Chatline Rahul Raj speaks about his journey in music

Hard work pays. And who should know it better than happening music director Rahul Raj, who is on a high after receiving the Kerala State Award for best background score.

“I know it's something most artistes say when they receive an award, but I honestly did not expect an award for my music in Ritu,” says Rahul.

He goes on to say: “Even my sister, Rehana and mother, N.S. Kunjoonjamma, who saw my name scrolled on TV during the announcement of the State film awards thought it was probably some other chap called Rahul Raj who won it.”

While most films usually have a team of people working on the background score as it is a herculean task, for Ritu, it was just Rahul.

“I put in my all for Ritu. It wasn't a film that required music at every juncture so I offered to score the music myself. I wanted to create music that would have the audience feeling as if they were floating on water. The director of Ritu Shyam [Shyamaprasad] sir, who saw me at work, said that I ought to receive an award, if not for my music, for my dedication,” says Rahul who also composed and conducted the film's songs himself.

IT graduate

An IT graduate from CUSAT, Kochi, Rahul whose passion was music, never dreamt that he would be able to gain entry into Mollywood's music scene. “I didn't know anyone in the industry.”

And so putting his dreams on pause, he went to the United Kingdom to join an IT firm.

Laughs Rahul: “I did my best to screw up the interviews that came my way as I wanted to make a career in music. I thought by not getting a job, I could convince my family, who thought academics and a good job were the key to success, to let me pursue music. My plan backfired however, as one of the interview panels actually liked my attitude.”

However, the pull of music proved irresistible and Rahul left his lucrative job to pursue his dream. The youngster did however have to scale many a mountain to reach the top. “I approached various film directors. Although polite, none of them gave me an opportunity. Then I started doing jingles. I had just about lost hope in getting a break in Mollywood.”

It was a jingle, however, that opened the door to Mollywood for Rahul. “Dimal, director Anwar Rasheed's assistant, played a recording of my tunes to him. Anwar sir liked them and the next thing I knew, I was doing his Chota Mumbai.”

Rahul then went on to do the music for movies such as Time, Annan Thambi, Malabar Wedding and Maya Bazaar.

To be a musician one must be a ‘Jack of all genres of music,' he says. “I think that is a challenge most Indian musicians face as our audiences are open to all kinds of music. But the music must fit the scene and feel of the movie, else it will jar,” says Rahul, who once thought any music apart from Carnatic was a sacrilege to listen to. That was however in his school days.

“Then I happened to hear Michael Jackson's Man in the Mirror. It opened a whole new world of music and I was hooked. I am a huge Michael Jackson fan. Also I soon realised that Carnatic music wasn't going to impress the girls or fellow students,” laughs the Carnatic musician who learnt to play the keyboard by ear.

The musician admits he has his favourite ragas while composing a tune. “It is actually not a conscious effort, it just so happens that way at times. I'm quite fond of rag Yaman and you can see shades of that in Pularumo in Ritu and Poonila mazha nanayum in Chota Mumbai.”

“Music is definitely food for the soul. It has the power to soothe and heal distressed minds and souls. When a piece of good music is played, the air is filled with positive vibes. Someone listening to a piece of peaceful music will never have the rage (that is in most of us due to the stressful lives we lead) to harm another,” says Rahul.

For the musician who almost thought he would not be able to realise his dreams, hearing his music being played on the radio gives him a high. “In the beginning I would rush to tune into the radio whenever somebody called to say my song was being aired. Now, I'm cool; I don't rush to a nearby set. [Guffaws] ”

Pomp and the Circumstance, Pomp and the circumstanceDance of the Gods The Circumstanceby Rahul Raj

Cartoon buff

A cartoon buff, Rahul says he would have loved to compose the music for Disney's Tinkerbell.

He is also an avid web surfer and loves to Google up things on the universe, myths and mythologies. “I have a telescope which I use to look at the stars,” says Rahul.

His idea of quality time is watching rom-coms with his wife, Miriam, a German.

Rahul is currently working on Sajeevan's Chekavar, Anil C. Menon's Nine Days and 24 Hours, a production by former students of Subash Ghai's academy Whistling Woods.

So, now that he has realised his dream, is there any left? “Yeh dil mange more. I will probably branch out to orchestral music.”

Feather in his cap

Rahul Raj recently had the opportunity of doing something that would be the envy of young musicians. He reworked and expanded Pomp and the Circumstance, the traditional convocation music of The University of Buffalo, New York. Rahul has added an Indian touch to the piece by Sir Edward Elgar. He also composed two original music pieces for the convocation, Dance of the Gods and The Circumstance by Rahul Raj. Says the musician with a touch of pride in his voice: “It was an honour to add my touch to Sir Edward Elgar's piece and compose my own pieces for the convocation.”

World Music Day falls on June 21. This is what Rahul had to say about the day: “All countries in every corner of the world celebrate it with their own music. The end result is a huge aura and atmosphere of positive vibes all over the world.”