A million YouTube views don't mean a song is good: Vidyasagar
The musician, who's back with Thiruttupayale 2, talks about his career, compositions and his love for melodies
Vidyasagar, whose Thiruttupayale 2 got released recently, calls composing a ‘natural process’. He says most of his songs have been conceived in less than 15 minutes. "It just happens. I am not saying it’s greatness. I just don't have to look outside of my head for inspiration," he smiles.
The composer who has, to his credit, many super hit songs in Tamil, Malayalam, and Telugu isn’t one for the public eye. "My music has been around since the late eighties, and it is still here. I've never felt the need to market myself. Even when I did music for an English film (Beyond the Soul) in 2003, I maintained a low profile," he says.
A director's composer, Vidyasagar feels his time is better spent on experimenting with varied styles of music. From the ever-green Malare Mounama (Karnaa) to his latest Nee Paarkum (Thiruttupayale 2), he says he’s constantly trying to make sure his music doesn't sound the same. “But the melody always stays."
In the rich history of Tamil cinema, Vidyasagar’s place of distinction isn’t in question. "I don't like to compose songs that have their day in the sun and then disappear. Music is serious business. The idea is to make music that is enjoyable, soulful and soothing. It is important not to complicate tunes too much. Though electronic music is creating new horizons, it is my view that the quality of melodies has drastically diminished over the years," he says.
He believes that the success of a composer rests on the recall value of their songs. "We call them 'old songs'. But are they truly old, when even today in singing competitions, people continue to sing them? People always forget the mediocre ones."
In the age of computers, he still likes to compose with a harmonium. "Why should I switch when the harmonium gives me more than what I expect? It's best to sing and compose, and the harmonium is ideal." Saying so, he hums a melody. "I’m a casual singer, but don’t really sing my own compositions. In Thiruttupayale 2, I sang the theme song because I was told my voice suited the song."
Vidyasagar's music, he says, is a culmination of his growth within. "I have not restricted myself to any one genre or reduced myself to imitating another composer. Ultimately, all music comes from seven notes. If people can find even a bit of themselves in my songs, then I've achieved what I set out to do," he says.
He doesn’t set out to create hits. “Picasso never realised he was doing great artwork. It's all about time and destiny. You just have to continue doing your work without expecting the results." He laughs when asked about today’s obsession with YouTube views. “Just because a million people viewed a song doesn't mean it was good. There may be great songs that have only been viewed 100 times."
Thiruttupayale 2 is his first Tamil film this year. "I am glad I am still relevant, and it is partly because I’ve kept myself updated with the latest equipment and software. Music is like a perennial river, and it will flow as long as I seek it," he says.
I ask if he feels undervalued. "What should come my way always does. I don't have the time to compare myself with others," he says. "I've introduced 32 playback singers to Tamil cinema and I've got my favourite singers (Asha, SPB, KJ Yesudas…) singing my tunes. What more do I need?"