Danny Boyle gave AR Rahman two months to compose a complete symphony.

An unusual film like 127 Hours, director Danny Boyle’s intense true-life account of how climber Aron Ralston saved himself from certain death in an isolated Utah canyon, was bound to call for an unusual score. Composer AR Rahman found out how unusual soon after signing on for his second collaboration with Boyle.

“In the beginning I didn’t know what kind of challenge it would be,” says Rahman, “but when I read the script there was almost no dialogue, there was just music and emotions.

“And what Danny said first was, ‘AR, I want you to compose a complete symphony for the whole movie.’ And we had just two months.”

Rahman — the Indian film and music legend with more than 100 albums to his name including the soundtracks for Roja, Lagaan, Delhi 6, Elizabeth — The Golden Age and Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire, for which he won two Oscars — set out to provide his director with “something driving and at the same time meditative”. Drums provided the drive and the rock-style -guitar reflected Ralston’s -confident, rebellious personality.

Rahman experimented with several different musical moods for the film’s most talked-about scene, when Ralston severs his own arm in order to escape from the canyon.

Driving music, he says, “sounded very over the top, so we then went for something more meditative. We had to take off a lot of instruments to stop it being over the top.”

Working with British electro-pop chanteuse Dido, Rahman also co-wrote the song If I Rise that plays during one of the film’s pivotal moments, when Ralston has a vision of his future son.