Film scoring and soundtracks
In 1991, Rahman began his own music recording and mixing studio, attached to backyard of his house, called the Panchathan Record Inn. He initially composed music jingles for advertisements, Indian Television channels and music scores in documentaries, among other projects. In 1992, he was approached by film director Mani Ratnam to compose the score and soundtrack for Ratnam's Tamil film Roja. The debut led Rahman to receive the Rajat Kamal award for Best Music Director at the National Film Awards, the first time ever by a first-time film composer. Rahman has since then gone on to win the award three more times (for his scores for Minsaara Kanavu (Electric Dreams, Tamil) in 1997, Lagaan (Tax, Hindi) in 2002, Kannathil Muthamittal (A Kiss on the Cheek, Tamil) in 2003, the most ever by any composer.
Roja's score met with high sales and acclaim, in its original and dubbed versions, bringing about an effective transformation in film music at the time, and Rahman followed this with scores for Tamil-language films including, among others, Bombay, Kadhalan, Indira, Minsaara Kanavu, and Love Birds, which gained him notice. Muthu 's success in Japan further increased his fanbase in that country. His soundtracks gained him recognition in the Tamil film industry and across the world for his versatality in classical, Folk, jazz, reggae, soft rock and other styles in his pieces. Rangeela, directed by Ram Gopal Varma, marked Rahman's debut in Hindi films. Many popular and superhit scores for films including Dil Se and Taal followed. The sales of these albums prompted several film producers to take film music more seriously.
Rahman's work is also unique in the fact that his collaborations with some film directors have always resulted in successful soundtracks. In particular, he has worked with Mani Ratnam on ten films until 2006, all of which have been musical hits. Also notable is his collaboration with the director S. Shankar in the films Gentleman, Kadhalan, Indian, Jeans, Mudhalvan, Nayak, Boys and Sivaji.
His first movie album Roja was listed in TIME's "Top 10 Movie Soundtracks of All Time" in 2005. Rahman continued to record frequently in his studio, the Panchathan Record Inn. In 2005, a newly developed recording studio, attached to the Inn called A.M. Studios was opened. It is considered to be the most developed, equipped and high tech studio of Asia. In 2006, Rahman launched his own music label, KM Musiq. Its first release was his soundtrack to the film Sillunu Oru Kaadhal which it released worldwide, in August 2006. Rahman co-scored Elizabeth: The Golden Age. His latest work includes score and producing soudtracks for Azhagiya Tamil Magan, Jodhaa Akbar, Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na* Sakkarakatti, ADA: A Way of Life and Slumdog Millionaire. He is a recipient of the Padma Shri award from the Government of India.