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Interview with Mahesh Shankar
Date: April 23, 2009, Hyderabad
mahesh shankar

Music director Mahesh Shankar shot to fame with his foot-tapping scores for Vennela film. He took a gap of years before coming back to compose music for Prayanam. caught up with Mahesh Shankar for an exclusive interview. Here are the excerpts -

I grew up in Dubai and did engineering in Venkateswara College in Chennai. I did my masters in NC State, USA. Then I moved to San Jose, California to work. I also did film scoring in UCLA. I am musically inclined since my childhood. I play keyboard. I worked with people like Sivamani, Ganesh Kumaresh, Selva Ganesh in stage shows and concerts. I also learnt Carnatic music and worked on fusion of Carnatic.

I did an album titled Mugangal (Faces in Tamil) which has six songs for different emotions. Raj and DK were directing a film titled ‘Flavors’ and they have asked me to do the music. Deva Katta saw Flavors and liked the music. I did Vennela music which became a big chartbuster. Now I am doing Prayanam in the direction of Chandra Sekhar Yeleti.

Why did you have so many years of gap after Vennela?
Music was just a hobby for me till Vennela happened. Things have changed after Vennela. I could have come to Hyderabad and tried for films, but my family responsibilities stopped me from doing so. My wife was pregnant at that time. Fortunately Chandra Sekhar Yeleti was looking for me and contacted me for Prayanam. Thanks to my work in Prayanam, I grabbed four movies now.

What is your strength as a music director?
I would like to understand the movie as a whole before working on songs. I feel that songs shouldn’t come as breakers to the narration, but they should be seamlessly integrated into the narrative. There should be a connection between the movie theme and the music.

Tell us about Prayanam music?
There is one full song and a few bit songs. I gave a peppy flavor to it. I was involved in Prayanam script right from the beginning. The script was written with music in the mind. Hence my contribution for Prayanam background music is much bigger to Prayanam compared to Vennela. I composed Vennela background score after the entire film was shot. I composed background music simultaneously for Prayanam as the shoot is going on.

How is it like working with Chandra Sekhar Yeleti?
We are like-minded. He is an intelligent director. He is also an engineering graduate. He is an interesting guy to work with and it was a refreshing experience.

Tell us about Prayanam film?
It is a fun based film. I agree with Chandra Sekhar’s statement that watching Prayanam will be like reading Tinkle comic book. The movie has come out really well. Manoj Manchu did an awesome job. The visuals are nice and the music is very good.

Most of the new music directors are good at composing songs, but are bad at doing background music. How is your work in background music?
I feel that I am academically qualified to do background music as I did a course in film scoring at ULCA. They teach us how to score background music to Hollywood films. I am also a learned musician.

Who are your idols in music?
Ilayaraja is a legend. His songs and background music are amazing. He pioneered the art of scoring background music. AR Rehman single handedly changed the face of Indian music. I also like the music of Vishal Sekhar and Amit Trivedi (Dev D).

How do you score music – by writing notes or by using keyboard?
Ilayaraja is known for the art of writing notes before composing song or background music, because they used to have live orchestra in the olden days. Most of the music directors depend on instruments now. I am capable of doing both.

What are your future projects?
Currently I am doing the re-recording of Prayanam. I composed a Punjabi song for a Bollywood project titled 99 which is directed Raj and DK. I am also scoring music for Inkosari (Raja & Manjari) in the direction of Suman Pathuri. I will be scoring music for Deva Katta’s next film. I have also signed Chandra Sekhar Yeleti’s next film which is going to be an urbane based action adventure.

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