Cinema

Vidyasagar: Let's talk music

Music Director Vidyasagar. Photo: V. Ganesan  

Quite a few surprises are in store for me at Varsha-Vallaki, Vidyasagar's recording studio. Looking much younger than in the pictures I'd seen of him earlier, he flashes a broad smile from behind the harmonium! “I've lost weight,” he smiles. You notice a conscious make-over too.

The second surprise is the harmonium in front of him. If you thought the instrument was an integral part of MSV's and Ilaiyaraja's composing style, it's heartening to know Vidya is also in the same league. “I always compose on the harmonium,” he says, and adds that he prefers acoustic orchestral support as opposed to the present-day penchant for the electronic!

Melody is Vidya's forte and contributes a lot to his staying power. “I enjoy and understand melody before I create it. But the challenge is that I've also got to satisfy the film going audience of today,” he says. Over the years, Malayalam cinema too has continuously been offering a plethora of opportunities to this musician. Do his evergreen hits include fast-paced songs? “Have you forgotten ‘Appadi Podu' ( Ghilli),” he counters. But be it folk, pop or hip-hop, the melodic content in Vidya's music is a constant. Ilaignan, his next, should exemplify it further.

The composer has just returned from London, where he has recorded five songs for Ilaignan. Ask him about the experience and he's a picture of enthusiasm. But his lilting numbers have always been an aficionado's delight, so what's special about Ilaignan? “Everything,” he laughs, “from the experience of making music for it to recording the songs with a 90-piece orchestra!” Ilaignan will not have electronic music. “I'll play the songs for you before you leave,” he promises. “I've used tuba, a recent addition to modern symphony orchestra and for the first time in our music, bassoon, a double reed wind instrument.” As Ilaignan is a period film, the large canvas probably lends itself to musical magnificence. “True, we even have a Western choir for two pieces, besides a song to tango,” he smiles.

It must have been a costly exercise. “It was! All the songs had to be recorded in a matter of three hours. The musicians are extremely organised and go by the dictum, time is money. So it was a neck and neck race against time. For a recording, say at 10, the musicians start trickling in at 9. By 9.30 they've had their final rehearsal and the general warming up begins. At 9.55 they take their positions and wait for the cue, and the music begins on the dot,” he explains. “I'm indebted to the producers and director Suresh Krissna for the trust they have reposed in me.”

The trip helped Vidya rub shoulders with the likes of David Arnold, the composer whose impressive repertoire includes the James Bond franchise. “He took me to his studio — he calls it his hole — where he was working on the music of The Chronicles of Narnia — The Voyage of the Dawn Treader,” says Vidya.

I'm astonished when he informs that he scored music for an English film as early as in 1999! “It was called Beyond the Soul and was directed by Rajiv Anchal. We worked with the Radio Symphony Orchestra then.”

All the songs of Ilaignan have been recorded in three parts — first in Chennai, second in Budapest and lastly in London. Peter Pejtsik, who has been assisting him since the days of ‘ Beyond the Soul,' in Budapest, was with Vidya for Ilaignan too.

It is amazing to know that most of the time Vidya composes music for the verses given to him! Generally, it is the reverse — the composer gives a tune for which the lyricist supplies the words.

Vidyasagar sounds philosophical when he says, “I believe in destiny. What has to come my way always does, sooner or later. Even this interaction is happening after my two decades as composer.”

It's always been a roller-coaster ride for him where his career peaked with films such as Chandramukhi, Mozhi and Abhiyum Naanum, and dipped a little only to rise high again. “Life's a cycle,” he shrugs.

Besides Ilaignan, Vidya is busy with Vijay's Kaavalan and Karthi's Siruththai.

As promised I get to listen to his Ilaignan. If the first number, a romantic serenade, mesmerises, the fiery rhythm segment of the second stimulates!

Vidyasagar's Ilaignan pieces stay with me long after I leave Varsha-Vallaki …


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Printable version | Jul 23, 2021 2:20:11 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/cinema/Vidyasagar-Lets-talk-music/article15973634.ece

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