A.R. Rahman’s Daughter Khatija Sets ‘Lioness’ as International Debut



Khatija Rahman is making her international film composing debut with Kajri Babbar’s “Lioness,” the first official Indo-U.K. co-production being made under the 2008 bilateral treaty.

In 2020, Rahman released her first single, “Farishton,” composed and produced by her father, Oscar winner A.R. Rahman (“Slumdog Millionaire”). Khatija Rahman featured on Grammy Award-winning composer and environmentalist Ricky Kej’s song “Iltaja” and collaborated with Arivu on “Sagavaasi” for Coke Studio Tamil 2023 edition. Her debut as a film score composer is with current work-in-progress Tamil-language picture “Minmini.”

“Lioness” will tell the stories of two women who lived a century apart. The first story revolves around the suffragette Princess Sophia Duleep Singh, the granddaughter of Maharajah Ranjit Singh and the god-daughter of Queen Victoria, to be played by Paige Sandhu (“Emmerdale”). The second story introduces a fictional character, Simranjeet Kaur, living in London’s Southall Asian suburb in the early 1990s, to be played by Aditi Rao Hydari (“Jubilee”).

“Lioness” is backed by India’s National Film Development Corporation (NFDC) and the British Film Institute (BFI). It is produced by Shahnaab Alam and Vaishalli Paatil, with Clare Cahill and Peter Bance serving as executive producers.

Khatija Rahman said: “Thrilled and honored to be a part of ‘Lioness.’ I connected deeply with the film’s values from the moment I heard its compelling story and the reason behind bringing her story to life. Our aspiration is to ensure that Princess Sophia’s struggle receives the long-overdue recognition it truly deserves.”

“I’m always proud of her. She is herself. She’s not under the shadow of me or anything. She never played any song to me. And I didn’t even ask her. So she released it [“Sagavaasi”] and then people sent me the song. And it’s doing well now, it’s number six on the charts.” A.R. Rahman told Variety. “I think we’re in for surprises, what she’s gonna do.”

Khatija Rahman made headlines for opting for opting to wear the niqab [a garment worn by some Muslim women that covers the entire body, but leaves the eyes exposed, and which is banned in a dozen countries]. “She has a very strong mind. And she’s a rebel. What she has done by wearing the niqab, standing for it and standing for all the people who wear the niqab as a statement – she got more attention than not wearing it,” A.R. Rahman added.

Rahman spoke with Variety at the International Film Festival of India, Goa, where Zee Studios’ dialogue-free film “Gandhi Talks” premiered. The only aural language in the film is Rahman’s music.

“Lioness” will commence production in the first quarter of 2024, with a global release planned for early 2025. A poster for the film was unveiled at NFDC’s ongoing film market Film Bazaar. Babbar, Alam, NFDC MD Prithul Kumar and Agnieszka Moody, head of international relations at the BFI, participated.


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