Yuvan Shankar Raja: The journey of a prodigy

The year was 1999. The name was AR.Rahman.

The 32 year old composer, who had taken Tamil cinema by storm seven years earlier, had literally established a new-age musical monopoly, redefining contemporary Indian film music forever.

Tamil Nadu was in frenzy.

The magic of En Swasa Kaatre, Jodi, Taalam, Kadhalardhinam, and Sangamam was echoing from high end saloons to tea stall benches.

Superstar had given a three hour long blockbuster in his second collaboration with the youth sensation.

Vijay had matured into a promising actor with Thulladha Manamum Thullum. Innisai Paadi Varum was holding its forte among the biggies.

Ajith had just broken the shackles of heroism, giving his career best performance in Vaali. O’ Sona was rocking the radio stations.

Bharadwaj had unleashed a literally breathtaking SPB again in Amarkalam. Girls were going crazy over Unnodu Vaazhadha.

And then, like a sudden flash of a quirky youthful energy, Chudithar Aninthu happened.

Yuvan had arrived.

The struggle for a break

The twenty-year-old finally shot to limelight after a hard three year struggle, with Vasanth’s Poovellam Kettupaar.

With the infectiously chirpy Jyothika breaking into an ‘I-am-happy-and-I-don’t-care-what-you think’ jig, Poova Poove announced Yuvan’s stylish entry into our hearts.

A peppy tune made appealing by the chemistry between the pretty Jo in a white Salwar and the handsome Surya, Chudithar Aninthu turned out to be the year’s anthem for romance.

And then, there was the fast and cheerful Senorita, sung with a bubbly charm by Unnikrishnan – a track that could lift up your spirits any time of the day.

The mellifluous Irava Pagala rounded off the album, with the message loud and clear.

Yuvan Shankar Raja was getting noticed.

The sensational sophomore

Three years later in 2002, Yuvan joined hands with Selvaraghavan for the sensual Thulluvadho Ilamai, marking the first magical collaboration of the duo, which would go on to become one of the most sought after associations in Tamil cinema.

While the sprightly Kann Munnae and Idhu Kaadhala (in Yuvan’s voice) beautifully reflected the exhilaration of first love, Vayadhu Vaa Vaa was a ‘sexual-awakening riot’ of sorts.

The unconventional Theenda Theenda, based on the Reetigowla raga, was quite an amalgamation of lust and youthful angst.

There was something about this man’s music, which clearly set him apart… Music that seemed to emanate from the subconscious. Music that not only appealed to the brain but also to the heart.

Yuvan was growing, in leaps and bounds.

A thing or two to prove

Selva’s first independent directorial Kaadhal Kondein followed in 2003, challenging many of the erstwhile unwritten rules of Tamil cinema.

Yuvan proved his mettle in all its glory in this versatile album, which was celebrated by the critics and youth alike.

The energetic Devadaiyai Kandaen, soulfully rendered by Harish Ragavendra and the oxymoronically-soothing Nenjodu Kalandidhu in the mesmerizing voices of Unni krishnan and Sujatha, cemented Yuvan’s place as a musician who could easily bring a film alive by scaling up the mood several notches higher.

Yuvan further impressed with the atmospheric and angst-ridden Thottu Thottu Thoovum Thendral, again by Harish Ragavendra, which boasted of some truly haunting interludes.

And who can forget the intense theme track, strung with unconventional exploding-percussions rocking the climax!

Yuvan’s background score for the film reached places, leading to the release of a separate CD consisting of several score pieces, which was supposedly the first film-score CD release to happen in India.

A stirring metamorphosis

And in 2004, 7G Rainbow colony happened.

How does it feel to walk through a rainbow? The instrumental theme with a bewitching combination of flute, piano and bell-sounds gives you a near equivalent experience.

Shreya Goshal’s brooding Ninaithu Ninaithu with its simple yet soulful composition, the melancholic Kanaa Kaalum Kaalangal and the psychedelic January Madham made 7G a cult album, in its own right.

As it was the case with Kaadhal Kondein, the film’s original soundtrack consisting of 25 tracks was released afterwards.

Yuvan received his first Filmfare Best Music Director Award in Tamil for 7G Rainbow Colony at the age of 25, becoming the youngest composer ever to win this award.

The talented musician had matured into a soulful composer.


Breaking boundaries…

Innovative and unsettling – 7G Rainbow colony’s soundtrack was indeed a milestone in Yuvan’s career, which incidentally also catapulted him into the big league of musicians.
The talented youngster seemed to have an uncanny ability to strike gold in portraying the mystical, dark shades of love and the intricate emotions associated with them.

His compositions for Selva till 2004 were hauntingly unique, carrying a discernible difference from each other, but raised the question of his mastery only in the moody romance genre.

He had shown streaks of versatile brilliance earlier in Oar Aayiram Yaanai for Bala’s Nandha, but even there, it was the intimate Munn Paniya that got him noticed.

But soon enough, in early 2005, a soul-stirring background score for Ameer’s Raam fetched him the Best Musical score award in the Cyprus International Film Festival (CIFF), the first such award for an Indian composer.

The 25-year-old passionate musician had got the first taste of international recognition.

A star is made!

But the cynic was still not silenced. Commercial flicks in 2005 seemed to add fuel to the fire. But little did his doubters know that ‘epic’ was just round the corner.

It went by the name Pudhupettai.

Yuvan and Selva renewed their association with this raw, ruthless gangster flick, coming out with an inventive album that was almost an allegorical blow to comments alluding the music director to be nothing more than an expert in the romance genre.

Several traditional Thai musical instruments, including Khim and Southuu were also used for the orchestration, another first in Tamil cinema. And the results showed.

The fact that six of the ten listed tracks were not conventional song pieces, in itself, spoke tons about Yuvan’s guts, and the belief Selva had in his composer’s capabilities.

And what a soundtrack it turned out to be!

The four instrumental pieces Pudhupettai Main theme, Going Thru Emotions, Selling dope, and Clash of Titans left music-lovers stunned and lost for words.

For once, a composer had dared to break the barb-wire borders of an Indian film sound track, experimenting with sounds and moods hitherto reserved only for foreign films.

In Going Thru Emotions, Yuvan transported us to a parallel musical universe with an unbelievable assortment of instruments and a hooking rhythm. And when the prayer chants started towards the end, all we could do is give in to the magical high.

The melodious yet gritty violin ensemble in The Pudhupettai main theme had to be heard to be believed.

If these were not enough to convince us of this album’s excellence, Yuvan further unleashed on us the “Clash of the Titans” theme, which soared higher and higher as it panned out.

And to top it all, there was Kamal.

The man’s throaty voice and nonchalant vocal gymnastics combined with a blend of guitars, synthesizers, strings and Thai instruments made Neruppu Vaayinil an instant classic.

The profound Oru Naalil, the western-gaana, Enga Area, and the vibrant dappankuthu, Night Life: Variya stratosphered Pudhupettai’s soundtrack to a place light-years away from contemporary Tamil cinema.

The composer had proved a point or two, breaking his own shackles brilliantly.

A milestone more…

When you were thinking that the guy couldn’t impress anymore, Ameer’s Paruthiveeran landed in 2007.

The raw, earthy background score went a long way to establish the film’s hard-hitting, rustic feel.

Oororam Puliyamaram, which used authentic rural sounds with instruments like dholak, nadaswaram, thavil and urumee, epitomized the countryside folk riot, in all its oomph and simplicity.

Ayyayyo, the track that plays soon after Veeran reciprocates Muthazhagu’s affection, made many an audiophile go crazy over Shreya’s honeyed voice.

And then, we had Ilaiyaraaja doing what he does best – haunt us to tears – in the beautifully orchestrated Ariyadha Vayasu.

Yet another terrific album. Yet another landmark film.

The zeal for experimentation

Yuvan went on to deliver blockbuster albums for Deepavali, Chennai 600028, Yaaradi Nee Mohini, and Satham Podathey in 2007, with the melodious Pogadhey, Kadhal Vaithu, Engeyo Paartha, Vennmegam, the heartwarming Pesugiren Pesugiren and the zany Jalsa Pannungada going on to become crowd favourites.

Just when the composer seemed to be caught in the commercial trap again, Ram signed him for his poetically eccentric Katradhu Tamizh.

And Innum Or Iravu happened. The track rendered by Yuvan in his signature tipsy tone – with a magical orchestration involving percussions – dripped of an eerie atmosphere.

The man mercilessly unleashed his dad again onto the unsuspecting audience in Paravaiye Engu Irukkirai. The maestro, on his part, nailed the heart-wrenching pathos with his trademark rendition, while Yuvan impressed with his brilliant interludes.

The lovely Unakage Thane, sung again by Yuvan, added to the overall appeal of the album.

The man had nothing more to prove, but he was expanding new horizons with each new venture.


A terrific come-back…

From 2008 to 2011, Yuvan worked in several films, out of which the soundtracks of Saroja, Sarvam, Paiyaa, Naan Mahaan Alla, Padhinaaru, Pesu (unreleased), and Kaadhal 2 Kalyanam (unreleased) received critical acclaim, with Kodaana Kodi, Kaatrukulle, Thuli Thuli, En Kadhal Solla, Iragai Pole, Yaar Solli Kadhal, Vennira Iravugal, Thedi Varuven becoming true-blue chart-busters.

The Mankatha theme drove an entire generation crazy.

But something about signature ‘Yuvan’ was conspicuously missing – may be, it was the daring experimentation that was synonymous with him at one stage of his career.

But again, towards the end of 2010, Thiagarajan Kumararaja’s Aaranya Kandam transpired.

Quirky, dark and offbeat, the gangster-drama’s background score was no doubt ‘Tarantinoesque’, but it was a welcome change from the deafening sounds of earlier action-flicks. The provocative guitar strings, the atmospheric solo-violins, and the smart fill-ins during the climax sequence were proof enough of the musician’s capabilities.

Spaced-out pieces of brilliance ever since

Vasanth renewed his association with Yuvan in 2012 for his film ‘Moondru Per Moondru Kadal’, which had some amazing tracks.

The spellbinding Aahaa Kadhal, the compelling voice of Neha Bhasin in Kaadhal Endhan Kadhal, and the perky Stop the paattu were all some of Yuvan’s bests.

In 2013, director Ram’s Thangameengal had the evocative and soul-stirring Anandha Yazhai going on to receive National accolades.

There is no denying the fact that YSR had come a long long way, from the enthusiastic talented kid in Poovellam Kettupar to the matured magical musician in Aaranya Kandam.
In this span, he has worked on more than a hundred films, successfully exploring elements of various genres that ranged from folk and R&B to techno and heavy metal.

With Ram’s Tharamani and Peranbu, Dharmadurai, Pyaar Prema Kaadhal,  Selva’s Nenjam Marapadhillai hitting some lovely notes, and exciting films like NGK, Maari 2, and Super Deluxe in the pipeline, how we wish to relive Yuvan’s magic of the last decade, again.

And again. As they say, hope is a good thing.

Dil Se: The different phases of love

The shades of love in Dil Se culminating in the cuddle of death.

by Mani Prabhu

The Stage of Attraction

Amar in his late twenties has almost everything, a man could ask for – a loving family, a satisfying career as a program executive in the national radio station and caring friends around him. But yet, the spark is missing in his life. He is on his way to the north-east of India to cover the tribal festivities, when he encounters a mysterious woman for the first time in Haflong station. The moment he sees her, he knows somewhere deep inside his heart, that he had met the girl of his dreams. He can’t stop himself getting lethally attracted towards her, making him yearn for the slightest of conversations with her. He spots something in her eyes that tells him she likes his company. But, in a destined moment, she boards a train when he is least expecting, leaving him disappointed. May be, this was the shortest love story ever on earth, he sighs.

கைகள் நான்கும் தீண்டும் முன்னே

கண்கள் நான்கும் தீண்டிடுமே

மோகம் கொஞ்சம் முளை விடுமே

கண் பார்வை முதல் நிலையே

The Stage of Preoccupation

Life goes on as Amar reports for duty in the AIR office in Silchar. Fate has a strange way of jolting one out of an apparent anticlimax. Just like that day, when much to Amar’s amazement he spots the same girl again in town and attempts to approach her, only to get brushed away by the woman asking him to leave her alone. Amar is confused. Still something tells him that she likes him in some strange way, but why is she avoiding him? What is running in her mind? What is she scared of? Despite her discernible callousness, why is he preoccupied with her? Is he just another stalker? Or is she camouflaging her emotions in fear of something? Would finding more about her help? The questions taunting Amar seem to be endless. But the harder he tries not to think about her, the stronger she fills his memories. What kind of inhumane torture is this? Will this ever end? How?

ஆருயிரே என்னுயிரே உள்ளம் கொண்டது ஓர் மயக்கம்

இன்னுயிரே காதலில் இரண்டாம் நிலை தான் பால் மயக்கம்.

The Stage of Desire

Amar somehow lands up in the girl’s residence and learns that her name is Meghna. Still, he is not able to connect the dots when she asks him to get lost. Isn’t she at least curious to know his thoughts? She sure seems like running away from her own emotions. But all his questions come to a dead-end, when she tells him that she is married. Shocked and perplexed at his decision to pursue her, he returns, but is soon attacked by some men, who asks him to stay away from Meghna, revealing in the process that she is still single. Amar is hurt, having been beaten black and blue, but even in the hospital bed, his elation knows no bounds. He is right, probably. Meghna wants him to stop wooing her for some strange reason. But why can’t she just come out with it? But that moment, he kind of irreversibly falls in love with her, and decides to talk to her one final time. Much to his surprise, he finds her travelling with him in the same bus to Ladakh. Meghna is oblivious to his presence, but in an uncanny turn of events, introduces herself as Amar’s wife to a security official. Although Amar is not able to make sense of this unexpected development, his desire for her gets rooted in him, as her closeness sends magical shivers down his spine. He is falling for her, totally and irreversibly, one moment at a time. Would she understand his obscure pain?

மெய் தீண்டும் நேசம் தொடங்கியதோ

இது காதலின் மூன்றாம் படி நிலையோ

என் உடல் வழி அமிர்தம் வழிகின்றதோ

என் உயிர் மட்டும் புது வித வலி கொண்டதோ?


The Stage of Worship

As fate would have it, the bus to Ladakh breaks down on the way, leaving them stranded in the barren lands of the mountains. The passengers are left with no choice than to walk to the nearby Buddhist village. Meghna is initially reluctant to follow Amar, but finding herself with no other choice, decides to accompany him. While in the walk, in a sudden intense moment, Amar passionately asks her to accept his feelings for her, as he can see it in her eyes. We can see it too; but is Amar right in confronting her deepest conflicts with such blatancy? We wait for answers. But in another unforeseen turn of events, Meghna suffers a bad anxiety attack, which leaves Amar scared and baffled. What’s lying within her deep recesses of her psyche? But as they continue their journey, she lightens up a bit and we can see how cheerful she is, in his presence. What’s so disturbing about her? Is it her seemingly conscious attempt to shun smiles? How cold can she get? Her eyes gleam of love in a rare moment, while otherwise she is aloof. It’s no wonder why he finds her so alluring, despite the looming danger of getting hurt. He is unknowing loosing himself in her, trying to crack through the veil of hostility. In fact, he has started worshiping her.

நான்காம் நிலையை அடைந்துவிட்டேன்

என் நறுமலரே உன்னை தொழுதுவிட்டேன்

என் சுய நினைவென்பதை இழந்துவிட்டேன்

அந்த சூரியன் எழும் திசை மறந்துவிட்டேன்

The Stage of Surrender

As they walk through, Amar sees that she longs for a lot more than what she expresses in words. She opens up a wee bit in a split second, and as if hit by some external force, recedes back to her gloominess. He’s totally smitten by this woman, whatever she is made of. And her dark silence makes her all the more attractive for him. Surely there is something about her, that he still can’t comprehend; a girl who flashes a minuscule smile for a micro second, when she imagines something, that she thinks she doesn’t deserve, when Amar asks her to suppose two of them get married, and have kids. As if lost in her own world, she grins for the first time at him, hits him softly and almost goes into a blush. But the way in which she gets back her stoic nature almost instantaneously, makes her all the more enigmatic. After staying in a monastery for a day, Amar has almost submitted himself to her, to the extent that life without her now seems impossible. Meaningless. She has possessed him in a way that even Amar can’t make sense of. When he goes to sleep that night still reeling from her sudden closeness, he knows he has surrendered himself to her. To her magical eyes.

என் உடல் பொருள் தந்தேன் சரண் புகுந்தேன்

என் உயிரை உனக்குள் ஊற்றி விட்டேன்

இதுதான் காதலில் ஐந்து நிலை

நான் உன் கையில் நீர் திவலை

The Stage of Obsession

Amar wakes up the next morning only to find out that Meghna has left, with a message on the sands that love and agony cannot coexist in one’s eyes. He is literally broken, unable to come to terms with her sudden disappearance. As months pass, time heals some wounds within him and he slowly recovers. But flashes of Meghna continue to haunt him at the least expected times. He goes back to his home, where his family wants him to marry the daughter of a family friend. He is initially reluctant, but after considering his parents’ happiness, yields in to the proposal, albeit half-heartedly. But something very strange happens now. Meghna comes back to Amar’s house with a friend of hers, claiming they had lost their rented house, leading to her coming to Amar for help in employment in the AIR. Amar is instantaneously hit with a barrage of conflicting emotions. Why did she go away? And why did she come back to him, out of the blue now. She requests accommodation in his place for a few days, which further baffles him. Even as the wedding preparations are on, Amar cannot get thoughts about Meghna out of his mind. On one occasion, he confronts her again in a private moment and plays her one of their intimate conversations in a tape. As she listens to it in a headphone, he spots in her eyes an unstoppable urge to embrace him, but something is still stopping her, her face showing a thousand emotions. Amar gazes at her eyes as if compelling her to open up, but she is unfazed. But he has become fatally obsessed with her.

ஒரு மோகத்தினால் வரும் பித்து நிலை

இது மோசநிலை ஒரு முக்தி நிலை

நம் காதலிலே இது ஆறு நிலை

The Stage of Immortality

Amar can’t take it anymore. He relentlessly pursues Meghna and questions her cold decisions and motives. In a fierce altercation, she reveals to Amar, that, as a child, she had been raped by a few soldiers and that her soul seeks liberation through her suicide attack on the Indian army and the President of India during the Republic Day. She talks about her wounds and her pressing need to represent her people and their unheard voices. But, Amar is assaulted by Meghna’s brother and a few terrorists and as Amar fights back, one of the terrorists receives a call from Meghna on his mobile. Amar grabs the mobile and pleads in vain to Meghna to stop the killings and offers to move to a lonely place with her. His obsession peaks as he comes to know of the inevitable. He knows it would be tough to convince her of his true love, but he can’t give up, can he? He goes from strength to strength to stop the disaster, as he fights the militants with all his might. The next morning as Meghna proceeds for the suicide attack. Amar confronts her and strongly attempts to hold her back. The love is his eyes is evident, even though the glimmer of hope has vanished. He knows he is the only person in the world who can stop her. He forcibly embraces her and pleads her not to go away. There must a million thoughts running in Meghna’s mind in that antithetical moment. But she doesn’t fight back after a while, giving in to the passionate cuddle. The explosives tied to her chest go off, with the couple sensing each others’ breath. He had to drown his body in her soul. They had to sleep in the lap of death. It was, in a way, the inevitable.

இந்த காதலில் மரணம் ஏழு நிலை

இது இல்லை என்றால் அது காதல் இல்லை

உடல் மரிக்கின்ற காதல் மரிப்பதில்லை மரிப்பதில்லை

என் ஆருயிரே என் ஓருயிரே

The master had just deconstructed the different shades of immortal love.

Film: Uyire / Dil Se

Year: 1998

Cinematography: Santosh Sivan

Music: AR Rahman