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From Advocate to Artist

May/03/2024 / by Abhijit Masih

How Rianjali navigated her career to become a celebrated composer

From a domestic violence case-worker to a celebrated singer-songwriter, Rianjali’s creative career journey has been anything but typical. Her musical potential and talent was first recognized by Oscar Award-winning musician A.R. Rahman, who invited her to work with him. The collaboration marked the beginning of a remarkable career trajectory, leading her to work on acclaimed projects like Netflix’s Daughters of Destiny and the film Blinded By The Light

She was Oscar shortlisted in 2017 and highlighted by Broadway World as a notable female songwriter. Despite the glitz of performing at events like the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show and joining U2 on their Joshua Tree Tour, Rianjali remains grounded. She shared some of her dreams and aspirations with us 

What inspired your career in the music industry?

I had no intention of beginning a career in the music industry. I grew up in a time where I didn’t see any South Asians pursuing a career in the creative space. I came from a family, as many of us do, who wanted me to become a doctor. I quickly realized that wasn’t my path but still pursued a regular degree. I ended up getting my Masters in Clinical Psychology and was working as a social worker/case manager for domestic violence cases when I met A.R. Rahman. Music had always been a part of my life but growing up in a South Asian family, I had to focus on the “realistic” prospects of a career. But life had other plans for me. Once I met A.R. Sir, he asked me to come to Chennai to work for him. That was back in 2016, and the rest has been history. 

How did you have the opportunity to work with Oscar award-winning musician A.R. Rahman?

I was working at a domestic violence non-profit organization as a case manager at the age of 23 and had quite a few issues with my voice. When I finally went to an ENT doctor, he told me I had three to four large nodes on my vocal cords. I got the surgery. Feeling like I got a second chance, I decided then that I would bring music back into my life in any way possible. I began writing and singing again, with no intention of making it my career. 

But at age 25, I got the opportunity to meet A.R. Rahman. He had heard an original song of mine through a friend and invited me to come to India to work for him. I quit my job, and took the chance. What was supposed to be a three-month experience, turned into the last eight years. I learned everything about composing, music supervising, and being a part of big productions such as Daughters of Destiny, the major motion picture Blinded By The Light, and even got a chance to write for artists like Bishop Briggs and U2. 

How have being Oscar shortlisted and featured on Broadway World impacted your career and personal growth?

I wish I could tell you that it changed everything over night for me, but that’s not the case. I was shocked when I saw my name on the Oscar’s website in 2017, but I was also really broke and teaching music to compensate for the lack of work at the time. It’s so important to be consistent because what has impacted my growth has been watching myself become more and more persistent and unwavering in the last 8 years. Disappointments, rejections, wins, awards—they’re all part of the process—but it can all go away tomorrow if I’m not careful. 

What are some goals or projects you aspire to pursue in the future?

I have a dream to score a sci-fi film. It is my absolute favorite genre and it would be a dream to score something like “Arrival” or “Interstellar.” I’m also producing documentaries now with my production company and I’d really love to build that out a lot more in the next three to five years. We’re at a phase right now where we are working on several different projects and are starting to receive scripts for consideration — it’s a surreal feeling. I’m genuinely forever grateful.

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