CALLING the tune

Music director Jerry Amaldev Photo: Thulasi Kakkat   | Photo Credit: Thulasi Kakkat

After a hiatus of 20 years veteran music composer Jerry Amaldev returns to Malayalam films with Abrid Shine’s forthcoming release Action Hero Biju. The composer, who created a sensation in his debut film, Manjil Virinja Pookal, with his fresh melodies and off-beat orchestration, is confident that the five songs in his comeback film will have that Jerry Amaldev touch.

“I was reluctant to accept the offer at first. See, earlier experiences have not been to my liking. There was so much of interference from people who knew absolutely nothing about music. Then there is this onslaught of electronic gadgets that human creativity was put on hold. I was disillusioned. But the makers of this film convinced me that the conditions would be to my liking. And they were true to their word,” says Jerry.

It was in No.1 Snehatheeram Bangalore North (1995) that Jerry’s songs were heard last. “In the general flow of my career that film was my last. There were a couple of films such as Soudamini that I worked on later, which had five songs penned by Bhaskaran Master [P. Bhaskaran], but I’m not sure whether they were ever heard or if the film reached the theatres.”

There are five songs in Action Hero Biju. The lyrics are by Santosh Varma and Harinarayanan. “My return was like a breath of fresh air. The director was very frank and there were no conditions imposed on me. I could work to my heart’s desire. And, most importantly, we have used only acoustic instruments.”

There is ‘Pookkal Panineer’, a duet by K.J. Yesudas and Vani Jairam and solos by Chinmayi and Vineeth Sreenivasan, among others. Jerry has had a long association with Yesudas. Back in 1978, even before Jerry made his debut in films, Yesudas sang eight songs for his LP album, ‘Atma Ki Awaz’. This album was perhaps Jerry first major work. It was recorded in Yesudas’ studio in Chennai and mastered in New York, where Jerry was based then. “Somehow, the album went largely unnoticed and we could not officially release it in India. I did use some of these tunes in my later Malayalam films. Yesudas sang in my first film and so did Vani Jairam. Yesudas went on to sing in almost all my films and here he is again.”

Jerry is the most excited about one song in Action Hero Biju. “Long ago I happened to hear a Young India gramophone record of Bankim Chandra Chatterjee’s ‘Vande Mataram…’, which was directed by Rabindranath Tagore. That was a monophonic composition and had a chorus. This has been, of course, with a slight variation, included in the film. Chinmayi sings it in the film. There is a Sanskrit composition and one composed in ghazal style, which I hope will get noticed.”

Music has changed and Jerry feels it is not for the better. The days, he insists, were when there were rehearsals for singers and the orchestra. “But that’s only natural, something we have to live with. But what is really sad is that hardly anyone bothers about quality. Quality is sacrificed at the altar of need, speed and money.”

When Jerry came down from the United States in the beginning of the 1980s he was trained in Western and Hindustani, equipped enough to write the music, each part of it. “Today, when music is played in parts for a song, each instrument bit by bit and then united to the singer’s voice, I don’t find it tough at all because writing down music in parts is part of the Western system. What I regret or miss are the rehearsals and the live orchestra playing together. And they are not going to come back after all.”

Jerry relished the rehearsal sessions during his short stint with master composer Naushad. “There used to be weeks of rehearsals. Mohammed Rafi saab, for instance, used to come every morning to Naushad saab’s house for chit-chat, laughter and in between would try out the song. My job was to take down the scores. This went on for days before we went to the studio for the recording. The same applied to musicians too. They were given their specific parts, which they would rehearse till the date of the recording.”

Jerry created a revolution of sorts when he broke into the film scene. His music elevated the audience’s spirits and clothed it in a unique charm. His music was a refreshingly new blend of Western, Indian and local flavours. The melodies and orchestration were quite different from what we had experienced before. But he was not free from criticism. One common complaint was that his music seemed to echo strains of church music. “I don’t think that’s true. Perhaps, it is a case of not looking at my work as a whole. Maybe my songs had an identity, which it should. Take the case of songs such as ‘Devadumdubi…’ ( Ennennum Kannettante), ‘Penninte chenchundil…’ ( Guruji Oru Vaaku), ‘Poovalla poonthaliralla…’ ( Kaattupothu) or ‘Ponnambili pottum…’ ( No.1 Snehatheeram Bangalore North). Do you think the charges stand?”

Teaching music has always been close to Jerry’s heart. He started off as a private piano instructor for children in New York City and went on to teach at Queen’s College, Flushing, New York, American International School, Chennai, Choice School, Kochi, and headed Cochin Arts and Communication (CAC). He now trains his Sing India choral group that render songs spanning different cultures, languages and ages accompanied by instruments in the best choral tradition. “The group appeared in eight competitions last Christmas and were winners in five. They are doing well. I’m composing Hebrew poetry using them in a way that everyone can sing. There are occasional television assignments that come my way and a rare film like Action Hero Biju.”

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Printable version | Jun 19, 2021 6:42:55 PM |

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