Vijay Yesudas on life, music, freedom and philosophies
When Vijay Yesudas made his entry into Malayalam film music with the 2000 popular movie, “Millennium Stars”, about two decades ago, one question loomed largely. Did this charming, young man have it in him to live up to the legacy of his father, and eminent singer Dr K J Yesudas?
At that point, Vijay embarked on a musical career that has seen several ups and a few downs. But 17 yearsafter “Millennium Stars”, having aconversation with him makes it hardnot to appreciate how he outgrew the shadow that was once cast on him, even before he took to the battleground. Vijay Yesudas has most definitely made a place for himself in music and cinema; one that is unique and irreplaceable.
Everyone knows a good deal about Vijay Yesudas, the singer. Let’s begin with the unknown – Vijay, the actor. Tell us how “Maari” happened.
I still don’t know if I should be acting (laughs). “Maari” happened out of nowhere. I was vacationing with my family in Spain. Dhanush (Tamil actor, and a good friend) randomly calls me up and tells me he would want me to play the role of a villain in his next movie. He said the role was of a cop. I was shocked, I asked him if he was serious. And, apparently he was. This phone call was followed by a series of discussions with him and the director Balaji Menon, and that is how I eventually decided to do “Maari”. It was a not an easy role to play as the character had both positive and negative shades.
But even with all the doubts and apprehensions, I still wanted to do it. I should thank Dhanush and Balaji Menon, the director of the film, for helping me get into the skin of the character with workshops and some very valuable inputs.
Truth be told, I have always wanted to give acting a try. But I had decided that I would not venture into acting before I cemented my position as a singer. But where it would go from here, I still do not know.
Many of your songs have grown to become anthems, such as gone on to be anthems, be it “Malare” (from the movie Premam) or “Maangalyam” (Bangalore Days)? Do you know how big these songs would when you are singing them?
This is sort of clichéd, but the truth is when a singer or an actor, performs he/she is not thinking of awards, accolades or even acceptance. When I record songs, it’s just about the studio, the music and about rendering the song the way the music director and the lyricist want it. Even if it’s not a good song, you still record it and come out. When I recorded “Malare”, it did not feel any different from my earlier songs as far as its acceptance was concerned. Yes, I may have had a hunch but one can’t gauge the scale of success from the recording booth. So when you get an overwhelming response like in the case of say, “Malare”, you enjoy the glory. When that doesn’t happen, you simply move on.
Actors talk about the art of picking good scripts, is there an art to picking great songs too?
Sadly, in our industry singers don’t have the luxury of choosing songs unless you are a Yesudas. And even with Yesudas, it was only recently that he started choosing his songs. Otherwise, it is the music director calling you, and you singing for him – that is playback singing. That is how it has been happening historically and that’s why you could say it is more like the song choosing the singer.
What is your opinion on actors taking to singing?
There are quite a few actors who have taken to singing and most of them do a decent job. The audience love listening to their stars singing and so more and more actors are willing to wield the mic. Honestly, I am totally for it. I believe all artistic expressions and experimentation should be encouraged. That’s how I do it too. As a person, as an artist, as a musician, I am constantly experimenting. So when I hear scornful remarks aimed at these actors, I honestly don’t get it. It is not like they are going to rob us of our chances.
Is there something that your father and legendary musician Dr. K J Yesudas is constantly reminding you?
He doesn’t always remind me of it, it is more like me picking it from his work ethic; the need to focus singlemindedly once you have picked up a task. When you are constantly multitasking and with eggs in so many baskets, even the slightest slip can have you labelled as lazy or lackadaisical. So when I am at something, I give into it totally; be it at the recording studio, a shoot or spending time with family. It is now a golden rule, to focus intensely on the task at hand, get it done and move to the next.
What is music for you? How would you define it?
Music is what moves me – literally and figuratively. Wherever I am, in a car, at the studio or on stage, I am always connected to music. It transports me to a different world, a world of my own. On a flight with my headphones
plugged in, when I look at the clouds, it feels like it is the music and not the flight that is taking me from Kochi to Chennai.
Music lets me run my imagination wild and aids me in my day-dreaming. I have always been a shameless daydreamer. If you talk to someone from my schooldays, they will have stories to tell about the kid who was always
lost in his own world, drumming on the benches or humming a tune. I have made sure that part of me has stayed alive.
You are part of celebrity cricket teams in both Chennai and Kochi. Tell us about your love for cricket.
I love all kind of sports, not just cricket. I think I have always been a sportsman at heart. I am a die-hard basketball fan and have also trained tennis when I was younger. But unlike many of my teammates at C3 (Celebrity Cricket League), I have not played cricket at competitive levels in school or college. I just do it for the love of the game. It all started with the Madras All Stars Club and then C3 followed. I enjoy playing the game as well as spending time with the guys.
When you entered the industry, you had a legacy to live up to. How have you been able to handle that? What plans for your future?
See, I am a vagabond, in many ways. Five years ago, I had no clue that I would be where I am right now, the same holds true now. I have no agenda and am someone who doesn’t plan too much, nor do I have humongous expectations. The first seven years that I spent in the Malayalam industry, success was sparse. but then things took a turn and I can call myself ‘fairly successful’ now. Tamil, on the other hand, was more welcoming right from
I love my music and enjoy working with multiple generations of musicians – from Illayaraja to the newest music director in town. I am a fan of what I do and so I am not one to be worried about the future.
Model: Vijay Yesudas
Styling: Lakshmi Babu
Makeup & Hair Styling: Jeena
Costumes: Lulu Fashion Store, Lulu Mall, Kochi
Retouch: Jemini Ghosh
Location Courtesy: Camleon Studio, Palarivattom, Kochi
Words by Varun Kannan
Transcription by Aswati Nambiar
Production: FWD Media
Digital Version Available on :http://goo.gl/utB6z9