Cinema

The Yuvan Wave

Yuvan Shankar Raja Photo: Karthik Srinivasan  

Whether it is the carved door, the sculptures of gods and goddesses or the portrait of Jeeva, Ilaiyaraja’s wife, everything in the drawing room of the maestro’s house in T. Nagar is big and striking. The adjectives also define the accomplishments of his media-shy son Yuvan Shankar Raja, who surprisingly agrees for an interview.

At a time when a singer or composer can be edged out even before the popularity of a song wanes, Yuvan continues to be, well, ‘Bang Bang Bang’ on target, exploring uncharted sonic territories and sustaining audience interest with every album. While FM stations and television channels celebrate the different strains of his songs from Anjaan, the composer with over 100 films in 18 years, says he has already moved on in his musical journey.

“Fame doesn’t matter to me,” he says. “I’m deeply spiritual. In fact, what was special to me about the Anjaan experience was the way its director Lingusamy and I connected on a spiritual level. I’ve worked with him earlier ( Sandakozhi, Paiya, etc.,) but this time, we had serious discussions on spirituality, meditation and inner peace that strengthened our friendship.”

Not just the chart-topping ‘Ek Do Teen’ or ‘Bang Bang Bang’ numbers from Anjaan, Yuvan’s Bollywood debut Raja Natwarlal and the single he has composed for the upcoming Vai Raja Vai have also been in the news. “When I was approached for Raja Natwarlal, I took it up with some trepidation. Music plays a pivotal role in all Emraan Hashmi films. So the pressure to deliver something fresh to an audience that’s totally new to me was high. I’m happy the response has been good.”

Ricocheting back and forth on diverse topics in a soft, well-modulated voice, Yuvan, who is famous for many firsts, says, “I’ve always wanted to introduce something new in our films.” Over the years, he has enhanced his profile by being the first to release a single well ahead of a film’s audio launch (‘Evandi Unna Pethan’ from Vaanam), starting the trend of remixes of yesteryear hits (‘Aasai Nooruvagai’ in Kurumbu) and experimenting with hip-hop tunes. “I was inspired by the likes of Michael Jackson, who used to release singles. This one song gives a film a head start. It becomes famous even before the audio launch and raises curiosity about the film. It’s a marketing gimmick.” The single for Vai Raja Vai, interestingly, is rendered by Ilaiyaraja. “I’ve tried the trap-and-bass style for this number. The hook line for the song is ‘Move your body’. Dad was taken aback and asked, ‘Do you really want ME to sing this’.”

Having explored the adaptability of several genres in Tamil film music – from dubstep and jazz to Western classical and orchestral, Yuvan confesses that it’s melody that rules his heart. “Though my influences are varied, I think I have a strong base in melody. It stimulates and keeps me going.”

Yuvan, who has the distinction of over half-a-dozen contemporary directors (Selvaraghavan, Ameer, Venkat Prabhu, Silambarasan, Vishnuvardhan, Lingusamy, et al) coming back to him with projects, feels the comfort level he shares with them determines his involvement. “Most of the directors I work with are pro-active in the music department. If I hit a roadblock, we engage in discussions on the subject till I’m back on track. Also, since I handle at least half-a-dozen projects at a time, I switch from one genre to another when I get stuck. If I’m working on a fast-paced number, I leave it midway and refresh myself by composing a few bars of melody for another film before returning to it.”

When it comes to cousin Venkat Prabhu of course, he confesses with a smile, “We understand each other better, but there have been instances when I take him for granted. I’ve still not started work on Masss, and Venkat has been asking me about it. It’s a creative job and there’s tremendous pressure to better yourself every time.”

About sounding boards within his large family of talented people, Yuvan considers his sister, singer-composer Bhavatharini, as his best critic. “I usually play newly recorded songs when she’s around and watch out for her expressions. My brother Karthik, who is incredibly gifted, gives me valuable feedback.” What about dad? “Well, till date his best compliment was for the ‘Idhu Kaadhala’ number in Thulluvatho Ilamai. He was interested in knowing how I pulled off the grooves for the number.”

The 34-year-old composer, who makes a conscious effort to bring the Tamil film music fraternity together, says, “There’s space for everyone in the industry, so we need to break the ice and forge healthy bonds.” The initiative resulted in Yuvan inviting a clutch of composers to render a number for him in Biriyani. “I went ahead and sang for A. R. Rahman in Maryan without any hesitation. It was a highly discussed topic. But what was uppermost on my mind was I had to do justice to the composition.”

When the discussion veers towards reality shows, Yuvan sounds philosophical, “There are so many good talents waiting to be tapped. But God plans everything. He composes the tunes for our destinies.”

A big and striking statement, indeed.

SHORT TAKES

SURIYA CAN SING It’s ten years since I worked on a film with Suriya. When Lingusamy suggested I make him sing in Anjaan, I gave him the ‘Ek Do Teen’ number because the words and the tune were easy. He’s done a good job.

GOING DIGITAL Yes, the CD is dead. Today, the platform for music has changed drastically. Digital is the word. Piracy is a big problem, but I’m confident my fans will be not indulge in illegal downloads. Recently, a fan messaged me apologising for downloading a number from Raja Natwarlal. Subsequently, he bought it from iTunes.

MOM AND I My mother meant everything to me. She was a very strong and positive woman. She wanted me to act! And yes, I wanted too, but not anymore. I am what I am today only because of her.

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Printable version | Apr 11, 2021 10:12:14 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/cinema/yuvan-shankar-raja-talks-about-his-bollywood-debut-consecutive-charttoppers-and-a-muchtalked-about-single/article6324039.ece

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