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Blending the best notes

Striking the right chord in the world of music has not been easy for composer-director Ramani Bharadwaj. But there has been no looking back for him, after his initial successes in Telugu and Tamil films.

"I MAKE music that sells," says music director Ramani Bharadwaj, with honesty. "I make no bones about it." The man behind successful scores for such films as "Gemini" ("O Podu", one of the USPs of the film's success), "Roja Kootam" ("Apple Pennae" topped the charts for quite some time), "Amarkalam", "Parthaen Rasithaen" and "Pandavar Bhoomi", to name a few, jingles, teleserials, music for AIR and Doordarshan, nearly half a dozen devotionals, is however, not a familiar face. "Maybe because I did not push for fame. But I hope to change all that."

The first thing you want to know is why he never got around to doing the Telugu version of "Gemini". All he does is shrug and reply, "Well, it was the decision of the producer and director." The reply speaks volumes about the man.

The music director is once again in the news as he has just released a devotional titled "Muruga Muruga". Talking about the album, he says, "I have tried to give bhakthi songs a popular feel, so that people are familiar with the sounds. It can be called `bhakti pop." The album, with nine songs of which seven have been sung by Bharadwaj himself, draws from a palette of styles — jazz, rock and even reggae.

The Tirunelveli-born Delhi-bred Bharadwaj remembers listening to light music ever since he was 10. By the time he was 17, he had begun composing for All India Radio and Doordarshan in Delhi. He also studied music (Carnatic, Western Classical and Hindustani) in Delhi.

Meanwhile, like most children of his age, he decided to have "a proper career" and studied Chartered Accountancy. Then in 1984, he made a decision that changed the course of his life. "I came down South with the intention of finding a foothold in the world of tunes and notes."

However, it was not an easy path. Like he says, "I used to do the rounds of all the studios, hoping that something will work out." Meanwhile, to sustain himself, he took up a job with Ashok Leyland. But he only dreamt of music. Though initially an uphill task, luck soon smiled on him. He began composing jingles for R.K. Swamy and Associates, and title tracks for serials produced by the ad agency. Then in 1994, he got the break he had been waiting for. " I got to do the music for a Telugu film called "Sogasu Chooda Tharama." The film was a big hit musically and it changed my life."

However, he was still hoping to work in Tamil, his mother tongue. He had to wait a while. He got his break only in 1998 when he was signed for "Kadhal Mannan". "It was my 17th film," says the music director. He had finally arrived. "Amarkalam" followed and the rest is, well, history.

Today's film music emphasises more on rhythm and beat, often melody and lyrics taking the backseat. His opinion? "I agree. Those days, when people such as Madan Mohan or S. D. Burman composed, people heard the songs. Today, people `see' songs. They watch songs on television even before a film is released and associate the number with the stars, the location and so on. The songs are written to suit a situation, not vice versa."

Muses the director, "I think the greatest form of fusion music is film music. Music directors blend different genres harmoniously and most important, each song fulfils a purpose... be it a romantic mood, or a moment of desperation or dejection." The director, whose all-time favourites include ghazal singer Jagjit Singh and playback legend S.P. Balasubramanium, says he is "inspired by all great music directors, including A.R. Rahman. I learn so much from their music."

His biggest critics? "My wife Jayashree and daughter Janani. Whenever I compose something, I take it home and play it for them. If they like it, I know it will work."

With nearly 17 Tamil, 14 Telugu and a few Kannada and Malayalam films under his belt, and about nine films waiting in the wings, the director hopes to pursue his dream - of making more music that will appeal to the masses and keep him going.


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