'I always wanted to work with Ilayaraja'
Gautham Vasudev Menon is undoubtedly one of the most talented film-makers in Tamil.
After the hugely successful Vinnaithandi Varuvaya , the director is making another young romantic film, Nee Thaane En Ponvasantham.
He is making the film in three languages, Tamil, Telugu and Hindi, with Jiiva, Nani and Aditya Roy Kapoor respectively as heroes and Samantha as the heroine in all the language versions.
For the first time, the director has roped in Ilayaraja as the music director. The album, released recently, is a huge hit.
In this interview, Gautham Vasudev Menon talks about the magic of working with the maestro.
You have worked with Harris Jayaraj and A R Rahman so far. For this very young love story, you have Ilayaraja as the music composer. Why?
Because he is the youngest of all the music directors that I know!
Through the '70s, '80s and '90s, Raja Sir has been composing music for lots and lots of songs that have inspired a lot of people, including me. That is why I wanted him to compose for a young love story.
Yes, I always wanted to work with him but somehow I didn't have the courage to ask him.
Image: Gautham Vasudev Menon and Ilayaraja
'I was a bit apprehensive to approach Ilayaraja'
You must have grown up listening to his music. So, how difficult was it for you to approach him to compose for your film?
It wasn't difficult after I met him, as he made me comfortable.
I was a bit apprehensive as I had heard that he would say no to people if he didn't vibe with them.
I approached him with all the reverence I have for him and he made me comfortable saying, 'you don't have to be afraid at all.'
Has he seen any of your films?
I didn't ask him but he has heard about my films.
He knows that I have used some of his music in my films. His children have told him about my films.
He generally doesn't watch many films. I think he watches films when he has to score the background music.
He is not a film-goer as such but he had heard of my films, and moreover, he made me very comfortable.
Image: Ilayaraja, Gautham Menon, Nani and Jiiva.
'The whole experience of working with Ilayaraja was very overwhelming'
How did you work it out—you narrating the scenes and he composing the score?
I showed him some of the visuals I had shot. Then he said, let's start working. I narrated each situation to him, the people in the visuals, the place where the story happens, etc.
In fact, I gave the whole description of the place, the genre and the instruments I wanted.
After each narration, he started composing tunes.
The composing session was done in three days and he gave me around 14 songs. He said, 'You pick which song you want for which situation'. In fact, he has given me alternative tunes also for some situations.
I picked eight songs and went back to him. Then, we started recording. For that, we went to London.
Were you totally satisfied with the tunes he gave you?
Whatever I heard, whatever he had composed was in tune with my description, and I loved all of them. I could choose eight from the 14 tunes he had given.
How different was working with Ilayaraja from working with Harris Jayaraj and A R Rahman? Was it an overwhelming experience?
Obviously, there is no comparison. It was very overwhelming and very emotional. When he plays a tune, the melody comes out so beautifully that you get nostalgic.
It also makes you feel that you have reached a certain stage in your life that you are actually sitting with the man and he was making tunes for you!
I was with him in the entire music creation process. I was with him when he composed the tunes, I was with him when he recorded the voice, and I was with him when every instrument was recorded for every song.
With Harris and Rahman, that doesn't happen. They record the music when they have time and call you to listen to it later.
But with Raja Sir, I was there with him in the whole creation of music. That is why the whole experience was very overwhelming for me.
'My favourtie song is Karthik's Katrai Konjam'
The songs are vintage Ilayaraja, and quite different from the music in your films so far. How do you plan to picturise the songs?
We have shot a couple of montages and he has given tunes for them.
The picturisation will be a combination of some visuals, montages and songs. Some songs I will shoot based on the tunes I have.
Is it different shooting such soft melodies?
A couple of tunes were so powerful that I had to rework the visual structure. Otherwise, most of the songs take the story forward. They will be more like background songs.
At the audio launch, Ilayaraja asked the audience not to whistle or clap but listen quietly to the orchestra and songs. How did the crowd, used to actively participating in music shows, react to his demand?
A lot of people responded very well. Many people told me that it was very appropriate as it was a live orchestra and people from London were performing.
An orchestra is different from a rock show. These people are used to a certain kind of response. I think Raja Sir was trying to instil some decorum in the audience. He said, please applaud after the music and not whistle, and they obliged.
Which is your favourite song in the album?
My favourite is also the flavour of the season: Karthik's Katrai Konjam...