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Interview Team : Dilani Rabindran

Music composer and technician Pravin Mani has been behind some of your favorite tunes for years now. A long-time friend and collaborator of Oscar Winner AR Rahman, Mani has put his musical touch on several blockbuster albums in Tamil and world cinema, and, most recently, helped to produce the highly anticipated Ai soundtrack. Here Mani took the time to chat with Behindwoods columnist Dilani about his career in the Tamil music industry and what we can all expect from the music of Shankar`s next magnum opus. 

The industry knows you as both a composer and long-time collaborator with AR Rahman. How did that relationship begin?

We`ve been friends for about 30 years. We were the only ones into computers at that time, and audio engineering and all the technical stuff. So we hit it off based on that, and then I went to Australia and he transformed into AR Rahman! He came to Australia in 1995 during Indian, and he invited me to come jam with him. So even after I moved to Canada in 1998, I kept going back to India to work with him. We did 'Shakalaka Baby', 'Jumbalakka', 'Oh Maria' and 'Endrendrum Punnagai', and you know it just kept going on, it didn`t stop. And I kept travelling!

We never looked at each other as competitors.  He was in the [Tamil film] industry more than me, whereas I was always more in the western scene; that`s why when I work with him the sound is a little different. He just tells me ``freak out`` and I freak out.

We did 'Shakalaka Baby', 'Jumbalakka', 'Oh Maria' and 'Endrendrum Punnagai'

Of all that you've worked on with him what album or song do you think was the most interesting process?

I can't pick one. I was always more involved in the Shankar movies – Boys, Muthalvan, Enthiran, and now with Ai. That`s another chemistry itself. Whatever AR wants to do, Shankar is open to... so me being in that equation works for them. Working with Mani Ratnam and Rahman is another experience ... and then there's the whole Hindi factor with Aamir Khan.

I worked on Slumdog, Delhi 6, Enthiran, and Ghajini at the same time! That was interesting. All massive movies, and it all happened in the span of 2.5 - 3 months. It was just AR and me, jumping from song to song, jumping languages, jumping genres. That was crazy. And after that I came back to Canada! 

I worked on Slumdog, Delhi 6, Enthiran, and Ghajini at the same time


You are a well known composer who's had hits within the Tamil and non-Tamil industries. How do you compare the process of composing when you collaborate with Rahman or other artists?

What happens in any film is the director interacts with the composer and the lyricist and gets his situation for a song across; the director has certain ideas in his head of what he wants to do and it`s all about how a composer interprets it.

When I work with Rahman, he's already sat with Shankar and they worked out the tune so now my role is more in arrangement and making the melody, or the song stand out. The creative process is quite fast, but to produce it, mix it, master it – that`s what takes the time.

When I did Little John and director Singeetham told me the plan for a song was "they're in the forest and he asks her 'why don’t you sing a song?' ", I just said why don't we just keep it simple with her asking "Paadavaa?". And then it's about how Vairamuthu interprets it further and it becomes this big exercise.


How has the process of working on Ai's album been so far?

Ai has been radical, I think it's going to be a kick-ass album, it`s going to be a groundbreaker. Shankar and Rahman have always created something different. 

Enthiran was a radical movie where Shankar kind of went into science fiction. But with Ai he's taken an even more different turn. It's got great singers, every song is brilliant. AR is going to take Tamil music through another change with this album. I can see the songs just taking off.
I was called to finish the project. I worked on it for about two months; everything was done and there were a few ancillaries to be recorded and some corrections to be done. It'll still come back to me. Tweaks will keep happening until the film comes out...and sometimes after all the time we spend tweaking we end up going back to the original!

Ai has been radical, I think it's going to be a kick-ass album


The plot of Ai is very heavily guarded. But what we know for sure is to expect grandeur. Can you tell us how the music complements the grandeur of the film?

You know what happens between Rahman and Shankar! The understanding between them is mind-blowing. Everything just falls in place. I don’t think anyone will complain. Everything absolutely complements – every theme, every little bit and piece.

It's 2014 AR and Shankar - you can only imagine what's going to happen. Everybody's been places, everyone's done stuff. Computers have only got faster. It's amazing the kind of stuff that can happen musically and visually with graphics. It's quite different. There are a lot of physical transformations from Vikram. That's one thing I can tell you, that after seeing the film it's's worked hard. Everything looks good. I can't wait for the film to release!

Wow... Vikram has worked hard



a) Favorite album that you composed? Little John
b) Favorite AR Rahman album that you worked on? Boys...actually, I'll say Ai! 

c) Favorite male playback singer that you've ever worked with? Shankar Mahadevan

d) Favorite female playback singer that you've ever worked with? Jonita Gandhi

e) Favorite director that you've worked with? Shankar

f) Favorite singer (any language) that you'd like to work with? Sting

g) Movie director that you'd like to work with (any language) ? Ron Howard

h) The Tamil cinema actor who can sing the best in your opinion? Kamal Hassan

i) Favorite recent Tamil album from any composer? Cuckoo by Santhosh Narayanan. He was my assistant for 4 years! 

j) Favorite Tamil song that you wish you had a chance to work on? 'Kannathil Muthamittal' with Chinmayee. I would have liked to do a really radical version of that song!




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