Music

‘I haven’t compromised on my music’

Sharreth completes 25 years as a music composer.

Sharreth completes 25 years as a music composer.  

Sharreth talks about music matters and life as a singer, composer and Carnatic vocalist.

Musician Sharreth laughs a lot, mostly at himself. The conversation is laced with cheeky humour; something, he confesses, that has kept him afloat through his initial years of struggle. “I’m the least funny guy in my family. Every one else thrives on humour,” he says.

During the course of the chat, he mentions his family often, recalling childhood pranks and his troubled relationship with academics. “I hated studies. There have been days when I’d have discovered a bit of music that I loved and just bunked school. I’d listen to the record until it wore out. Nothing ever seemed more important to me than music.”

The singer and composer, who completes a quarter century in film music, says he is not impressed with the number of films he has done, but is extremely satisfied with the music he has made. “I haven’t compromised on my music. And I am glad I didn’t.” Sharreth’s compositions have often been termed complex, not easily yielding to a bathroom singer. But he breaks it down to originality and soul. “Well, I don’t intentionally make a song heavy. But whatever I make is my own. I haven’t ever stolen anything, except food.”

Though he doesn’t acknowledge it, Sharreth was something of a prodigy, having composed his first song at six-and-a-half years. His mother, Indiradevi, who was his first guru, realised he had a gift, when he supposedly sang at two. “I don’t fully believe that, but all I know is that music invaded my very being, from the time I could remember.” Music director B.A. Chidambaranath was his first formal guru, someone who taught music rather unconventionally. “He would be doing his own stuff, gardening, talking, in between singing. It was a gurukulam kind of learning.”

Born into a musical family, his mother, a singer herself and uncles, all ardent music lovers, Sharreth says there was no escaping music. His father, who served as the Sales Tax Commissioner, Kollam, was as musically inclined. “He would bring home classical music records in cartloads and those were played all the time at home. I guess I owe my musicality to that kind of madness.”

An uncle, who was a die-hard fan-turned friend of Carnatic music doyen M. Balamuralikrishna, took Sharreth along for a concert in Kollam. After the concert, he made him sing in front of Balamuralikrishna, who was so impressed that he said he would like to teach Sharreth. “I was only six and I sang a varnam in Amritavarshini. That is a moment I treasure for life.” He was to become Balamuralikrishna’s student later.

Even as studies formed a dull backdrop, his brain was buzzing with the infinite possibilities of notes. He would spend hours with the harmonium, trying out different arrangements. He confesses to have re-arranged celebrated compositions of almost all the popular composers of the time. “I have not even spared ‘Utharaswayamvaram...’” he laughs. From an early age, he enjoyed juggling with notes. Later, the world got to sample it in ‘Sudhamanthram’ (Devadasi), a piece of staggering genius. “One of the major criticisms against me has been that I make such songs for the devious pleasure of it. But that is not so. Though I enjoy acrobatics with music, this one was made to suit a particular cinematic milieu.”

In 1990, when he got his first film break, T. K. Rajeev Kumar’s Kshanakathu, he was barely 20 years old. Though the clutch of melodies received encouraging response, the film bombed and all the six projects he had signed fell through. “It was my first film and I must have easily made some 45 songs for it.” Over the years, as he composed songs for Malayalam and Tamil films, few became box-office hits. “I haven’t made money from films, but somehow, I am not one to be demotivated. Heck, I even tried numerology, changing my name from Sujith Vasudevan to Sharreth... yes with a double r,” he laughs.

Many of his songs, however, outlived their films and are praised now for their delicious intensity. He doesn’t follow a grammar while composing, a tune could well present itself in the bath, but each song has a story. “When the filmmaker gives a situation, usually, I get the whole song in my head, including the orchestration. But for ‘Sreeragamo....’ (Pavithram), it took a while. It was Nedumudi Venu’s character, who sings keerthanams, that finally became the trigger.” Similarly, he recalls singing ‘Bhavayami...(Meghatheertham) to the director U. Unni over the phone for 40 minutes straight. The song won him the State Award for best classical music singer. The State award for best music director came for Ivan Megharoopan.

Sharreth played a significant part as judge in hugely popular musical reality shows that dominated prime time TV. Meanwhile, he was also making music for himself, making albums and reinterpreting Carnatic kritis and old Malayalam film songs. “Its my way of paying tribute to the composers.” So, who does he idolise? “Many, but I’d say Ilayaraja first. He is like a university.”

Sharreth enjoys singing as much as composing, singing for most of his own albums, katcheris and in films as well. One of his biggest regrets today is perhaps the fact that no one would approach him for an out-and-out koothu song. “I guess I’ve been mercilessly typecast.” Sharreth has a couple of films in Malayalam and Tamil and a few albums in the offing.

For someone who is constantly listening to music, Sharreth never plays his own songs for more than a week. “I listen to everything. There is something to learn from each song. Ultimately, it is all about soul. The greats say, when you create a song, you leave a bit of your soul in it. That is why some songs are immortal.”

TOP TEN

* Aakashadeepam ennumunarum (Kshanakkathu)

* Maya manjalil (Ottayal Pattalam)

* Sreeragamo (Pavithram)

* Ente sindoorarekhayil (Sindoorarekha)

* Pon vasantham aakanam (Devadasi)

* Maaleyam marodananju (Thacholi Varghese Chekavar)

* Ande londe (Ivan Megharoopan)

* Oduvil oru shonarekhayayi (Thirakatha)

* Ponnodu Poovayi (Thalsamayam Oru Penkutty)

* Bhavayami (Meghatheertham)

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Printable version | Feb 21, 2020 6:29:52 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/music/%E2%80%98I-haven%E2%80%99t-compromised-on-my-music%E2%80%99/article14845420.ece

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