A duet for life
Anuradha and Sriram Parasuram are a rare husband-wife composer team in film music
In spite of a Mechanical Engineering degree from the University of Mumbai and a Master's degree in Business Management from the highly acclaimed Indian Institute of Management-Kolkata, Sriram Parasuram prefers a career in music.
With a fellowship from the University of Akron, Ohio, USA, Sriram went to the US to study Western classical music and later, completed a doctorate in world music from Wesleyan University.
Having performed over 2,000 solo violin concerts all over the world and having won the President of India's Gold Medal for Carnatic and Hindustani music, Sriram is a well-known figure. He entered the world of pop music as one of the brothers in the well-known group Three Brothers, and one of the composers of the Hindi pop album Savariya, the other composer being his wife Anuradha Sriram.
One of South India's leading playback singers, Anuradha, like her husband, is also well versed in Carnatic and Hindustani music. The couple also composed the music of her popular Tamil pop album Chennai Girl. They then switched over to composing film music.
"Nothing can compete with the reach of film music. In India, a classical music album may reach five per cent of the population but film music will reach 95 per cent. That is the reason why Anuradha and I decided to compose film music," Sriram explains. He adds that in terms of improvisation, classical music offers more scope but "film music is a condensed and crystallised form of creativity."
The couple approached filmmaker Mani Ratnam for advice, as they felt that he would understand their kind of music. Besides, he had already heard Savariya and liked it for its freshness. He was very encouraging but warned them that cutting albums was very different from film music. He had explained that "an album is an expression of oneself whereas film is bound by situations, story, lyrics and the director's vision. It is a collaborative effort."
Ratnam, who was producing a young film Five Star with newcomers, asked them to compose a few tunes. "We have been giving jugalbandi concerts together for some time, so there is an understanding between us," Sriram says. "There may be differences of opinion but since we respect each other, there were no ego clashes. Both of us are very accommodative. We know that it is not our individual egos that are important but the final product."
Ratnam and his assistant director Susi Ganesan, who turns director with this film, liked the tunes. In no time, they were signed by Ratnam's production house Madras Talkies for the film. And a new music director team was born, Parasuram Radha.
According to Anuradha, composing film music is different from composing for an album. She says, "Sometimes, we had to convince ourselves of somebody else's conviction. Unless you are convinced, you cannot work. That was the challenge."
There were times when tunes, which excited them tremendously, did not excite the director. "It helped us to look at things from a different perspective. A violin crescendo may excite me a lot but it may not affect an average person to that extent," Anuradha continues.
To the question whether it was difficult to tone down the classical nature of the songs, Sriram says, "We didn't have to force ourselves to be 'less classical'. Our music influences will automatically find a way in film music too. Even in a peppy, fast, youthful number, our musical background is reflected. There are only two classical songs."
Sriram elaborates, "There was a song which celebrated Sunday in the film. The lyrics were, 'One day of heaven on earth is Sunday'. So our song had to reflect the Sunday spirit --- all that you want to do on a Sunday. We made the tune simple, so that even a child can relate to it because the concept of Sunday is universal. We chose approximately 100 concepts and tuned music for the concepts. For the farewell song of the protagonists --- five engineering students --- we made a techno, high energy song. Since the concept of friendship is very critical in the farewell song, we gave it a kind of tenderness too."
For Susi Ganesan, unless he was driven by a song, he would not be able to do justice to its filming. After working hard for six months on six songs, the best compliment came from the director himself, Anuradha and Sriram said. "He said in an interview that our music is the establishment of a new paradigm in film music. He said we would be the next trendsetters. We felt so happy to read that."
Though a celebrity in Tamil playback singing, especially after the huge success of the song Oh Podu in Gemini, Anuradha chose to sing only the title track, as they wanted to see how others sung their tunes. She says, "The song, Engirundu Vandayada, which became a huge hit, was sung by Sandhana Bala, a young classical singer from Bangalore. This was her first song. On the first day, she could not sing it properly but we were confident. After getting used to the new system, she just breezed through it the next day."
As of now, the album has topped the Tamil music charts.