Of music and lyrics


Music composer Harris Jayaraj stands out from the rest for his ability to deliver soulful numbers that blend seamlessly with the situation it represents, notes C V Aravind

in demand Harris JayarajThere was a time when Tamil filmmakers who were either unable to book A R Rehman due to conflicting dates or afford his steep price, would make a beeline for Harris Jayaraj to get him to sign on the dotted line as a music composer for their projects.

However, now, with Rehman entering the international arena, or plunging deeper into Bollywood realms, Harris seems to have taken over as the first choice for many producers, thanks to his prodigious output and his penchant for melody.

A product of Trinity College, where he was a topper, a young Harris Jayaraj learnt the ropes from not one or two music directors but as many as 20, including two unmatchable maestros — Ilaiyaraaja and Rehman. Harris got his first break as an independent music director in the Gautam Menon-directed Minnale. Vaseegara from Minnale was rendered flawlessly by the classical singer Bombay Jayashri, and turned out to be a chart topper.

Hit combination

Harris received a shot in the arm when he won the award for best music director, from a leading film journal, thus breaking the stranglehold of A R Rehman over the coveted award. The Menon-Harris combination soon scorched the charts with runaway musical hits in movies like Kaakha Kaakha, Vaaranam Aayiram and Vettaiyaadu Viliayaadu.
Nenjukkul peidhidum in the dulcet voice of Hariharan in Vaaranam Aayiram and Partha
mudhal naale from the Kamal Haasan-starrer Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu won instantaneous acclaim from all quarters. Unfortunately, the duo have since fallen apart and Gautam signed on A R Rehman for his film Vinnaithaandi Varuvaayaa.

Rumours were afloat that all was well again between the two, but such talk has been quelled by both sides. Harris Jayaraj has composed some of his best music for the late cinematographer-director Jeeva in films like 12 B and Ullam Ketkumae and has worked with A R Murugadoss in Ghajini, where he had two outstanding numbers — Oru maalai and Suttum vizhi. His latest, 7aum Arivu, also had some mellifluous numbers.

Director Shankar, who has worked with Rehman right from his first film Gentleman, handed over the baton to Harris for Anniyan. Harris returned the compliment with great musical numbers, all of which turned out to be popular. Harris has also scored the music for Shankar’s latest hit Nanban, a remake of the Hindi blockbuster 3 Idiots. Its racy, foot-tapping score has hit the bull’s eye.

A highlight of Harris Jayaraj’s music is that his instrumentalists never drown the lyrics. This has won him encomiums from purists who complain that music in recent times is so loud and cacophonous that the lyrics cease to be audible. Harris, who has also made his music debut in Telugu with Vasu, has gained a lot of popularity with the Telugu audience, as most of his Tamil films have also been dubbed in Telugu. Harris entered Bollywood through the remake of Minnale, titled Rehnaa Hai Terre Dil Mein, and most recently, in the John Abraham-starrer Force.

The success of some of his latter day films have ensured that Harris Jayaraj has a number of projects on hand in Tamil cinema. Some of the films that have already gone on the floors include Oru Kal Oru Kannadi, Maatran, Irandam Ulagam and A R Murugadoss’s Thuppakki, which has Vijay in the lead. What sets this talented composer apart from many of his contemporaries is his capacity to deliver soulful, soft and soothing numbers, blending the western and the classical in tandem with the theme and situation in the film.
While his background scores too have been commendable, especially in films which have fast-paced, racy climaxes, it is the successful numbers sung by renowned playback singers down south — Chitra, Hariharan, Karthik, etc — that have given a pronounced fillip to his career.

Music plays an integral role in determining any film’s success. With the marketing blitz and hype that is de rigeur nowadays, it is the music and lyrics that reach the audience first. Its popularity goes a long way in raising the expectations of any  film. When such is the scenario, it is the composer who calls the tune. And, having struck a purple patch with his very first film, Harris Jayaraj continues to be in great demand.

With Tamil cinema taking up all his time, Harris has had to turn down offers in other languages, including Hindi. Whether he will take the Rehman route and foray into the international circuit is something that one has to wait and see. As of now, the composer is more than content with his life and feels that he has fulfilled the aspirations of his father, Jayakumar, who had worked as an assistant to the once prolific Malayalam music director Shyam. Music, it would seem, is in his blood and the results are there for all to see.

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