From ‘Moongil Thottam’ To ‘Halena’ – A Chat With Abhay Jodhpurkar
Giridharan Raghu, Aishwarya Valliappan
April 07, 2017
As the Techofes stage was getting ready to witness an array of singers coming together for the ‘Concert Night’ on 6th March, we had a chance to interact with Abhay Jodhpurkar, the voice behind many soulful melodies in recent times.
GT: Let us start with Halena, the recent chartbuster. Your experiences and thoughts on the song.
AJ: Halena was a whole new experience. I would also like to share a story, which nobody is aware of. Harris Sir had opened his new studio – Studio H – and Halena was the first song that was recorded there. In other words, I can feel proud that I kind of “inaugurated” the studio, and that turned out to be lucky charm.
There are only bits of my voice in that song, with other singers also rendering their voices, but Harris Sir was really happy with the outcome. This was also the first time I tried R&B singing for the first time, so I am really happy with Halena.
GT: Your filmography starts with the Kannada movie Godfather, composed by A R Rahman. But, ‘Moongil Thottam’ from Kadal, which was also composed by ARR, brought you to limelight. How would you compare Godfather and Moongil Thottam?
AJ: Actually, Moongil Thottam was recorded before the Godfather tracks. To be precise, the former happened in 2011 and the latter in 2012. For me, Rahman Sir is my Godfather, and both albums are close to my heart. However, Moongil Thottam is very special for me because it suits my character voice; it is the kind of song that anyone could have asked for. With the legendary combo of Mani (Ratnam) Sir, Vairamuthu Sir and Rahman Sir coming together – which does not happen easily – I am really blessed to have sung such a beautiful song.
GT: Now that you have mentioned ARR as your Godfather, tell us a bit about your K.M. Conservatory days.
AJ: I was doing my B. Tech at SRM University, and in the second year, I realised that engineering, or rather studying in general, was never going to be my cup of tea. It is an irony, but only during the days of engineering do you actually get to know what you love to do. I decided, ‘Okay, chuck this’, and joined K M Conservatory as a part time student; I used to go there on weekends. That used to be refuge from the whole world, and I loved that environment of being around music and various types of musicians. So I think that one year of K.M. Conservatory was the best part of my “engineering” period.
But I have to admit that it was a lot of hard work, because I had to attend my semester examinations and do recordings all at the same time. It was quite challenging, to be honest, but the hard work always pays off.
If you are passionate about something, you would somehow end up achieving it. So, I would only suggest all the engineering students out there to also pursue their hobbies, because you never know what you are meant to do and who you are meant to be, initially.
I had no presumptions that I would end up becoming a playback singer before coming to Chennai; I had no plans at all, but I believe destiny always leads you towards where you belong. So, always follow your dreams.
GT: How does Abhay Jodhpurkar, who “came to Chennai”, find singing for six different languages – Kannada, Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Marathi and Malayalam?
AJ: It is an amazing experience. Every language has its own tonalities and dialects; there are so many words and pronunciations. It is beautiful to realise that all these are connected by one common language called “music”.
GT: Have you faced difficulties because of the translation of lyrics into the language you are convenient with?
AJ: Of course, there is that difficulty, primarily because every language has different dialects. For example, there is colloquial Tamil, there is Chennai Tamil and so on. To get the pronunciations right is a difficult thing, but I must say I have gotten used to it.
GT: Everyone will agree that Moongil Thottam is special for you. But, which among the following would you choose as your second best: Aathaadi Aathaadi (Anegan), Adiye Enna Raagam (Rummy), Othaiyila (Endrendrum Punnagai) and Vinmeen Vidhaiyil (Thegidi)?
AJ: Vinmeen, definitely. Because that was the first time I sang in open voice. Before that, all my songs were very melodious and soft. ‘Vinmeen’ is a peppy number that effectively brings out my character voice, after ‘Moongil Thottam’, that is. All other melodies of mine are there, but ‘Vinmeen’ is a very good fusion of band music with something that the youth can pretty much relate to. Moreover, I think the song is really very well composed, and kudos to Nivas Prasnna for that. I think ‘Adiye Enna Raagam’ would follow suit.
GT: You have shared space with some of the top notch singers of the industry, like Harini, Shreya Ghoshal, Shwetha Mohan, Chinmayi, Tippu and so on. How influential have they been to you?
AJ: It is always good to meet various musicians from different backgrounds and different perspectives. There is always something to learn from each one of them. Chinmayi Ma’am and I have jammed many times, and she has recommended my name to several music directors. It is an amazing experience. There is always an immense amount of knowledge sharing that happens during recordings, because we tend to wait a lot for recordings for arranging and things like that. That is the time when we get to catch up, and it really is a good thing.
GT: Which is your most favourite rendition of yourself?
AJ: There is this song in Oru Oorula Rendu Raja, called Odum Rayilila. I think that is my best so far, vocally. Voice texture-wise, it has to be Moongil Thottam, because I sound the best in that; composition-wise, it would be Vinmeen Vidhaiyil, and when it comes to the aspect of venturing into something new and different, it should be Halena.
GT: One song which you like the most, excluding your renditions…
AJ: There is this song called Pookal Pookum from Madharasapattinam, which has always been my favourite ever since it was released. I think no song has ever beaten that song, in my opinion. That song reflects my kind of zone, vocally. Both Roop Kumar Rathod Sir and Harini Ma’am, not to forget Andrea, sang it so well. If something like that song is given to me, I would love to perform that.
GT: Is there a song which you wish to recreate, or something that you badly wish you could have sung?
AJ: It has to be ‘Pookal Pookum’ again. But apart from that, Vellai Pookal from Kannathil Muthamittaal is something that touches my heart so much. I wish I could sing that song. But, Rahman Sir has already taken it to a different level (laughs).
GT: Tell us about your rapport with ARR.
AJ: I must say it is a very cool rapport. Since he introduced me, he treats me like a kid; he has that possessiveness for me. He is very rude to me at times, he takes my case and pulls my legs often.
Recently, Shasha Tirupati and I were recording a song with Rahman Sir. We were chilling throughout the night; we were making the song, writing lyrics, we had pizzas together. He has a really good sense of humour, and gives you so many funny, memorable stories from the past.
Our rapport is more than a composer-singer bond; it is more than friendship. Above all, he exudes a positive vibe always; he is like a saint. You can learn a lot of things from everything he says.
GT: Since you mentioned “we were writing lyrics”, we are just curious about that lyricist in you.
AJ: (Laughs) I am not a professional when it comes to lyric writing. I can write Hindi songs, because Hindi is my forte. Since I was born and brought up in North India, I am comfortable writing in Hindi and English.
Writing is a beautiful thing to try out as an artist, and besides, everyone writes, right? The only problem when it comes to song writing is that you need to focus on the rhythm, the rhyming pairs and other specific technical aspects. It would take while for me to learn and catch things up, but I would love to.
GT: What about Abhay as a composer? When can we witness that?
AJ: I have ventured into composing music recently. As I said earlier, music was not something I was expecting before ‘Moongil Thottam’ happened. Now that I have become a part of the fraternity, I think I can try my hands at writing lyrics and composing music.
GT: What if you had not become a playback singer?
AJ: I absolutely have no clue. But had I not come to Chennai, it would have been the biggest mistake of my life; I would have regretted it forever. Chennai has given me so much, and I love every bit of it – the people, the culture, the organic vibe, the beaches, the food, the filter coffee and so on.
I also love Bharatnatyam and am a big fan of it. Right from my childhood, I have always been attracted towards the South Indian musical instruments like thavil, mridangam, ghatam. I love their sound more than any other percussion instrument.
To answer your question, I guess it was written in my destiny I had to come here.
The Guindy Times expresses its sincere thanks to Abhay for taking time off for this interview.