My last interaction with Anirudh was before the release of Maan Karate in mid-2014. After this outing, he literally soared to a different plane with blockbusters like VIP and Kaththi. Following a few unsuccessful attempts to catch this wiry, super-talented youngster, I finally landed another interview session with the one and only Anirudh Ravichander at his cool studio in Poes Garden From the outside, it looks like 2014 was a totally different level for you? After my first album released in 2012, I wasn’t sure if I would make it, but in 2013 Ethir Neechal and Vanakkam Chennai consolidated my standing. My time has been good. Not just from the outside, even when I myself look and analyze things from the inside, 2014 was great. More than Kolaveri, 2014 is the best year for me till now. I worked on many films (Maan Karate, VIP and Kaththi), and I had a strong belief that it would all work out well despite the workload, pressure and fear within. Has luck played a part in your rise in stature? Do you believe in it? Yes I do believe in luck. It was very evident in Kolaveri’s massive success. There is definitely an external force at play and we just have to respect that force and continue to put in our earnest efforts. How much of a factor is spirituality in your music? Some of your seniors and contemporaries see music as a spiritual process. I pray and I do believe in God. But spirituality hasn’t influenced my music so far. I believe I haven’t travelled that far. But there is definitely an inspiration for any musical work. It can be spiritual for some people but for me, my inspiration is found in the daily things around, my friends and everyday life. How have your friends shaped you as a composer? Most of my friends have travelled with me from a young age and they all happen to be musicians too. They aren’t connected with the film world and they are a strong pillar of support with their open inputs and suggestions. If not for them, I will just be talking to my film circle everyday and tackling the related problems. My friends are still in that college mindset and are a big factor in my youthful music with their inputs. That pulse is due to them too. But as you age, how would you still be able to maintain that connect with the youth? Going forward, I am not sure how I will be able to connect to that youth pulse which I am currently able to. No one has a formula for such success. It has to happen somehow, not sure. Recently, what was the idea behind having such a grand concert in Malaysia and not in Chennai? Chennai has to be the grand finale and the big bang. I feel that I have to reserve my best for my home town and also that I need more albums and songs under my belt, before a show in Chennai. So far, I have done shows in Singapore and Malaysia. Malaysia was electric and was an unbelievable experience. I definitely improved as a performer compared to the Singapore show and my confidence levels would certainly improve with more experience. So, as and when the Chennai show happens, I would be having more songs to perform and also better confidence to face a large crowd. I couldn’t have answered this question with more clarity (laughs) Personally am a huge huge fan of Kaththi’s BGM score where you elevated Vijay’s actions and screen presence even more. How did you pull it off? Be it Vijay sir or Ajith sir now, I would imagine as if I were composing for a Thalaivar film. It is a dream for every musician. I grew up watching Thalaivar’s films. We used to go as a family to the first day first show of all his films. Annamalai was my first film in a cinema hall and Thalaivar was a big factor in my early influences. I used a sample of the ‘Hey Hey’ refrain from the Annamalai BGM in Kaththi based on today’s trend and sensibilities. (We have to say that it takes some quality and guts to admit being inspired from another composer’s work). Murugadoss sir is an ever bigger fanatic of Rajini sir and he uses his references always while narrating the story and asking for music. So I had to satisfy him too with my BGM for Kaththi. How do you react to allegations of plagiarism by an increasingly over-smart audience base? Such comments started for me with VIP and recently in Kaththi too. I myself enjoy such comments and videos actually. In a group of 10, everyone will have different things to say, and after the advent of internet, people have directly started to converse with celebrities. It is not always possible to satisfy 100% of the people. If 95% of the people are happy with what I deliver, then I am on the right track. 100% coverage is not practically possible. What about hate comments? How do you react to them? Who is the world’s most popular pop musician ? Justin Bieber. He is also the one with probably the maximum hate comments. What hasn’t he faced? In America, the mindset is developed and more advanced, and celebrities themselves are a part of cuss shows in good spirit, where audiences troll and badmouth them directly. We are slowly getting there. Hate comments are a good thing and there is nothing to get offended (laughs). Counter lines are getting more open and prominent after the internet opened up. Before it used to be just between friends. There is a positive side to all this too. When a lot of people have something to say in adverse, then we have to pay heed to such feedback and change ourselves. But the odd bad comment or two is harmless. Now what do you wish to explore and experiment with, going forward ? I don’t know if such scripts are there in our land or whether they will come to me or whether such stuff would sell with my core young audience, but I really want to explore and experiment with carnatic music, full-fledged. Something like Sangamam (we say Sindhu Bhairavi and Sankarabharanam too). I started learning carnatic only after I became a composer, before I was just trained in Western. It would be intriguing to experiment with carnatic and I am hoping that I can do it someday. I also want to try out a totally whacked-out album. I have done that with Aakko which would release soon. So one of my wishes is about to be fulfilled. Why not try a carnatic music album? Where is the time bro? All said and done, I always have a soft corner for independent music and it is also coming up fast. If I had the time and the power, I would just skip films and release a single a month (laughs). But life is a cycle and I am supposed to do certain kind of films with certain kind of people before taking up other things. (There is a bucket list which needs to be ticked) How important is comfort zone while making music? Is there one with Dhanush and Sivakarthikeyan? Comfort zones are good, but it so happened that I repeatedly worked with Dhanush and Sivakarthikeyan. But Kaththi was my first film with Vijay sir and Murugadoss sir but the album still worked great. So it depends. From 2014, fortunately or unfortunately, I have started signing only films which I believe would work at the box office too. Whether I would pay money and see such a film in a theater. Even the songs would get a better push and reach, if the film turns out good. So its a mutually dependent factor. I have to see how this little policy works out once all my current films and upcoming films in 2015 release. You seem to be working with a same set of singers? Is there is a comfort zone there too? I am generally picky about my singers but in every film of mine, I try to introduce an independent artist (Hip Hop Adhi, Arjun and even Vishal Dadlani is from that scene in Mumbai). I love their non-cinematic vibe. In independent music, there is much more scope to work and experiment with different voices and singers, but in cinema there are set boundaries and factors. You can’t have Yesudas sir singing Oodhungada Sangu or a 16 year old singer singing Amma Amma in our cinema industry. There are certain norms which have to be met. When the director is well-versed in music, does it benefit the overall album’s output? When the director has some music sense and basic knowledge, even my music would be bettered. My boundaries would be pushed and the output can be bettered with his inputs. But when do such inputs fall in the realm of ‘interference’? Generally, I prefer working with directors who don’t interfere and impose their thoughts much. Thankfully I have that privilege now to choose my kind of films. Being comfortable with the director is very important. Which director or person has helped your music with his involvement? Dhanush has added that extra edge to my music. He listens to a lot of music and generally we jam up together. As I tune, he writes and our collaborations have been beneficial. But mostly with directors, it works on trust. I generally deliver my tunes only after I am sure that they have a certain standard. Directors give me that time and space and trust me that I would do complete justice. I also give them options and even then, if rework is required, I do so. Do you follow media reviews and write-ups ? I do read and follow reviews. It is a particular person’s point of view about a film. We enjoy the positives being written and if he/she has something negative to say, we check up if a majority of the people feel the same too. If it’s a genuine concern, then we respect it and take it into consideration. What are the criteria for you to accept a film as a composer, singer and also for your onscreen appearances? Composer - The film should excite me. When I am excited by a script, I deliver at least one song or a theme as soon as possible. For Thala 56, I delivered a theme, the very night of the first discussion. Of course as you said, there is a comfort zone with Dhanush and Siva. When a friend says something good, it excites you more right?. That said, when a friend doesn’t convince me with his script, I wouldn't accept it. Singer - I accept all singing offers. It’s sort of a principle, and I never say No. I don’t take money too for singing. When someone believes that I can do justice to a song, I respect their choice. I am from the band scene and I strongly believe that there are a lot more talented people out there, than me. There are many of my songs lined up this year, 30 more at least. Initially, I thought my voice was bad so I didn’t sing in 3. Then I started learning carnatic music and sang Boomi Enna Suthudhe in Ethir Neechal. When it worked out, it gave me confidence and then I started enjoying it. A lot of my close people have actually advised me against singing often by citing many examples, but it is sort of a personal choice to sing for all. Onscreen appearances - It is more of a jolly endeavor. I was supposed to do one for Kaththi too, in the Selfie Pulla song. But I had to finish the master here and the song was shot in Mumbai. So it didn’t happen. Coming to Thala 56, how did you get on board? I was supposed to do Yennai Arindhaal, and myself and Gautham also had a meeting. But it missed narrowly. Interestingly, I was supposed to do Veeram too but missed that project due to a funny quirk involving my 'Settu' friend which I later came to know through director Siva. I don't have managers generally, and my friend unknowingly and nonchalantly answered a phone call (meant for me) from the producers, while I was away in Mumbai regarding Ethir Neechal’s work. But everything happens for a reason. There is a graph and I wouldn't have been able to do justice to both Veeram and Kaththi in the same year. So it’s a blessing in disguise actually. How is it going with Thala 56? Any parallels with the Kaththi experience? I am just now getting into the film. Can't compare it with Kaththi that soon, as that was a 1.5 year process. Can judge it only when the film finishes. But I am very happy to work with the two most sought after heroes, back to back. Had I been working simultaneously on both their films, their fans would have literally torn me apart (laughs) What can we expect from Thala 56’s music? Director Siva came to me wanting a different kind of sound. I am confident that it would work out. In Kaththi, the theme which we released along with the first look gave us the confidence that we were on the right track and it should be the same case for Thala 56 too. So far, we have planned 5 songs and a theme, which I have already given. What’s your take on the growth of composers such as Ghibran and Santhosh Narayanan? Be it Ghibran or Santhosh, I call them and appreciate them immediately if I like their songs. They do the same too. I also like Sean Roldan's work. From my own team, Vivek and Leon have made their beginnings and a couple more are getting shaped fast. They will make their entries soon too. It would be nice for all of us to be working as composers as we all started off in the same band. How necessary is it to use cuss words in songs? Your songs have had a few beeped words. Is Tamil music ready to accept such words? Nowadays everyone knows all sort of words, including the kids. We are not living in the stone age. The censor board has been really hard on certain things. My Open the Tasmac song is one such case where the version on screen was lyrically modified inappropriately. Of late I am not using such cuss words in my songs. I am sorry if I had offended people with it. But it all depends on the song's mood, feeling and that particular moment while composing. The missed Telugu project with Ram Charan Teja? In a year, I can work on about 4 to 5 albums, which works out to around 20 to 24 songs. This is the maximum that I can deliver with good quality and proper satisfaction, given my age and energy. With advancing age even that would reduce. Beyond this, it would look as if I am selling myself just for money. There is enough on my plate already and my health is actually getting affected. Before, I atleast used to sleep by 2 or 3 in the morning but now I hit the bed only by 10. So my cycle has totally reversed. I want to give my best to all the songs that I work on. I may be missing out on a big blockbuster and great recognition, but now I am totally enjoying and feel close to what I am doing. This is what is right for me at this point of time. And if I go to Hindi or Telugu, I have to go through the ‘3’ experience again and for that I need about a year’s time. The foundation has to be strong here and now the time seems to be right. But there is enough backlog here and I have to do justice to that. Powerplay with Ani The film seen the maximum number of times - Annamalai, about 50 to 100 times. Even now I often see the highlight scenes in YouTube. All time favorite song - Keeps changing The current favorite song, on loop - Aakko is personally very close to me. My nights are packed with feeling, listening to it.. Still cycling? - That was just for photo’s sake (laughs). It is orphaned now and I don’t even know where it is. Would have rode it 3 to 4 times max. Interest in cars and bikes - For the last 2 years, I have been having a sudden fascination for cars. Before I used to be like Deiii whenever someone talked about horsepower bro and stuff. And I don’t know to ride bikes. I rode a Honda Dio for college, and after a freak accident I stopped that too. Attention from Girls - I blush like every other guy. I too have had some mokka experiences like everyone else. They are fans for my music, and not for my looks. If not, they should have come even before I came into films right? (laughs). All of us have to achieve at the end of the day. Fan frenzy - It’s an experience to see in a mass theater with fans. It is a must and is sort of a learning too. Frenzy is a part and parcel of it. I enjoy it but there is an uyir bayam too. The adrenaline rush, the claps, the hoots are a big high. It is a risk but I still go to theaters. Social media - It made my first song so big. My age group and folks younger than me are on it 24*7. The world is moving towards that and I am happy that my base is so strong in that already. I am very active, and it is a nice platform to exchange all manner of views. I like it a lot. KEEP BUZZING ROCKSTAR !!!