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An exclusive interview with Harish Raghavendra

''Ajith is not only handsome but also intelligent, well behaved, humble and knowledgeable''

Feb 03, 2014

The mere mention of the name Harish Raghavendra brings to mind a honey drenched voice that transports the listeners onto a surreal musical trip. The multifaceted singer has penned the lyrics of two songs in Kalyana Samayal Saadham and has recently released the compilation of his poems titled Kaadhal Kavidhai Puthagam Alla. In an interesting conversation with Senior Editor Jyothsna Bhavanishankar, Harish Raghavendra talks about his literary pursuits, musical career, Harris Jeyaraj and many more. Stay tuned!

On your recent book –Kaadhal Kavidhai Puthagam Alla

KKPA is an unexpected thing. Everything in my life has been unexpected - from singing to acting to becoming a lyricist/poet. I just take whatever comes but consciously strive for as much perfection in whatever I take up. I started writing lyrics for movies debuting in Kalyana Samayal Saadham and this somewhat triggered the poet in me I should say. I started writing poems every day even during drive, flight and horseback (laughs) and decided to bring them out as a book. It had no love poems but is a collection of poems mostly about social issues such as deforestation, pollution, racism, destruction of agriculture, promotion of alcohol in Tamil movies to name some, in a humorous fashion. It is something like actor Vivek Comedy in a poetic format.

When and how was the idea conceived- to write a book on ‘kavidhai’?

I don’t even know if there is a market for poems besides books by legendary Tamil poets, until I wrote a book. Nevertheless, I expect people to read it and share their thoughts. I am open to taking positive or negative reviews (politically correct though) with equanimity of mind. I believe that a person who fishes only for positive compliments cannot progress further. 

What are the other upcoming works? Are they also going to be poetry?

I am now almost done with the second part of KKPA but haven't named it as yet. I am also into writing short stories and I am currently writing songs for two movies for known music composers. This is pertaining to my writing.

As far as singing is concerned, current release is the song "Konjam Punnagai" for director B. Vikraman's NINAITHADHU YAARO under debutant Paulraj’s music. The audio of Harris Jayaraj musical Idhu Kadhirvelan Kaadhal is released and my song Anbe Anbe has been getting quite a good number of appreciations. Thanks to HJ for one more hit to my hit list of collaborations with him! I am also looking forward to release of my Telugu and Malayalam songs and am open to writing humorous dialogues for movies something like a "Crazy Mohan" work.

How did lyric writing happen?

Thanks a ton to Arun Vaidyanathan, director of Acchamundu Acchamundu and the much expected Mohanlal starrer Peruchaazhi (Malayalam). He spotted my interesting and poetic status messages in Tamil and English on Facebook and during a chat, he asked why I am not trying to make a career as a lyricist. I directly asked him if he would give me an opening in KSS, which he was co-producing with Anant Govind (both from NJ, USA). He went offline and I thought I had upset him but Arun was more than happy to put me onto music director Arrora and director RS Prasanna, who drilled out the lyricist in me. I gave them a good number of options which could suit the meter and situation. Everybody was happy and delighted to see the movie becoming a success. I am grateful to the unit for showing me a new path and exposing a talent to myself, which I had. 

On the songs that you had written for KSS and the experience

It was an amazing experience. Since I am a musician, I had no problems in understanding the meter (Sandham) of a song. The words which suit the situation and the ones that can convey the appropriate meaning and emotion is the only thing I had to work on. Arrora and I had few sessions of working and so many options came up. Then they picked and chose the ones they felt apt. The airplay was not much as the full version of the song was not shown in the movie. However, the songs were received well by the people through audio. 

Now that the book on poetry is out, when can we see your book –perhaps on prose or short stories or novel?

I have commenced work on my short stories, as I said earlier. Perhaps, a novel in Tamil and English is a possibility. 

You seem to be a multi-tasker from singing to acting to lyric writing. Have you ever contributed to composing music also? Any plans to turn into music director?

Music offers have been given to me in the past but I have turned them down as I didn't want to lose my singing career. Now that music directors and lyricists are turning actors, actors turning singers and so on, even music direction could be an option but haven't thought about it seriously.

On Harris Jeyaraj and your special rapport with him

I am fortunate to have sung so many block buster hits with him starting from his career first song Azhagiya Theeyae from Minnale. I have been singing for him from the time he was a busy keyboardist and jingle maker. If I have to say that I have witnessed a great career start and a person has made history, it is definitely Harris Jeyaraj. I was introduced by Vidyasagar and my break came through Maestro Ilayaraja but HJ is the one who stabilized my career giving me regular hits over a period spanning almost 14 yrs now. He certainly holds a special place in my life and career.

Did you expect Anbe Anbe (IKK) to be a hit this year?

Yes, definitely. The positive responses and airplay on media have been growing heavily and I am looking forward to it being added to the list of my existing hits for HJ. Also happy to get associated with Udhayanidhi Stalin and director S.R.Prabhakaran. 

Have you asked Harris Jayaraj about phrases like oh mahaziya? Have you ever sung such phrases for him?

O Mohallaai from Arasaatchi is the only phrase of that sort, which I sang for him. Each composer has his own ways of making a song memorable besides the main stream melody. His way of using such syllables has given positive results and hence I guess it is being tried repeatedly.

Favorite music directors

A.R.Rahman, Maestro Ilayaraja, R.D. Burman, S.D.Burman, M.S.Viswanathan, K.V. Mahadevan, Ravindra Jain, Raveendran Master, Vidhyasagar, Harris Jayaraj, G.V.Prakash, Ghibran, Imman, M.Jayachandran, Keeravaani, Hamsalekha, Shantanu Moitra, Amit Trivedi and many more who do quality music. I love each composer for their unique style and presentation.

Name your favorite number among your songs.

Mellinamae Mellinamae(Shahjahan)

Nirpadhuvae Nadappadhuvae (Bharati)

Anbe En Anbe (Dhaam Dhoom)

Yamini Yamini (Aei Nee Romba Azhagaa Irukkae)

Nenjil Nenjil Idho Idho (Engeyum Kaadhal)

Sakkarai Nilave (Youth)

Thozhiya En Kaadhaliya (Kaadhalil Vizhundhen)

Mudhar Kanave (Majunu)

Aagaaya Sooriyanai (Samurai)

Kanaa KaaNum KaalangaL-7 G Rainbow Colony

Devathaiyai Kanden- Kaadhal Konden

VizhigaLil VizhigaLil- Thiruvilaiyaadal Aarambam

Chennai Senthamizh- M.Kumaran s/o Mahalakshmi

A difficult song.. something that took quite a few takes

Ae Azhagiya Theeyae (Minnale) took many takes as the lyrics and pitch were altered few times before the final shape of the song came up.

Do you think singers also need to build chemistry esp. for singing duets and who is your favorite singing partner?

Such things are not necessary. We don’t even get to know who we have sung with until the audio release. I am comfortable singing with all female singers.

Have you ever turned down a song? Have you regretted any such decisions?

No. I haven't but missed some great hit songs due to my foreign tours concurring with the dates of recordings. 

How do you handle lyric vulgarity?

I haven't been offered any obscene or vulgar lyrics till today. Even then, I don’t mind singing because it is the responsibility of the director, producer and eventually the censor board to decide on its credibility. If I say no to it, someone would be glad to sing it. Nobody would change the lyrics just because Harish Raghavendra does not like singing it.

Who do you think carries your voice perfectly well in Tamil cinema?

All young movie stars.

What do you feel is the best aspect of your voice?

High pitched range, pitching perfection and lyric clarity I suppose.

In places where you are not familiar with the language, how do you manage?

I try to do justice to all the languages which I sing. I learn the words and their exact pronunciations with stresses and pauses with nuances so that I could emote accordingly.

What’s your opinion about - actors turning to singers? 

If they are confident and good, why not? 

What’s your take on music reality shows on TV?

Reality shows help in bringing fresh talents but the winners have to find their work by their consistency and caliber. They cannot rely on the TV channels to foster their career forever.

About voice culture

It is a never ending process. Like fingerprints, each singer has uniqueness which the person has to research and find out about, the strengths and weaknesses. It sure is a good thing to become a professional.

You acted in Vikadan. Why did you not continue in that line?

Singers venturing into acting were looked as a taboo during mid 2000s, when I did that. I dropped acting and became a full time singer as I didn't want to lose my music career. But now, I am open to acting again, as even composers have become heroes themselves.

Working in Thirupathi with Ajith?

He is not only a handsome good-looking man but also an intelligent, well behaved, humble and knowledgeable man who has the craving for learning and gaining knowledge. It was a great experience working with him.


An exclusive interview with Harish Raghavendra

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