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i n t e v i e w

after vande mataram

In what way is the album Vande Mataram a symbol of contemporary India?
Well, the primary objective of the album is to inspire a feeling for the country. And the sentiments so aroused go beyond caste, creed and colour. The feelings which inspired the album come from the heart, and can solve a lot of problems. If people look beyond religion and caste barriers, and think only of the country, that's enough. I personally think Vande Mataram is an ongoing movement, and people will feel good about it for the next 50 years.

Why did it take you so long to venture into doing a non-film project?
Maybe because before I didn't think that the time was right for a project of this nature. I was satisfied with doing film music. Vande Mataram is a noble entry into the world of non-film music. It's something different, something that won't be forgotten easily.

What are your views on the Indian film music scene today?
In recent times I've done films with a similar outlook. These films are aimed at the young generation and therefore have to be beat oriented. Yet I've tried for a distinct sound every time.

Vande Mataram is being released in 27 countries. What is it about the album that will make it appealing to such a wide audience?

I've tried my best to create something that will be appreciated worldwide, without losing out on the Indianness in the music.

When you started working on the album did you have any idea that it would turn out to be such a huge international project?
No, when we started out, only those involved with the album believed that it was going to be BIG. When I told people what I was doing, they would give me odd looks and ask me why I wasn't concentrating on films. But my team and I were confident about Vande Mataram, we felt good about it. We felt that it should go around the world and Sony promised us it would be an international album.

Has working with international artists affected your style?
Yeah, I felt I had to upgrade myself to reach international standards. It gives you a new plane to work on. You are not limited by your own imagination when you work with international artists. You see things from different perspectives. They also felt very honoured to be working on such a theme as Vande Mataram. The general feeling was that this is not just another track but something special..

What was it like working with Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan?

When we contacted him, he readily agreed to do the song. He was very co-operative and gave us half a day to record it. I modified the track to suit his calibre, gave it more of a qawwali feeling so that he would feel comfortable. It is very unfortunate that he is....

How did you come into films?
My father, R K Shekar was a music director in Malayalam films. He assisted Salil Chowdary, Devrajan and others. He died when I was nine. At eleven I came into the field, playing on the keyboards and later as an accompanist. I worked under various music directors in Tamil, Telegu and Malayalam- Ramesh Naidu, MS Vishwanathan and Illayaraja. It started becoming a bit monotonous. I thought advertising would be a good alternative. This went on for three years. I built my studio and took to different forms of music- pop, rock and so on. It was then that I met producer Tirlok Shardha, cousin of Mani Rathnam at a party. He (Mani) came to my studio and heard some of my tunes. We agreed to work together though we did not decide on which movie. Only later he told me it was to be Roja, which he was directing for K. Balachander.

Despite your success you do not seem to be working on a lot of films?
Rather than making money I believe in making people happy, all other things are secondary. That is why I am not interested in a lot of movies but only in one at a time. I like directors whom I can vibe with. Ten years of experience in this field has made me quite frustrated. I've evolved a technique, which requires a lot of time. Other music directors record a song in 7-8 hours. But I am different. We do a basic sitting and we record it. We record the voice and I add instrument by instrument to improve the quality.

Do you use computers in your film tracks?
No, not computers. The technique is different. In fact they say the music in Roja was computerized. As I said earlier the recording takes time. You can hear the same flute in a different way. It is not computerized music. Nearly 40% Veerapandi Kottayily (a song from Thiruda Thiruda) that does not sound like computer music and Vellai Mazhai (from Roja) is synthesizer oriented. I do not restrict the musicians but ask them to play whatever they feel. Then I record what I want. I spend a lot of time on lyrics too. It takes around 4 days. We write something in the first instance and then improve. So it take about a week to complete a song.

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