Yuvan Shankar Raja is composer Ilyaraja's son, and if his current body of work is anything to go by, then the maestro’s son is sure to be doing his father proud.
Beginning his career in the late 1990s by scoring the music for Aravindhan's trailer at the age of 16, Yuvan has since worked with several prominent directors in South India. The third and youngest child of Ilyaraja, Yuvan has two music directors as brothers too – Karthik Raja and Bhavatharini. And yet, all Yuvan ever wanted to become was a pilot.
We spoke to the young genius about his music, his opinion of Bollywood music, and his many forthcoming projects.
What's it like being the son of a legend?
It has its pros and cons. The advantages are obvious. The disadvantages are that people expect more from you. No matter how well you do, people expect you to deliver more.
Being Illyaraja's son, were you always inclined to become a musician?
Actually, I always wanted to become a pilot. But I suppose you could say that now I'm flying high on music! I once accompanied my father when he was working on Mani Ratnam's Anjali. The score needed a rap by a child and my father asked me to sing it. I did a small portion of the song, ‘Mutamadi, mutamadi’. When I was recording it, I was just speaking the words as I read them on the paper. I remember my father telling me from the control room: "C'mon Yuvan, I want you to sing it like Michael Jackson!” It was an amazing moment.
How did you land your first assignment?
I had my own set of keyboards and I had worked on some tunes. The director of the movieAravindhan heard one of my songs and suggested that I do the soundtrack for the trailer of the movie. I told him that he’d have to ask my parents. They agreed, and soon I made my debut.
Did you have all the tunes ready or did you have to figure out what the director wanted?
I had no experience at all and everything was new to me. Only after I was signed on that did I actually began. The movie didn’t do well, because of which I was heartbroken. But soon I got Thulluvadho Illamai, which become quite a hit.
Do you remember your first day as a music director?
I remember that A R Rahman was also releasing an album the day my movie was to release, so I was very scared. But my movie did pretty well.
Bollywood is now copying music from South Indian films. How did that happen?
I personally feel that the music in South Indian cinema is much better; that’s my opinion. Some people I like in Bollywood are Ismail Darbar and Vishal Bharadwaj’s stuff. But now the South Indian movie industry is expanding and there will be even more remakes of our stuff.
Your earlier music was quite loud and trendy; but for Nandhaa it was different, more soul-searching. What's that about?
Basically I scored music as per the script’s requirement, and the story needed such music. My songs are usually beat-oriented. I thought of doing something different in the movie Nandhaa.
Have you ever tired of being seen as Ilyaraja's son rather than as music director Yuvan?
I am known for what I am. And nothing can change the fact that I am his son.
Apart from your father, who has inspired your music?
I was a big fan of Michael Jackson as a child. And I really love R D Burman songs .
Do you ever compete with your brothers?
No (laughs). We have our different styles.
Which films are you currently scoring music for?
Paiyya is out. Next in line is Aaranya Kaandam, Baana, Eerpuu, Surangani, Naanum En Sandhyayum, Cheri, Naanum En Sandhyavum, Thillalangadi, Maa, Pesu, Pachchai Thamizhan, Valiban, Manmathan 2 , Kannabiran and many more.