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Harris Jeyaraj interview in Screen Harris Jeyaraj interview in Screen

Topic started by Karthik S (@ on Fri May 31 03:18:22 EDT 2002.
All times in EST +10:30 for IST.

Scared of Bollywood

After the sensational hit score of Minnale, following it up with 12B and Majnu, Harris Jayraj is now considered by the music industry as a serious challenge to A.R. Rahman. The success of his music in Rehnaa Hai Terre Dil Mein, a Hindi remake of Minnale, has got him many Hindi film offers. But the soft-spoken Harris is not in a hurry to grab them. He speaks to Screen about his music and his life...

The music of Minnale took the entire Tamil Nadu by storm. Did you think that the music would be such a big hit?
I never dreamt that it would be such a big hit. Those who had heard the music did say it was exceptional. I knew I was experimenting with some new kind of mix. But I never expected it to be such a big hit. Of course I did know that the music would be accepted.

You were a keyboard player and graduated to a music director. Did you have any pre-release tension that if the music flops, you wwould be stuck as a keyboard player?
I was mentally prepared to go back to playing keyboard. Before Minnale released, there were offers from producers. But I didn’t take them up because I thought it better to wait for Minnale results. God has been kind to me and looks like He didn’t want me to go back to the keyboard.

Why do you think the music of Minnale stood out from other film scores?
One of the reasons was that I gave importance to melody and lyrics. When I was composing for Minnale, the music that was dominating the scene then was too much of a noise, and most of the scores were overpowering the lyrics. I did not go in for Western instruments in toto. I used more of Indian instruments. This sounded fresh to the listeners. The ‘Vasigara...’ song became a rage due to this.

Do you compose the background score too?
Yes. In fact, I spend a lot of my time on the background score. For Minnale I decided on the background theme music of Maddy Maddy when Madhavan makes an entry. My director Gautam liked the idea.

Harris Jayraj & Girlfriends

The all-girl band concept has caught on in a big way. Chennai is now ready with it’s all-girl band named Girlfriends promoted by Magnasound. Ameera, Prasanthi, Suhanti and Karen are the four girls selected for the album also titled Girlfriends.

A look at them and one feels that they might sing in Tanglish (Tamil and English). They don’t look like they can utter a single word of Tamil.
The good part about the girls is their glamourous look. Ameera D’costa hails from Goa and is now in Chennai. “I have compared several shows, mostly beauty pageants. I have walked the ramp myself and the album is a new avenue for me,” says Ameera. Karen is a known face since she is a VJ on SS Music, the South Indian music channel. “Music is my first love. I was a model before becoming a VJ, and now I am turning a singer,” says Karen all excited.

Suhanti is very Indian though she’s from Malaysia. She has done her Bharat Natyam, and sung songs in Malayalam and Tamil on Malay TV. After landing in Chennai she acted in K. Balachander’s Anbukakakhe and Khushboo’s Marumagal, even while the girl-band scouting was on. The fourth girl Prasanthi is the daughter of noted singer Malaysia Vasudevan.

Prasanthi has done several stage shows with her dad and brother Yugendran, and Gangai Amran. She has done playback singing for Tamil films 12B and Royal Family, as well as a few Malayalam films.

The four girls are confident that their album will be a hit since Raghu Kaundiya from Bangalore has composed the music. Suhanti, the most articulate of the lot, says, “The four of us know for sure that our songs are not going to be English songs sung in Tamil. They are not going to be Latino, African or Chinese, but Indian. In the world of complex tunes our music is simple.” Adds Karen pouting her lips, “Figure out this music with us as performers.”

Magnasound’s Madhvadas who put the group together explains, “The film music business is a rip-off. Music directors and producers are making the money. Pirates and bad music jack up our trip. In pop we are assured of a decent sale and no heavy investment. I tried out various combinations. One band came close to be selected, but they wanted to do their own thing so I dumped them. These girls are good because they vibe well.”

The girls on their part feel that they stand to get an individual identity as singers. “It’s sad to see playback singers pushed to the background by the audio companies, and put film stars on the jackets to sell music,” says Karen. At this point, Madhavdas looked the other away around. Let’s see whether Tamil pop lovers will welcome the Girlfriends.

Why is it that you have not accepted any Hindi films?
I was not happy about the treatment given to me and to the music of RHTDM. Producer Vashu Bhagnani came to me after seeing Minnale in Chennai. I did two new numbers for the Hindi version. Bhagnani released a two-pack audiocassette, one of which had my music, while the other had five songs composed by other music directors. Both the cassettes were sold as my music, which I didn’t like. The producer could have at least told me about it. This incident has left a bitter taste. Now I am reluctant to take up Bollywood offers.

Is it true that the Minnale music score was originally composed for Majnu?
I’d never do anything like that. In recent times, music tracks from one film have been fitted into other, but the result has been disastrous. A producer recently came up to me saying that he wanted to buy the music rights of Telugu film Vaasu for a Tamil film. Now how can he fit in this score to his totally different subject? I can’t understand that.

What made you take up this Telugu film Vaasu?
The subject was interesting. And most importantly it’s about a keyboard player. The director is a Tamilian and he does not known Telugu, so it was like working for a Tamil film. Anyway, music has no language barriers. For the time being I want to stick to Tamil films.

Minnale and your other film scores haven’t reached out to the rural areas, known as B&C areas in film trade.
The music of Majnu has gone down well with the rural masses. In fact, the film did well in B&C areas, whereas Minnale wasn’t a hit there. If I get a rustic subject then I can score rustic music.

What is your criterion in accepting a film?
The subject should have scope for music. The producer should be good and the director should have the ability to translate what he is saying into visuals.

Are you planning to cut your own album?
(Laughs). Why should I? I am happy composing music for films and I am getting my share of fame. The only difference between private album and film music is that in film music I have to compose according to the situations. Thankfully, my directors has given me a free hand.

How do you spend your free hours at home?
I start my day a bit late, by 2 p.m. Till then I am home with my wife and my parents.

Do you discuss music with your wife?
I don’t discuss my music with anyone. At home I want to be away from music, so we talk a lot about other things. But it’s not possible to entirely cut off music. When I am travelling from my studio to home, I listen to the tape on the car stereo. At home, I am listening to the music on my PC or my home system. All this is to basically know how it sounds on music systems other than the studio.

Does your wife like your music?
Oh, she is a great fan of mine. She was a singer, when I was a keyboard player.

Does anybody in your family have a musical background?
My father is a guitar-player. I started learning music at the age of six and when I was 12 years old, I was already a professional.

Has the keyboard-playing experience stood you in good stead?
Oh sure. A great deal. Even now I play my own keyboard.

Are you in touch with your colleagues who played with you?
There’s time for anything.

What about doing your own musical shows?
I have done just three films. I have not more than 20 songs to my credit. Maybe I’ll have my shows later, when I have done a lot of work.

We have heard that you become creative only late in the night.
(Laughs). Actually, I start my day late, and by the time things get going, its night. I am back home only in the morning. When a film is nearing release, the day becomes shorter and I am back home by 12 noon. And I hardly get any sleep when the release date nears.


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