Twenty two years after making his debut as a composer, Yuvan Shankar Raja has now turned producer with Pyaar Prema Kaadhal, whose songs have turned out to be chartbusters. The film too has come in for a lot of praise, for its depiction of a contemporary relationship.
Excerpts from a conversation:
Why the sudden decision to produce a film?
I’ve been wanting to produce for a long time, and I realised the time was right, now. My forte is love songs, and I felt they have been missing in Tamil cinema lately. So, I wanted to revive it by producing a film on the subject.
At the audio launch, you said you wanted to first compose the songs and then write a film around that.
But PPK wasn’t like that. I listened to the script first. But who knows, perhaps my next film could be on those lines.
At the same event, some of your long-term collaborators said you take a long time to compose but that once you sit down near your keyboard, you finish the song in five minutes.
I don’t see it as a bad quality. It’s just how I work. At the end of the day, it’s the quality of the output that matters. I don’t like to force myself to sit in the studio and compose. I actually while away a lot of time (laughs). I play games, have conversations, but the song’s situation is always at the back of my mind. Suddenly, a spark occurs and I go into the recording room.
Some songs are made faster than others. Makka kalangudhappa is one such song and it became a huge rage.
How much do you miss Na Muthukumar, with whom you made several acclaimed songs?
A lot. I have come to accept that we all come with an expiry date — But, especially when working on Peranbu, Ram and I felt his loss deeply.
On the topic of Peranbu, let’s talk about the wonderful Vaanthooral.
I envisioned the tune as a stream that flows everywhere. Till the tabla beat starts, you won’t even know the thaalam.
How do you pick your singers?
Back when I entered the industry, I’d call singers for a track song, and see how they sound. Now though, we hash out 4-5 names, and then zero in on one.
I really like working with Haricharan, Karthik, Shwetha Pandit, and in the latest set of singers, Sanjit Hegde and Sid Sriram.
You have survived the evolution of audio from cassette to CD to now, digital downloads.
The process of going to a store and getting a copy of your favourite album... Adhu vera feeling. Today’s kids don’t know that. But at the end of the day, the reach of digital medium is so much more and I guess that is a big advantage.
Talking about reach, do you read comments on social media?
I used to, but then it got me nervous. Not the negative comments, but the positive comments. Innum edhirpaakraangalo apdingara bayam.
You have dabbled in different genres. Is there a genre you want to explore more?
I am happy that I brought in hip-hop and R&B to our Tamil cinema, because I feel strongly about those genres. But yes, I do want to explore folk and the native sounds of Tamil Nadu.
Ilaiyaraaja is especially renowned for his BGM. Is there added pressure on you to live up to that?
It was, and is a responsibility. BGM-ku per ponavar appa. If I don’t do well, it brings disrepute to his name. So, I always put in more effort for BGM.
Do you listen to any music for inspiration when you compose?
Actually, I avoid it actively. I worry that it may influence me subconsciously.
What do you think is the biggest problem composers face these days?
After the current set of musicians, there is no next group. Appa and I share the same set of musicians. Most children of musicians do not take up music. So Indian composers have to go abroad to record with an orchestra. I think Rahman has done a great job in forming his own orchestra.
Talking of your father, he is at 1000+ films and you are at 125 right now. Can we look forward to you besting his record?
(Laughs) No way. Appa ku irukardhu, god bless panna oru vishayam. Also the sacrifices he has made in terms of spending time with kids, I could never do that.
What is next for Yuvan Shankar Raja?
I am going to be directing a film. It is too early to talk about it as I have just started writing. I have completed three other scripts, but the one I am writing now is the one I want to make first.
What about your musical projects?
I have one song left to record in Maari 2. It is an out-and-out commercial film and I am joining hands with Dhanush after a long time. Also, there’s NGK, Sandakozhi 2, Kanne Kalaimaane, and Udhay’s next film, all of which are left with just a song or two to complete.