As I wait for Yuvan Shankar Raja at a quaint studio in Saligramam, my mind rewinds his success story. A reluctant musician, he wanted to become a pilot and zip across the globe. But music happened even before he passed out of school. And since 1997, his staying power in capricious Kollywood remains unquestionable. Despite his CDs burning up the barcodes in music stores, he’s still not given up his dream to fly. Come December, and he’ll crisscross continents — not as a pilot, but as a showman-musician.
As Yuvan appears in-between re-recording for director Ameer’s “Yogi”, he seems as pleased as Punch. The usually reticent musician is gung-ho about his world tour “Oru Naalil…” that’s scheduled to begin in Dubai. And the conversation flows much like his musical cadences.
“It’s a mega, one-of-a-kind stage show with plenty of surprises thrown in. The three-hour, high-energy spectacle will feature a galaxy of stars from the music world. Shankar Mahadevan, Hariharan, Karthik, Harish Raghavendra et al have been roped in to perform. Simbu will belt out his hits. We are getting professional dancers from Mumbai, and a lively LED presentation will form the backdrop for the show. We are specially shooting and compiling footage for the presentation. My introduction will involve a stunning stunt sequence,” explains maestro Ilaiyaraaja’s scion.
With an oeuvre that spans genres — from zingy folk to soothing Broadway jazz, the composer is confident “Oru Naalil…” will be “on the lines of a Madonna or an MJ show.” Self-assured, he adds, “It’ll take stage shows several notches up. Besides the razzmatazz, we have planned contests and special merchandise such as caps and tees for the events. Talks are on to hold the show in Muscat and Kuwait. If it clicks, we’ll perform there before moving to Canada. The beginning of next year will be quite a whirl. We are looking at destinations in the U.S. and South Africa.”
Steps to success
As someone who has skilfully navigated those tricky steps to success, Yuvan says, “Life’s been quite a journey. My career has been slow, yet steady. I like it that way. I never wished for overnight success. Neither did I want to rush through my career and suffer a burn-out.”
Yuvan says he approaches work with a fun attitude that helps him beat stress. “I was never interested in studies. And honestly, I never felt I had it in me to make good music. I guess, the environment in which I grew up — dad neck-deep in music, my sister Bavatharini on the piano all the time and brother Karthik Raja constantly hooked on the latest music technology — just stirred me to take the first step. ‘Thuluvatho Ilamai’ and ‘Poovellam Kaettupaar’ proved to be turning points.”
Today, the pint-sized dynamo has become a juggernaut you can’t stop. Simultaneously working on half-a-dozen films, including the much-awaited “Yogi”, “Goa” and “Paiyaa”, he doesn’t get things mixed up. “I see every director as a different brand. That way, it’s easy for me to compartmentalise my work. So I can easily switch from one film to the other and refresh myself when I hit a mental block. I don’t want my music to sound like a pastiche of other works. So I stop listening to my songs once the audio for a film is released. When I unwind, it’s usually with jazz.”
Despite being a techno-freak, Yuvan is certain there’s more soul in live recordings. “Dad used to say it’s the backbone for any musical endeavour. And I’ve realised that with time. So most often, my re-recordings are live. Technology does enhance music, but the warmth of a live orchestra is incomparable. Fans wrote to me after ‘Oru Devadai…’ (“Vaamanan”) saying the score had a divine quality. That’s because it was done live. Besides, I’m also conscious of the employment problem that technology-driven music creates.”
Yuvan’s plans for the future include producing Pop albums and alternative cinema. “My mind’s buzzing with scripts. I want to do something really different. A long-term goal is to open an orphanage for kids. I’ve envisioned something of huge proportions. But first let me make the money for it.”
It’s back to “Take” at the studio and Yuvan melts away in the darkness. After 60-odd films, he still remains hooked. Stay tuned…
Dad is a man of few words. He rarely discusses my compositions. But I hear him humming my numbers to my nephew. The recent one is a hit from the Telugu flick “Oy”. A musical genius in the family is both a huge advantage and a disadvantage. I’ve absorbed so much from my father. But, at the same time, fans keep writing to me saying they expect more from me — because of my lineage!
Karthik Raja is immensely talented. It’s unfortunate he hasn’t got the right break. Be it technology, manuscript or knowledge of genres, he is thorough. I’m sure he will make it ASAP.
I’ve no regrets in my personal and professional life. Being a spiritual person, I believe whatever happens, happens for the good. I simply follow what dad says, ‘With music, you can reach out and spread happiness.’
I’m camera shy. But I had to do a portfolio for my world tour. So Karthik of Dreeamcast and I worked in tandem and conceptualised the shoot. I wanted a rock star look. Possibly, with just a bit of the face showing. Since the show is full of surprises, I wanted the promo photos too to kindle curiosity.