, and thrillingly melodic. It put tunes in my head that still sit up and sing there. In TIME, I wrote about Chess when it was still an album, a year before it was staged in London and three years before a revised version limped onto Broadway. Limped off, too, a couple of months later. The show closed, and Chess resumed its ideal form: an album full of great songs and stinging or surging passions.

In 2002, enlightenment struck again. I saw — heard, rather — the West End show Bombay Dreams. Like Chess, it had music by a composer who had written (and sometimes performed) dozens of pop hits. Indeed, A.R. Rahman is not just India's most prominent movie songwriter — in a land of a billion people where movie music truly is popular music — but, by some computations, the best-selling recording artist in history. His scores have sold more albums than Elvis or the Beatles or all the Jacksons: perhaps 150 million, maybe more.


Commentary, Film Scoring/Movie Soundtracks, International Cinema

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