Hans Zimmer was inspired by my studio: Harris Jayaraj
An interview with Harris Jayaraj, whose songs from the Karthi-starrer Dev are ruling the charts
It's been a year since we had an album from Harris Jayaraj, but the composer says he isn't responsible for the delay. "I was looking forward to three releases in 2018. But Karuppu Raja Vella Raja, for which I had composed four songs, got shelved. Dhruva Natchathiram and Dev were supposed to hit the screens in June and September, respectively, but they weren't released as per the schedule," says Harris, whose album for the upcoming Karthi-starrer Dev has been received well. The music director feels he is back on home ground again with the light-hearted film. "After Vaaranam Aayiram, I've been doing mass films such as Thuppaki, so it's nice to be back to doing a film like Dev with a young team. It also felt nice to collaborate with SPB sir and Hariharan sir after a while," he adds.
Excerpts from a conversation with the composer:
Can you tell us a bit about the process of composing the album of Dev?
We started composing in January 2018 and in eight days, we composed the five songs penned by Vivek, Kabilan Vairamuthu and Thamarai. We've used a lot of singers in this album, around 15 of them. In the song Anange, for example, there are seven singers and we made them sing the entire song and took the best lines from each. The intention wasn't to have that many singers, but we (director Rajath Ravishankar and I) wondered how different the song would sound in different voices. That's when I came up with this idea to have several singers render it and take the best bits from each to get the final track.
We often hear of music directors travelling to exotic places to compose. What's the rationale behind this?
It's mainly so we (the director and composer) can cut ourselves off from our regular routine. That's where we also discuss a lot of the story. Thirumbura idam ellam director dhaan theriyanum and vice versa. You can call it a honeymoon of sorts (laughs). There's actually a song in this album, on travel with friends, with a line that goes "ithu natpuku honeymoon." Bonds get stronger when we travel and it helps us collaborate better creatively.
You started out 18 years ago with Minnale. How do you adapt yourself to the current times?
I make sure that despite being in the same genre, there are variations in each film. I did cop films such as Yennai Arindhaal, Kaakha Kaakha, Saamy, and Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu. In Uyirin Uyirae (Kaakha Kaakha) we used rock music, in Thirunelveli Halwada (Saamy), it was more rustic and massy. Karka Karka (Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu) was to establish a stylish cop who goes to America, so we gave it a Beverly Hills Cop treatment, whereas for Yennai Arindhaal, we used R&B and Hip Hop. The same can be said for films like Dev. I can't give it the same treatment as Ullam Ketkumae, 12B or Unnale Unnale.
I also like to break trends; that's why Vaseegara had a female voice in a lower pitch and Poopol Poopol had a male voice in high pitch -- which wasn't the norm back then. And there's a melody in Dev, Oru Nooru Murai, which is Hip Hop infused with Indian classical music. But it's not done for the sake of being trendy; it's all about being truthful to what the film is about.
Is your H Studio the answer to your search for quality?
Yes. It took German, French, Dutch, British and Indian architects four years to actually build it. The famous Mix Magazine rated H Studio as the best studio in Asia and one of the best in the world. The intention is to give work to more musicians. We have people from other cities coming in to record for their films. In fact, Hans Zimmer was inspired by it and called one of the architects who worked on our project to make him a studio.
What advice would you give to aspiring composers?
For starters, believe in yourself. Hold on to your convictions even in the face of failure. There are ample examples of technicians getting their due credit even when films they worked on have failed.
How do you tackle criticism? A couple of stand-up comedians too trolled you recently.
Everybody has the right to express their views. I can't take it seriously because the songs they're talking about have been praised by crores of people. I appreciate the stand-up comedian's talent as he sings well, but his intention is wrong. He played eight songs in the same tune, but I can play 200 songs in that tune (laughs). People such as Asha Bhosle, Lata Mangeshkar and even Michael Jackson have faced similar criticisms, so who am I to complain?