Home > Movies > Interviews
The Rediff Interview
'Don't forget to congratulate me when I win the award!'
January 29, 2003
South Indian composer Vidyasagar's run with success continues. After Gemini, Run was a huge blockbuster of 2002. His film Meesa Madhavan was one of the biggest hits in the history of Malayalam cinema. 2003 turned out more fascinating for Vidyasagar. The year's first hit Dhool, a Pongal release, witnessed Vidyasasgar hit the jackpot.
It has been an unusual journey for the composer. When he started his career in Tamil in 1989, he was greeted with a cold shoulder. He then shifted base to Telugu and then Malayalam, where he made waves, even winning three State awards in Kerala.
Now, he is back in Tamil.
There is another feather to his cap: Vidyasagar is the rare South Indian composer to score music for a Hollywood film. He has composed music for the Hollywood feature Beyond The Soul directed by Rajeev Anchal.
In a conversation with Shobha Warrier, he discusses his roller coaster ride so far.
Your second innings in the Tamil industry seems quite successful.
My second innings in Tamil was from 1993 to 1996, when I failed again. My third innings started two years ago with Dhil. Four of my films were released within a span of a month. That gave me the impetus to concentrate in Tamil. What I have achieved in my third innings is definitely a surprise for me.
I call myself destiny's child.
What do you think went wrong earlier?
Irrespective of what you know and what you don't, the one thing that makes you acceptable in this industry is commercial success.
I am probably the only composer in South India who has delivered many superhit songs but was not considered a success. Even today, some of my earlier songs are sung by music troupes. But the total success of the film counts ultimately because you will be identified with the film.
When success eludes you, nobody is bothered about you, what you know and what you could do. That is why mediocrity succeeds. If you are successful, nobody questions your knowledge.
I am the same person. My music is still the same. I have always worked hard. The only thing missing was a smile from Lady Luck. I think my perseverance paid off. God has always been with me.
As far as music is concerned, you have to create an identity for yourself. If you are yourself, you will be accepted. I never tried to be someone else.
Did you feel bad when you had to move to Telugu?
I didn't really move out. I was only 26 when I started my career. Those days I only wanted to work. When my films did not work, I didn't know what to do. But I never went to anyone for work. Work came in search of me. Similarly, Telugu films happened to me.
When there was a fullstop from Telugu films, Tamil films happened again. My films didn't do well. Like they say, when the going gets tough, the tough get going. I kept going.
Then, when there was a full stop from Tamil films, Malayalam films happened. My first Malayalam film Azhakiya Raavanan (starring Mammootty and Bhanupriya and directed by Kamal) in 1996 was a big hit.
I have been working non-stop for the last 14 years irrespective of the success or failure of my films.
Do you find any difference in taste of the Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam audience?
People, irrespective of the language they speak, love good music.
The young today love peppy music. Only fast numbers sell, even in Kerala, which once had slow, melodious music. In Dhil, there is only one melodious song. All the others are fast-paced. Many told me Dhool sounded like a folk album.
Whenever I go for a concert, I observe the reaction of the audience. When I started working in Kerala in Azhakiya Raavanan, some people who appreciated soft music. After two, three years, it changed dramatically. It happened around the time I did the Confusion theerkaname song for Summer In Bethlehem.
I noticed the audience got a little restless with slow numbers.
When I did Run, I knew it would be a superhit. I do not know whether the music helped the film or vice versa.
I would say today's music is mostly rhythm and percussion-oriented. A different generation listens to music now. I can't say whether this change is bad or good. These days, the audience gets involved only when they listen to fast and peppy numbers. They want foot-tapping numbers.
When you composed music for Meesa Madhavan, did you expect it to be such a huge hit?
Yes. That is what I told the producer and director. That was the only film the director had in hand then, but I told him, "Don't worry. When this cassette is released, you will hear only Meesa Madhavan throughout Kerala." That is what happened.
You got three State awards in Kerala.
Yes. I will get my fourth award this year. It could be for Meesa Madhavan or Gramaphone. Don't forget to congratulate me when I get the award. *laughs*
You make Tamil singers sing Malayalam songs and Hindi singers sing Tamil songs. Why this fascination for singers from other languages?
I go according to the song. In Meesa Madhvan, the song was set in a village very close to Tamil Nadu. So I decided to have a Tamil singer sing the song.
I had Udit Narayan and Sadhana Sargam singing in Run. I introduced Sadhana to Tamil in 1992-1993. Shubha Mudgal also sang a Tamil song for me.
I like experimenting with voices. I don't like listening to the same voice again and again. I get bored. It is not for newness alone that I experiment with new singers. For example, Udit has a fizz in his voice. He is like soda.
You are always trying to come back to do music for Tamil films. Is it because you want to be recognised here more?
I am actually from Andhra Pradesh, but when I am doing Malayalam films, I am a Malayali. When I am composing in Telugu, I am Telugu. Why should we create boundaries for music?
I want to be recognised all over India. Do you know I am the first South Indian music director to compose music for a Hollywood film? I have just finished Rajeev Anchal's Beyond The Soul. I am doing his next Hollywood venture also.
Rajeev had shot a part of the film in India for which I recorded the Panchavadyam [a Kerala percussion-based symphony of five instruments] and with Indian instruments like the flute. I went to Hungary to do the rest of the film.
I chose Hungary because Kamal Haasan, whose Anbe Sivam I was doing then, helped me with some contacts in Hungary. Otherwise, I would have gone to Israel or London to record the score.
I was in Hungary for 10 days, recording with Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Leslie Kovac. It was a great experience scoring for a 100-piece orchestra. I was really moved when I heard 100 people play my music.
I always aim high because there is nothing wrong in building castles in the air. I am a practical dreamer. More than a dreamer, I am imaginative. I have to be creatively imaginative.