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Updated: January 9, 2010 17:02 IST

Following his heart

NIKHIL RAGHAVAN
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Bharadwaj
Bharadwaj

With the soundtrack of “Asal” doing brisk sales, music director Bharadwaj is on a song

His foray into Tamil cinema started in 1993 with a film which got shelved. Bharadwaj had to wait for a whole year before a unique strategy by Magnasound, a record label, enabled him to provide music for a Telugu film, “Sogasu Chooda Tharanga”.

“The label recorded a set of songs and approached the producers with a readymade soundtrack around which a movie could be made. They liked the idea and, fortunately, the movie became a runaway success. The rest, as they say, is history, because I went on to do 15 films on the trot, with almost all of them becoming big hits,” says Bharadwaj. But, his heart was in Tamil and he had to again wait till 1996, when Ajith Kumar who was doing a film for first-time director Saran roped him in. “‘Kaadhal Mannan' created waves at the box office, and I have not looked back since,” says Bharadwaj.

Interesting coincidence

By some strange coincidence, Bharadwaj's first Tamil film, his 25th film and now, his 50th film have all been with Saran and Ajith. “Asal”, also the 50th film from Sivaji Productions, has been completed and the soundtrack is reportedly doing brisk sales. It is really a moment to cherish for Bharadwaj and a time to reminisce about his 17-year journey through the south Indian music industry. “In the course of this trek, I have done 80 films in all four languages, including 50 in Tamil. But, it all actually began with a devotional album on Lord Ayyappa that I recorded for CBS in 1986. I had moved from Delhi after spending quite some years there and being influenced by Hindustani music. My mind was set — although I was a qualified chartered accountant and had a cushy job, my heart was in music and I wanted to make it as a music director,” says Bharadwaj, whose initial years in the field were peppered with a number of non-film albums for CBS.

He knew that he was venturing into a dog-eat-dog industry where established music directors such as Ilaiyaraja and Deva were ruling the roost. A. R. Rahman was rearing his head and Harris Jayaraj was trying to gain a toe-hold. But, Bharadwaj persevered and struck out on a path with a style that was like none other. “I asked myself, why should someone listen to me? How different should I be to get noticed? I decided that, first and foremost, my music should have great clarity. The lyrical content should be meaningful and the rendition clear. My arrangements should be uncluttered and have the right commercial elements. I always remember what the late Madan Mohan used to say: Melody should come from the heart; the arrangements from the keyboard.”

The Asal effort

This has perhaps allowed Bharadwaj to do different genres of music with equal ease. Be it in the devotional songs of his initial years, the ‘O Podu' of later years or the heart-rending ‘Em Thanthaiye' from “Asal” (which he himself has sung), Bharadwaj has adapted his composing and singing style to suit the need of the hour. “In fact, for ‘Asal', I have really re-invented myself to cater to a modern listener. I have also kept in mind that the songs are for a Sivaji Productions film; traditionally all their films have great music.”

“A music director is able to give his best when there is total dedication from all concerned. My wavelength with lyricist Vairamuthu is great; he has always come up with exceptional lyrics for my songs. When the director is equally passionate about the songs and not treat them as just another ingredient in a film, I am able to give my best,” says Bharadwaj.

He believes Tamil songs should be sung by singers who know the language. “Only then will they be able to infuse the required emotion into a song. In all my songs, I have never used a north Indian playback singer, however good he or she is. If you can't understand the lyrics and are not able to pronounce the words properly, how do you expect the listener to appreciate the quality of music?” His favourite composition continues to be ‘Unnai Paartha Pinbu Naan' from “Kaadhal Mannan”. “After all, that is what made me what I am today. My aspirations are to only create good music. I don't normally listen to other composers' songs, lest I get influenced. I consciously try to avoid engaging singers, musicians, and, sometimes, even instruments being used by others, so that there is no similarity in compositions. This has helped create a fresh and different sound for my songs.” Ask him whether he's interested in imparting his knowledge to others, and he says, “Eventually, I will become a teacher. I teach at my school of music. I give lec-dems. I have learnt how to survive in this industry only because I have mastered the technical aspects of composing. It is very essential for a singer or a composer to be disciplined and technically sound if he has to succeed.”

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