`Nothing like live music'

WIDENING HORIZON Both of them like music that pushes geographical boundaries.

WIDENING HORIZON Both of them like music that pushes geographical boundaries.  

As Yuvan Shankar Raja shares his career anxieties over a piano flourish, the sizzling Vasundhara Das catches a note

Listening to Yuvan Shankar Raja is like sitting through a music performance. There is a cadence one minute and a highlight the next, a fast tempo here and a calculated pause there. After struggling initially, this son of the music whiz Ilaiyaraja now breathes easy. Kaadhal Kondein, 7G Rainbow Colony, Manmadhan and now Raam... the just-married Yuvan is scalding hot in showbiz. Vasundhara "Shakalaka" Das. Cheery and serious, passionately vocal and dispassionately restrained, this actor-musician's speciality lies in her extremes. Like her versatile voice that can stir sensitivity or ring in raunch.

As Yuvan hits the piano and Vasundhara takes the lead, T. KRITHIKA REDDY tunes in...

Vasundhara: So, what's up Yuvan?

Yuvan: Right now it's some overseas productions — short films and documentaries for which I'm doing the music score. What about you? Any albums coming up?

Vasundhara: Started with a thematic one on women in Tamil. But midway, the pace slackened. I was disillusioned by this dapankuthu wave. I hope to finish it soon. Tell me about your creative challenges...

Yuvan: Both 7G and Raam were major challenges. The filming was simple. So much depended on the music to bring out those fragile emotions. If I messed up the music, the moods would have changed. And (pauses, looks pointedly at her), there were no dapankuthus (laughs).

Vasundhara: (Amused) I'm not saying it's bad. I'm open to different music streams. But dapankuthu is something I can't relate to.

Yuvan: So what type of songs would you like to sing?

Vasundhara: After hits like "Shakalaka Baby", you have similar demands from musicians. Can't blame them. We artistes have the courage to challenge ourselves. But most of them working with us function within a commercial framework. But even within that, there are so many variables to play around with. I wish to try out different notes. I want composers to repose their trust in me. Go beyond one layer, go deeper. It's sad no one gives me melody. After all, I'm classically trained. (Pause) So tell me more about the album you're planning.

Yuvan: It will be out-and-out hip-hop. I will do a single track, do a video, try it and then go ahead.

Vasundhara: Yes, that will be a smart move. What do you think about traditional Indian music? Looks like we are getting away from it. Today, most music is derived from elsewhere...

Yuvan: Really? I think it happened a few years ago. Now, it's more original. But there is definitely a folk scene happening. It will fade out soon. It's a cycle.

Vasundhara: We're in a business where new people come in and sometimes undercut. How does such lack of ethics affect you?

Yuvan: It happens in every profession. It does affect one, but I try to focus on my work.

Vasundhara: Being a maestro's son...

Yuvan: Yes, it has its own advantages and disadvantages. Advantage because you have a lineage, disadvantage because expectations are high.

Vasundhara: Is that a pressure?

Yuvan: Not really. It spurs me on.

Vasundhara: So what kind of support do you get from your siblings? They too are into music...

Yuvan: We enjoy our space. We hardly talk work at home.

Vasundhara: And is your dad judgmental about your work?

Yuvan: No. Only once, he was kind of shocked with my music. It was a Carnatic vocal with jazz progression.

Vasundhara: You said something about going global...

Yuvan: Yes, I want to produce albums for great artistes. It will be hip-hop. I want to do mainstream music, but remain behind the scene.

Vasundhara: So when did this hip-hop fixation begin?

Yuvan: Can't really figure out when. It was always there. I love jazz as well. World music has been your calling, isn't it?

Vasundhara: Yes, I love music that goes beyond geographical boundaries. To what extent do you think a singer's originality matters?

Yuvan: It's a valuable add-on. Just like a good-script-good-actor combination.

Vasundhara: I think technology has killed music. Technology must be used to enhance the work of musicians. Not replace them. What do you think of computer-generated sound tracks?

Yuvan: There's nothing quite like live music which has life. For the 7G score, I used a 40-piece orchestra. Emotions can be evoked only through such live music. There's a human touch.

Vasundhara: Even we singers would have been replaced if computer-generated voice were possible. It's sad. Live performances have taken a beating because of this trend. People want to fly only one artiste and a CD down for live shows. But they will still fly down six dancers to perform with the singer!

Yuvan: The onus is on the producer. I've been fortunate to work with producers who gave me that freedom with time and budget. Sometimes, there's a hurry to wrap up. So musicians tend to finish tracks with the keyboard. They cut, paste and finish. So what's up on the acting front?

Vasundhara: Three films are under way. There's Film Star and Kudiyon Ka Zamana in which I play varied roles. There is also another film based on a true-life story, a rape case. Actually, my education in films started very late — around the time Hey Ram happened. You said something about producing a film...

Yuvan: Yes. It's in the discussion stage.

Vasundhara: Will yours too be a romantic film? Love themes work. Perhaps because a major chunk of our population is young. Now, you should be talking about love. I'm not getting married.

Yuvan: (Puzzled) Why?

Vasundhara: Because the press has got me married five times and engaged several times... (They burst out laughing. Then Vasundhara gets serious) It's unfair. In the entertainment business, it's okay if a man marries. But marriage does affect a woman's prospects. (Lightens up) So what are your interests?

Yuvan: I'm a game freak. Love go-karting.

Vasundhara: (Excited) Really? Me too. Even when I travel, the first thing I look out for is karting. Once, I almost froze on the tracks in Spain one winter!

Yuvan: Were you focussed about becoming a singer from your childhood?

Vasundhara: Had so many interests. When I was in Class Five, I wanted to become an archaeologist, in Class Six I wanted to become a genetic engineer, in Class Eight I wanted to become a rock star, then wanted to do an MBA. Every year my interests changed. Music was a passion, so my career just happened. What about you?"

Yuvan: I wanted to be a pilot.

Vasundhara: (Laughing) You are flying in any case.

Yuvan: I was serious. But now it's too late.

Vasundhara: Come on yaar, buy your own aircraft; fly. That's life.

Yuvan: It costs a bomb.

Vasundhara: You never know... (And goes enigmatically in a singsong mode).

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