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If you instantly recognise a Harris song, that is my success: Harris Jayaraj

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Music director Harris Jayaraj is all set for his next album ‘Dev’ starring Karthi

Harris Jayaraj’s Studio H is an impressive structure with plenty of open spaces inside. There are a few office rooms, which lead you to a garden and swimming pool. Harris’ residence is right behind – he can quickly saunter over if a tune needs fixing.

The composer has had a quiet 2018, but he hopes to end the year with a bang with Dev, the songs of which release on Saturday. In an interview, he chats about the film’s songs, staying relevant and why his songs tend to sound similar. Excerpts:

You’ve mentioned earlier how your relationship with directors is important. When Dev’s director Rajath Ravishankar came to you, what struck you about him and the subject?

I liked the story and thought that I could justify it musically. I firmly believe that the director is the captain of the ship...he is responsible for everything! (laughs) Rajath had a certain vision and he could envision the film in his head. The producer (Lakshman Kumar) was also passionate about it. I see the director and producer as husband and wife. We are their kids!

 

Would you call Dev a return to the brand of music Harris is known for?

I don’t know if I would describe it as a ‘brand of music’, but composing for young films has always been my favourite. I love to write music for young subjects. We can work from our heart, have fun with the score, and do not need to follow ‘Kodambakkam rules’ while doing so. I come from that school of music – all my songs in films of Gautham Menon and Jeeva have been like that. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen a genuine young film for the past ten years.

But you did Nanban...

But that’s for a Superstar. It was the character of a young chap played by a superstar. This meant that we had to fulfil fans’ expectations. But if you listen to Ullam Ketkume, 12 B or even Dev, you’ll know how we are not forced to come up with even one track for the hero which was not part of the storyline.

 

You’ve worked on many superhit songs for Suriya, but this is your first film with his brother, Karthi...

Whenever I met Karthi, he kept telling me that he wanted to be in a film that had my music. But it just didn’t fall in place till now. Karthi was doing a lot of local, rowdy-ish roles back then, and kept saying that he needed to look really good if he were to do a film that had my songs. Thankfully, Dev has brought us together.

Is it fair to say that you have been concentrating on quality rather than quantity in the last couple of years?

I’ve been doing that for the past 18 years, ever since I started composing for films. I don’t count my films, but it is rather easy to count. I hardly work on more than three films a year. In my fact, in 2009, I had only one release (Orange). The reason for that is simple: when I got launched as a composer with Minnale, I was very tired...because I had already worked as a musician for more than 6,00 films, in several languages. When I was a keyboard player, I used to finish a film within a couple of days. When you rush things, you forget ‘quality’ and concentrate on how many projects you took up. I believe that I killed my youth working. So when I debuted as composer, I told myself that I’d concentrate only on quality. A film can fail at the box office, but music won’t. Aren’t there so many songs we revisit in films we don’t even know the name of?

You created a fresh soundscape with Minnale. How did you by-pass ‘Kodambakkam rules’ of the time?

I was lucky to have the support – and vision – of a director like Gautham Menon, and producer Murali Manohar. The success of Minnale’s soundtrack proved that audiences liked to hear something different, something that didn’t go with the usual ‘Kodambakkam music grammar’ of the time. That gave way to albums like 12B and Unnale Unnale. I’m also fortunate that senior directors like Murugadoss and Shankar accepted my style of music.

 

Today, there’s a new music composer in Kollywood almost every Friday. Do you see this crowded space as a threat?

I see it in a positive way. The scenario now gives opportunities to many musical talents. Every composer gets their share, based on their talent and earlier successes. I don’t see anyone scooping any other person’s projects.

A common criticism for your songs is that they tend to sound similar.

See, that’s my signature. If someone hears a song of mine and immediately says that it is a Harris number, it means that I’ve succeeded. Every composer has a signature – you can play any track of Hans Zimmer to me, and I’ll know it’s his work without you telling me.

Who is your biggest critic?

The director. If I see happiness on the person’s face, I will set it aside and we will go outside to eat or for a walk. Later in the evening or the next day, we will re-listen to it. That time, I will wear the hat of a listener and decide if it is up to the mark.

Are there occasions when you have worked on a single number for a long time?

If you are overdoing a song, it means that there is something basically wrong with the tune. Just because you work on a tune for hundred days doesn’t mean that it will become a superhit. Magic happens within a single recording session. After that, the time spent is on enhancing it, not redoing it.

Enhancing the sound requires a good studio, and yours is among the best in the industry. How important is technological advancement in studios, keeping in mind changing music consumption patterns in recent times?

If anyone comes to my studio and listens to a track, I will ensure that their eardrums are filled! I’m thankful that God has given me enough to build this world-class studio, which has been rated the best in Asia by a top music magazine. Having said that, if a tune fails, no technology can help it.

Finally, I’ve seen many Tamil stand-up comedians taking friendly jibes at your music. Are you aware of these?

Yes, I have watched those videos. It’s their way of putting things together. I appreciate their talent, but not the intention.

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Printable version | Jan 26, 2020 9:55:15 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/if-you-instantly-recognise-a-harris-song-that-is-my-success-harris-jayaraj/article25849331.ece

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