I started working at the age of 12 but life took a 180-degree turn the day I met Mani Ratnam for Roja. Honestly, I didn’t intend to do a lot of movies but Mani Ratnam was a temptation I couldn’t resist and the rest, as they say, is history.
Over the years, I have composed music for several Tamil and Hindi films but I collaborate with a few filmmakers more often, as our sensibilities are in sync and they understand how I work. Hollywood, on the other hand, is a different ball game altogether! When you work on big-budgeted movies, they don’t take risks, they could be ruthless and there are many bosses signing off on the music.
It’s easy to get typecast in Hollywood for only India-centric movies since I was working in Indian movies in India, and I definitely didn’t want that for myself. I wanted to break the mould. People were shocked when I agreed to compose for Couple’s Retreat after winning the Academy Award for Slumdog Millionaire but I feel it’s good to challenge yourself and jump into the fire sometimes…
I believe to be able to do justice to a movie which belongs to a different culture, you need to research a lot, be open and respect it. If you see, most of the Indian films which have struck a chord with the Americans, be it Salaam Bombay or Slumdog Millionaire, they talk about poverty and suffering. We have to break that mindset, we can’t sell poverty again and again, and that’s why with my upcoming production venture, 99 Songs, I want to show a glorious side with Eastern wisdom to the world. We don’t need to be apologetic, we are from one of the greatest cultures and we need to sell this to our own kids before we sell it to the world with conviction.
What I know of India is that money is not proportional to happiness. Most of us in our nation are not spiritually poor but only monetarily.
Since my father passed away when he was just 43, somehow I believed naively that I would also not live past 43 but when I crossed that age, I thought I should do more bold and courageous things. I wanted to take risks and do things that I probably could not have pictured myself doing some years ago.
Since my work takes me to various parts of the world, I spend a lot of time up in the air and that’s how production happened. I had a lot of time on those long flights and I started writing ideas and soon had many story ideas. I found a great team to work with and 99 Songs became a reality.
I had a liking for photography from the age of 14 and as a composer I have tried to tell stories through music… the lines have blurred now as I’m exploring VR (Virtual Reality).
Through my directorial debut ‘Le Musk’, I want the audiences to be in the middle of the experience and be a part of the narrative. We were researching to expand the immersivity of cinema and we felt making it in English would reach out to a wider audience as it is a story about smell, family and music.
Le Musk was supposed to be a short film and that drove me to spearhead it by directing. A regular 2D movie needs undivided attention for two or more years, which I don’t have. My bread and butter is music and I would love for it to be that way.
In the end, I would just like to say that God has been kind, people have been kind and I believe whatever I am capable of doing today is a blessing. I hope I have the strength to trust and be worthy of receiving the blessing.