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Composing for a super hero!

Last updated on: August 19, 2009 

Composing for a super hero!

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Devi Sri Prasad is famous for his foot-tapping, peppy tunes. The young composer is also known for his dancing skills especially at audio releases.

Devi, as he is commonly known, is right now a busy man, juggling Tamil films along with Telugu (for which he is mostly famous).

Devi is flooded with offers in Tamil but he wants to work equally in Tamil and Telugu and believes in doing quality work.

He speaks to Radhika Rajamani about composing for the Tamil film Kandasamy directed by Susi Ganesan and starring Vikram and Shriya Saran. Excerpts:


Image: Vikram, Susi Ganesan and Devi Sri Prasad

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'I took care that all songs should be a little catchy with different sounds'

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What made you take up Kandasamy? Was it because Vikram was acting in it?

I always liked Vikram as an actor. We met at the Filmfare awards and a couple of times at other places. He would compliment me on my songs and dance. I always wanted to work with him and he also expressed interest to work with me. So this opportunity came at the right time.

I had already worked on two films for Mr Dhanu (producer). Dhanu had come with Mr Susi to my studio, and they were keen that I do the music. Susi told me the subject and I agreed to do the film.

What did you keep in mind while composing the music for Kandasamy?

It's got a super hero as the subject. Since I'm doing it for the first time, I wanted everything to sound different. I didn't want it to sound as if it had been heard earlier. I took care that all songs should be a little catchy with different sounds. Since the movie is being shot in different locations, (the songs are shot in Mexico, Italy, Chennai, there's an imaginary one too) I tried to put everything together and arrive at something different. The director is also a lover of music.


Image: A scene from Kandasamy

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'Susi and I would discuss a lot and fight a lot too'

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Did you have any super hero films as a reference point?

We didn't discuss about any films because we wanted to aim at something that was unheard of before. The minute you talk about films as reference, you are talking about films you have already heard. The director said, 'give me some sound; whatever you feel, something new. Whatever you give, I'll shoot it like that.'

Did Susi Ganesan and you share a good rapport?

Yes, we did. We became more like friends. We would discuss a lot and fight a lot too.


Image: A scene from Kandasamy

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'I didn't know Vikram was such a good singer'

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You made Vikram sing the songs. How did you do that? How long did you take to record the songs?

Actually making Vikram sing was Susi's idea. I didn't know Vikram was such a good singer. The director heard a CD where Vikram had sung some songs when they were travelling together. He couldn't believe it was Vikram's voice and told me that Vikram really had a good voice. He said, 'why don't you try'.

I was in a dilemma because I was not sure about the outcome. I said, okay if it really works out, it will be fun. Even when Vikram came to sing, I was in two minds whether to let him sing or not. He's a hero after all and I was wondering how to tell him if I was not happy with his singing. But the minute he sang the first phrase, I was totally flat. It was too good and I was totally surprised.

Mambo mania was the first song he sang and I was totally taken by surprise. He sings like a professional singer. I immediately made him promise to sing in other films too. After that song, we made him sing one more. Then we realised we can make him sing all the four songs that the hero sings. So I told Susi if we make him sing all, it will make news and the let it be like a musical -- the hero coming and singing -- like how it happens in the Hollywood musicals.

We got Suchitra to sing Excuse me because Suchitra is dubbing for Shriya and that song has a lot of dialogue in it. So I thought when Vikram and Suchitra sing, it will be more natural switching into dialogue and then into song.

We did the recording over a span of time -- about a year or so. We used to record songs in between the shoot.


Image: A scene from Kandasamy

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'Vikram is more like a friend than a star'

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Could you talk about the experience of working with Vikram?

It was really wonderful because Vikram is more like a friend than a star. He is very down to earth and very involved in his job. Even while singing, he would never behave like a star. I worked with him in the same way as I work with other singers. He would correct whatever I told him. He never had any questions or ego problems. He wanted to sound perfect. That was nice of him. Even I'm like that. Once you are attempting something new, it has to be perfect because there will be people to find fault with it already.


Image: A scene from Kandasamy

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'I had to change an African song to a Mexican one'

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Could you a talk a bit more about the songs -- Kandasamy, Meow, etc and the kind of instruments you used to create the tunes?

Since we shot in different countries, I brought in variety to the music -- music that belongs to different places. I had to really work on that. I have a funny incident to tell you. First they were supposed to shoot in Kenya (Africa). For that I recorded Mambo mania. Then some riots happened there and the shooting was postponed. They couldn't get the dates in Kenya after that, so they couldn't shoot there. Then the same shoot was shifted to Mexico. What I had recorded was an African song. So, I totally changed the background score and made it like a Mexican song. That was bit of an experiment and it really worked out well. That's one thing one can never forget about.

Meow Meow is a romantic song mixed with rock music but the main rhythm is a folkish rhythm so I made it like a fusion song. Kandasamy is the theme song mixed with traditional folk for which I got the rhythm players from the Murugan temple (in Telugu Mallanna means Shiva, father of Murugan) and made them play the original traditional rhythms of Murugan.

I added a lot of rhythms on that in a very contemporary way, mixed a lot of Sophonic strings on that and then made the theme which is like a praise to the lord (like the way Hanuman Chalisa recited in Telugu) .

Excuse me Mr Kandasamy is a more talkin', walkin', thinkin' and fightin'. We brought a lot of dialogues into it. Suchitra sang it.


Image: A scene from Kandasamy

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'I am totally against remixes of old songs'

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There's an item number called En peyaru Meena Kumari sung by Malathi. I tried to present Malathi's voice in a very different way.  I consciously toned it differently. Director wanted a remix song there -- remix of an old song because there's a situation where the villain plays a CD player but I am totally against remixes of old songs. Though I enjoy listening to it, I don't want to do. There was a lot of argument between me and Susi. I made a new song and just included a little part of Bambara kanale kaathal sangathi sonnallu in the original voice of Chandrababu and made it like a radio mix. It really worked out well.

Director was really thrilled about it and appreciated me for being adamant and stubborn for not doing a remix. He agreed that this song was better than what he wanted.

In Telugu for the same version, I used Pacha gati koteti padchu pilla (Nageswara Rao garu's old song).

There's one more song Allegra (which means cheerfulness in Italian). It's Shriya's introduction song and was shot in one of the most beautiful auditoriums in Italy. I used Allegra as the hook word and did the song in a Latin kind of orchestra with lot of trumpets.


Image: A scene from Kandasamy

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'Nowadays music is universal'

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Is the music of the Telugu version Mallanna the same or is there a difference?

It's the same. When we were composing, we took care it should suit both the languages. Moreover, nowadays music is universal. It's a mix and match of every thing.

What are your future projects in Tamil?

I'm scoring music for the Dhanush-Shriya film Kutty. I've also signed Suriya-Anushka's film Singham directed by Hari.


Image: A scene from Kandasamy

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