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ARR's interview in Kumudham dated 18/11/99 and 25/11/99 - Interviewed by Mr. V. Chandra Sekaran, Kumudham

People in the Film industry say you work all night and sleep only by noon. Since when have you become a night bird?

(Laughs) 15 years back when I started to work I used to work between 9 AM and 9 PM. After that I used to do my personal works like commercials and my own compositions. That was between 10 PM and 5 AM. I used to sleep between 6 AM and 9 AM. This has sort of set in. It is peaceful in the night. And that helps me. Some days I start composing from morning and go on even after midnight. I sometimes canít even keep track of the time.

Doesn't this lack of system affect your health or your personal life?

Even if you are extremely careful you can have problems. You have to let life live its own course. Moreover, is there any time for creativity? You get an idea. After it is 9pm you canít continue the next morning. When you start getting the flow you have to let it take its course. If you stop in between the idea will slip out of your hands. You wonít get the satisfaction if you sleep off. Also, when you are doing something new, you should apply your mind to it. The importance is to give good music. Not get a good sleep.

Some movies like Sangamam, ESK etc failed at the box office. What are your feelings on this?

I feel sorry when it fails. What to do? You canít expect all movies to become super hits, to be dubbed in 3 languages and to make a lot of money. You canít expect everybody to be professionals. People tell me Sangamam and ESK songs are good. That is enough for me. Sometimes in the middle of a movie, you can feel that this movie is not going to come out well. In spite of this you have to give your best. The people expect something from us. You canít disappoint them. You should not accept a job, which you canít deliver. That is my policy.

Your director may not like a good tune you composed. Will you feel dejected? (verutthu povirgala?)

If a director has his reasons I will leave it at that. Artistic products can never go waste. It may be suitable for another situation, may be in some other movie. If we compel them to accept the tunes and the movie fails that would be worse. They would say that I didnít listen.

It seems as though you show special interest in movies from people like Shankar.

It is not like that. I work the same for all. Shankar, MR etc encourage us and bring out the best. I canít make songs like Margali Thingal Allavaa, Oru murai killi paarthen (Sangamam) in their movies. There should be pace in the songs made for them. All songs in Shankarís movies should be like a small story. He can say a story in his songs. People like him slog, spend 1,1 1/2 Crores for a song. I canít give an average product for them. I have to make a song, which is challenging. Just because itís a budget movie I donít work less. Every song of mine is like my child. If it is beautiful it brings pride in me. Isnít it?

You give more importance to rhythm than melody. Am I right?

Directors like rhythm. I know for sure that if I make songs like Thendralae Thendralae they will cut it off the movie. Only songs with lesser melody have been hits. For Uppu karuvaadu in Mudhalvan we had tuned a melody and everybody liked it. But we had to change it because it could have changed the tempo of the movie. Shankar asked for a faster paced song. (So it was changed) Moreover, I like rhythm, At the same time, I see to it that it does not become noisy. I try to make a marriage between Rhythm and melody. (Laughs)

When listening to your songs one feels your strong point is Hindustani than Carnatic.

It is true. I grew with a Carnatic background. I learnt Carnatic music first. Later I started developing interest in Hindustani. I started liking Ghazals, Qawali, Thumri etc. I learnt Hindustani from one Mr. Krishna Kant. Nasreth Fateh Ali Khan taught me a few Qawalis. I developed an interest in Ghazals hearing Hariharanís songs. These three people pulled me towards Hindustani. Moreover there was not much Hindustani in Tamil music. I used rags like Desh and Darbari in Roja.

There are 72 melakartha ragas and janyas. But still you use kaanada, anandha bairavi, hindolam, kedaram, madyamavati etc. Why do you repeat?

It is true. I have used rare ragas in Kandukonden kandukonden. I use rare ragas for BGMs. I get to use a lot of ragas in movies like Sanagamam. I wonít say that only some tunes will become hits. Itís so even in Hindi. Tune alone is not enough for a song to be a hit. The hero, heroine, director, the scene are also important. We made Minsaara Kanna in Vasantha. At one point of time I felt that it was not working out and wanted to change the raga. As the mirudhanga vidhwan started playing he started saying SABAASH. We became excited and decided Vasantha was the right choice.

Do you decide on the raga first, or is it an accident that it falls under some raga?

We decide the raga for some songs. Ex. Azagaana Raatchasiyae was planned in Reethi Gowlai. The difficulty is we cannot avoid the song from sounding like Chinna KaNNan (Also set in the same Raga) at some places.. I made a song like Thillan for Thakshak in the rag Megh in the style of Madyamavathi. When doing folk songs you canít plan the raga.

Doesnít commercial monotony bind you? Are you not interested in taking your music in the lines of Shakthi group internationally?

I make albums like Vande Mataram to break this monotony. Also, it is wrong to say that you have done enough here and you have to go international from now on. THE TAMIL SOIL HAS GIVEN ME EVERYTHING I HAVE. WHY SHOULDNT I TAKE TAMIL SONGS AND MOVIES TO INTERNATIONAL LEVEL? That is what I wanted to do from the beginning. DTS, DOLBY has all arrived here. All these are changes in time. If we keep moving in this direction, instead of we going to them, THEY WILL COME TO US.


How will you feel when the song you have composed resembles an older one. For e.g. Suthi Suthi Vandheega with Thara Thara Vandhara and Velli Nilavae from Jodi with Sembaruthi Poovu...

ARR: I never listen to a song and compose a song, which sounds the same (In other word copy), but there is something interesting. Only some Sandhams become hits in Tamil. Like Chinna Chinna Aasai.. Aatrangarai Maramae in Kizakku cheemayilae also follows the same sandham. Also when you sing in Hindustani Thumri style some tunes may sound similar (Sings and shows). You canít show too many variations in film music. If you tune a song seeing too many technicalities then the song will sound too mechanical.

Some songs made using the tunes of Thyagaraja krithis have become hits. When we ask the relevant MD's they say the directors want it that way. I couldnít say no. Etc. Doesnít anyone ask you "Do a song similar to this" (Idhey paattu madhiri Podunga)?

Thankfully nobody has asked me like that. I wouldnít agree even if they do ask. In Alaipaayudhey we have just reproduced the song Alaipaayudhey sung in Katcheris. How can we change that? We have only altered the rhythm. It comes like a prayer (in the movie).

Vidhwans say you make songs with no continuity in the name of Fusion. That is, you change the ragas between the pallavi and the charanam and also use different ragas for interludes. Do you do this purposely?

It may seem like that for Carnatic musicians. Commoners wonít feel like that. When I make musical films I donít break rules. When we do commercial movies Carnatic music is itself a LUXURY there. Telephone Manipol song has a verse Neeyllai endral. The tune for this verse is not the same as the pallavi. At first I tuned both in the same raga. Later we changed it. When you change ragas the song sounds different and new. All including the director liked it. Many classical musicians have appreciated this initiative of mine. But when it comes to a pukka classical movie Byravi means Byravi to me. I wonít mix anything in it.

Where did you learn Carnatic Music?

I learnt it from two Dhakshinamurthys. I learnt it from TVG for a short time. In the beginning I learnt it from my father. He was very strong in Carnatic music.

All music artists have this ambition of doing a full katcheri in December season. Do you have such ideas?

6 years back I wanted to do a full-fledged katcheri using keyboard. (Oru veriyae vandhuchu)
I practiced for a lot of days. I learnt ways to get the Gamakams in the Keyboard. I learnt some varnams from my guru Dhakshinamoorthy. Everything was ready and Roja came. Once you get into this that is all. This is a different Sangadhi.

(Do you have any) SYMPHONY IDEA...

No. I am not in that school. I am from a POP type school. Symphony is pure western classical. I am interested in world music. Things like songs, fusion etc.

You accept movies of people close to you. You canít finish it fast because you are a perfectionist. After TAAL's success the crowd who tries to influence you has grown - people say. How are you going to tackle this?

This problem is there from the beginning - from 1992. The people who come to me feel it is 50% better now. Sometimes they come with a good script. But the movie does not run. They are left heart broken. I donít feel like saying no when they come again. But I have to leave it at that if they fail again. But one thing. Who ever it is, I always give my best. I never feel this is enough for this person. (Ivarukku Idhu podhum endru ninaichadhillai)

You make a lot of new comerís sing. But you donít introduce new lyricists. (Why are you stuck with him?)

He is in a good form. When it is so, he keeps pouring whatever you ask for. (Kaettadhellam Kottikkittae irukkar) Everything is good. Nobody can stop him. Take this room for example. There are other rooms too. But all the instruments are here and so I am sort of sentimentally set to do music in this room. Poets are also like that. He immediately grasps the tunes I make. I have worked with Vaali. Very jolly type. In Hindi, I have worked with Javed Akthar, Anand Bakshi etc. But I like to work with Javed. Anand Bakshi wont get into a lift, He wonít go in flights. He wonít leave his house.

Whenever the Tamil media asks (for interviews) you say you are busy. Why do you shy away from the Tamil Media?

It does not mean I am shying away. I sometimes keep things to myself. You canít spell it out so easily. Okay. Assuming I accept for an interview you ask me what I am going to do next. Can I tell what is in my mind? I cant because I donít know whether it will come out well or not. It is better to remain silent than say something great and it not coming out well. Also, I might affect somebody if I talk too much. Isnít it better to remain silent? (Laughs big)

In spite of Tamil media lifting you up, you give more interviews to western media?

I never dispute the fact that Tamil (media?) lifted me up. (Tamil than ennai Thookivittadhu enbadhay marakkavillai.) How can I forget? Sometimes when I have to return from Bombay the flight will be scheduled for the morning. When I am free I schedule some interviews in the night.

More than all this, I have the feeling, You are my people, where I am I going to go. (namma aalunga thaanae, enga poida porom) I hope our people will understand this. I want some privacy. I feel delicate when I socialize. Even if I donít talk there is still something good or bad coming about me in the media....

Do you keep track of things other than music, like current affairs?

Oh. Yes. I get all the politics and sports news from the Internet. Sometimes I ask my friends.

Normally artists say, "My wife is my biggest critic" How about you? Does your wife review your music?

(Laughs shyly) I canít call her a critic. But she enjoys. (Rasippargal) Sometimes she says I should have done it differently. She is not skillful enough to give be a critic. My mother is my critic. She reviews my music well.

What is your plan about your kids?

Let them come the way they want to. (Thinks) The eldest Kathija is doing her LKG. If she spots me in TV she says "Hi, APPA". She does not know that I am a music director and things like that. The next girl Rahima is one year old. She is a very naughty girl. Kathija is very loving to everybody.

Was there any incident which made you cry, recently?

Crying and extreme joy was all 10 years back. Now days I donít have time to cry nor laugh. This music is everything to me. THIS IS NOT A JOB FOR ME. THIS IS MY AANMA (Soul). I forget everything when I get into this.

Do you have any silent plans?

No. I am like a boat without an oar. I let life take its own course. I know only my work and God I pray a lot. You get dejected if you plan something and it does not happen. Nadappadhu nadakkattum endru vittuvittaal?

Everybody hums your latest hits. Which is the song you have been humming of late?

Hmmm. I can quote many. "edho oru paattu en kaadhil kaetkum.." SAR has tuned it beautifully. This recognition you have got at such a young age, the fame, and the expectations... Donít they scare you?

Only if you take anything, whether it is success or failure. As your own will you have these fears? I leave everything to God. Nothing will affect me even a bit. All this fame and praise is not for me. It is for HIM. Isn't it?

article by Kamesh

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