He skips sleep, calls himself his competitor and feels music is determined by providence. K.R. Manigandan meets Harris Jayaraj, Kollywood's hit machine
There's a certain charm about music director Harris Jayaraj that's hard to ignore. Despite being part of an industry that is known to be ruthlessly demanding, Harris continues to remain a calm and affable composer, taking in his stride, the enormous level of pressure in his profession and expectation from fans.
I meet Harris on a blistering noon, and he is every bit his cool self. Dressed in pure white, the soft-spokenmusician settles down on a plush white couch in the guest room of his home, to take on a volley of questions.
Obviously, the first one is about meeting deadlines despite pushing himself to come up with something new every time. “A film is about teamwork. Many things have to be in place at a given time for it to work. There's no denying the fact that there is pressure. But I enjoy whatever I do. There have been times when I have done three songs in two days. While once, the director was miffed because I could not compose even a single tune in five days! That's bound to happen. Scoring music is a creative process.”
After a meaningful pause, he continues. “Every tune is the result of a spark. You can't expect the spark to come so often. That's why I insist music cannot be made. To me, it's determined by providence. I say this because the tunes that I have composed have all come in a magic moment. And sometimes, I just have to wait...”
Hitting fame with lightning speed by composing half-a-dozen unforgettable tunes for “Minnale,” in 2001, Harris continues to make waves to this day. His recent film “Oru Kal Oru Kannadi” reiterated his position as Kollywood's hit-machine.
Even as we discuss his by-now predictable success rate, I ask him to reveal some unknown facet about Harris the composer. Breaking into his typical thunderous laughter, he says, “One interesting aspect about me is that I tend to forget tunes I compose almost immediately. This has happened many times. I would have composed a tune but would have forgotten it after having my lunch or a nap. So, I always record the tunes as a back up. As I told you I rely on those sparks. And you cannot predict when that will happen.”
Harris who works for about 10-12 hours a day admits that there are days when he skips sleep altogether. “When I am working on the background score for a film, it takes me even 16 hours a day. I know it when I am pushing too hard. On such occasions, I've learnt to take a break — even if it means a power nap!”
Music directors heading to exotic foreign locations to compose tunes have come in for scathing criticism. But Harris explains in a matter-of-fact way, “I have to pamper my mind. But more importantly, it is to spend some time with my director. A director and a music composer should work in synchrony for a good final product. Most people mistake such trips to be pleasure trips. The only difference is the change in environment, which helps the creative process.”
When the conversation veers around the intense competition in the music industry, Harris seems unruffled. “Yes, there are many competitors — the Harris who composed for “Minnale”, the Harris who composed for “Vaaranam Aayiram”, and the Harris who composed for “Unnale Unnale” are some of them. To me, my previous works which have penetrated deeply into my fans' hearts are my competition. I look to better my work. That does not mean I am not interested in the work of other composers. In fact, I love the tunes of some music directors. But to me, my previous albums are my biggest rivals.”
With so much competition and expectation, he cannot deny being under stress. “Sitting silently in a room with zero decibel noise for five minutes helps me cope with stress. I also look for interesting things to divert my attention like watching F1. My son Nicholas and daughter Nikita too are stress busters. I make it a point to spend time with them before I go for composing. My parents' blessings and my wife's prayers help me cope with not just the pressures of my job but also the pressures and problems of the world.”
Whether it's the décor in his home or the clothes he wears, everything is pristine white. Why this special preference for white? “My home is white because my architect chose it. I think white symbolises purity and is holy. It brightens and enhances things. It helps keep one's mind calm and peaceful. And yes, it is one of my favourite colours.”
For “Maatran”, K.V. Anand came up with this idea of going on a ship. Producer Aghoram of AGS productions arranged the entire trip. We went on a cruise ship for a week on the Mediterranean. Everyday, the ship would dock in one country. In seven days, we travelled to seven countries. It was a nice trip and we came up with three songs.
Harris has his kitty full. “I am doing a few films now. Almost 80 per cent of the songs for “Maatran” is completed. I also have “Thuppakki” with A.R. Murugadoss. Since 85 per cent of the film is done, I am pushing myself hard to finish my work. “Thuppakki” will be entertaining. It's a paisa-vasool film. The third film that I am doing is “Irandam Ulagam” with Selvaraghavan. I am joining hands with Selva for the first time. The music of this film will appeal to fans who crave chaste Tamil words and enjoy good music.”