Barely 24, the whiz kid has more films than his age. G.V. Prakash picked up his first cheque for “Veyil” at 18. He is all set to score for Shirish Kunder's 3D film “Joker”, the much-awaited Vikram-starrer “Deivathiirumagan” is ready for release next month while his songs from “Aadukalam” continue to rule the charts.

His story is similar to that of his world-famous Oscar-winning uncle in many ways, yet different. Like A.R. Rahman, he started out with jingles, a live band and keyboard programming with music directors around town. They both studied with Trinity College, London. And if Rahman had to deal with his father's sudden death as a nine-year-old child, Prakash's life was torn apart as his parents separated when he was just in Class VII. They both dropped out of school and dived straight into music and shot to fame quite early in their lives.

But the similarities end there. Rahman was an overnight sensation with “Roja” while Prakash has had to work hard at his music for five years to settle down with some of the most acclaimed filmmakers in the business backing him — Vasantha Balan, Vetrimaran, Vijay and now Selvaraghavan.

“I was interested in becoming a cricketer or taking to software but I was also learning the piano,” he says. “When I was in Class IX, Sridevi, one of my teachers at Chettinad Vidyashram, asked me to step in for the keyboard player who fell sick. I practised for two days and I won the best instrumentalist at Lady Andal's culturals called Orca. That encouraged me to pursue music.” It may sound straight out of a hackneyed movie if we now mention that it was his uncle's song ‘Chandralekha' that did the trick for him on stage.

Dad's the spirit

It shouldn't have been difficult with Rahman around, right? Not exactly. “When my parents divorced, I started living with my father. I wanted to do keyboard programming. I didn't go to Rahman sir but he would've supported me if I had asked him. Music director Bharadwaj was the one who called me and took me in first for “JJ”, “Autograph”, “Vasool Raja MBBS” and then I worked on “Arasaktchi” with Harris Jeyaraj and with Dheena on “Thirupaachi”. I worked with Vidyasagar on “Ji” and “Bangaram” and also played for Anu Malik through sound engineer Sridhar who introduced me to a lot of people including Shirish Kunder. It was my father who supported me during that phase. He bought me all my equipment. He was from a middle-class family.”

Meanwhile, as the word spread that he had taken after his uncle, his grandmother thought it was time for the nephew to work for his uncle.

“I used to see Rahman sir more as my musical guru. Working with him was a big turn in my life. He took me in the same day I went to meet him with my jingles. I worked on a lot of projects with him. ‘Swades' was the first (I did additional programming for ‘Yeh Taara', ‘Yun Hi Chala Chal'). I worked on ‘Rang De Basanti', ‘Mangal Pandey', ‘Dil Ne Jisse Apna Kaha', ‘Anbe Aaruyire' and ‘Varalaaru'. I performed at Birmingham and London concerts with him as the keyboard player. It was when I was in London that I got a call from Vasantha Balan for ‘Veyil'.”

By this time, Prakash had done over 25 films as a keyboard player and Harris had also made him sing for “Anniyan”. “Shankar's S productions {that made ‘Veyil'} paid me more than what they pay other music directors and for the love of music and quality I spent all the money on it without keeping a single paisa for myself. It was a folk film. I needed live music. It also had a period setting. ‘Veyilodu Vilayadu' happens in the 1970s. ‘Urugudhey' happens in the 1990s, it needed to have an Ilaiyaraaja flavour.”

Prakash loves to experiment. Like how he employed a heavy metal score for Parthipan's introduction scene in “Aayirathil Oruvan” or strains of a Morricone Western in “Aadukalam”. “I always put in 100 per cent irrespective of the time it takes. We finished ‘Deivathiirumagan' in six months while ‘Aayirathil Oruvan' took me two years. I am trying to do my best to score on a par with international standards. What's changed over the years is how I translate my thoughts. I keep track of work that happens around the world and I'm a huge fan of Morricone, Hans Zimmer, John Williams and Tyler Bates.”

Of late, he has made a conscious effort not to sound like anyone. “I think I was influenced by Rahman sir initially. ‘Minnalagal Koothadum', my song in ‘Pollathavan', was said to be a rip-off of Akon's ‘Smack'. I may have been inspired but I did not just copy that song.”

“Music could be boring if you don't have the right people by you. Singer Saindhavi, sound engineer Srihari, and flautist Naveen were all part of the band Samarpan and they all still work with me.”

He recently got engaged to Saindhavi who he has known for ten years. “We will get married next year,” he grins.

Does he miss not going to college? “I wanted to break away from school and couldn't wait to get into the industry. Even my father asked me what the hurry was. Why not work as an assistant for a few years? But I went by my instincts and will continue to do that.”