It is one of the greatest comebacks in the history of film music. Vidyasagar’s Run audio, which is already a chartbuster, is still climbing up the ladder of popularity and the Villain casettes are selling like hot cakes. Earlier only A.R.Rahman’s music was considered fashionable to be played at discos and parties in Chennai. But now songs like “Kathal Pisase..” and “Theradi Veedhiyil..” from Run and “Hello Hello…” from Villain are the hot favourites. Vidayasagar’s second innings in Tamil has coincided at a time when A.R.Rahman was concentrating more on the international scene. Now with the success of Run and Villain he is doing a dozen new films like Vikram’s Dhool and Kamalhassan’s Anbe Sivam. He is the most happening music director today. Excerpts from an exclusive interview.
Q: Now with Run and Villain proving to be superhits, you must be very happy.
A: Yes, Run is not just a superhit but also my biggest commercial success in a 13-year career in the music field. To tell you honestly the songs in the film have a mass appeal and hence the audience have accepted it. I am extremely thankful to everybody including director Lingusamy and producer A.M.Ratnam.
Q: Was it a long struggle to reach the top?
A: It was indeed an uphill task. The music in my earlier films like Karna and Jai Hind were very popular but the films did not do well. “Taayin Manikodi..”, the patriotic song from Jai Hind is still played on Independence Day celebrations. During the early nineties I did a lot of films including classics like Bharathiraja’s Pasumpon that were not hits, but my music was remembered.
Q: Now you are in your second innings in Tamil?
A: (Laughs) Yes. I played my first innings from 1989 to 1996 before getting retired hurt. From 1993 to 1996, I became the top music director in Telugu. From 1996 to 2001 I was very busy in Malayalam where melodies were appreciated and I bagged three Kerala State Awards! With Dhill and Povellam Un Vasam I made a comeback into Tamil and the songs in both the films were hits.
Q: So you are a melody maker basically?
A: I love soft melody numbers, as they come straight from your heart. In all my films, one melody number becomes very popular like “Un Samayalarayil..Naan” in Dhill, “Malaikatruvandhu…Tamizh” in Vedam or the “Poi Sollak…” and “Panikkaatrae…” in Run.
Q: But the biggest success of your music is that you have been able to provide the youngsters with peppy ‘item numbers’. Please comment.
A: Music has become one of the most essential ingredients for a film's success these days. And when a generation change occurs every two years, you have to make music to suit their taste. Today’s youth wants a song that they can hum from the bathroom to the bus stop. There are no longer any situational songs in films as almost all are ‘item numbers’. It is a fantasy world where directors today talk of class and mass item numbers!
Q: So do ‘item numbers’ and peppy songs make a film a hit?
A: No. Unless there is a basic story line and proper packaging, no film will work even if it has good music. Run is a big hit as director Lingusamy told an interesting tale and its hero Madhavan was packaged well as an action hero. The songs in the film fell into the right places and were well picturised.
Q: Most of the new generation music directors are over dependent on the electronic synthesizers. Please comment.
A: My father was a musician and my grandfather was the court ‘vidhwan’ for the king of Vijaynagaram. My father trained me with vocal and harmonium and I learned to play the guitar from Dhanraj master. At the age of 11, I knew how to play a dozen musical instruments. And even today I compose on my harmonium, but technology will keep changing with times and one should adapt to modern needs also.
Q: Have you have been promoting Mumbai singers like Udit Narayan and Sadhana Sargam?
A: I can give you a list of 18 new singers whom I have given a break like Manickam Vinayagam, Sriram Parthasarathy, Srivardhini and many others. But when I hear the song situation from a director I know which singer’s voice would sound better. In Run the “Kathal Pisase..” song needed that extra fizz, which I thought Udit Narayan would be the best and even Sujatha has modulated her voice for the song. It gives the song that extra sparkle or vitality. I always believe that versatile singers like Yesudas or SPB can lift a song beyond the mundane.
Q: What are your future plans?
A: I am busy right now with Tamil and Malayalam films. I hope to come out with better music with each film and want to be remembered in future as a music director who has produced some memorable music and probably win a National Award! (Smiles).