Features, Music February 24, 2011 By Timothy Gunatilaka

So American culture, the scores, the lifestyle, and all that stuff is not an alien thing…. [Also] there is a lot of freedom working with Danny. He never says, “I want you to do this!” Never like that. But I think I understood the importance of American culture, of using a song like “Lovely Day” [by Bill Withers]. It’s balancing traditional American instruments and fresh IDM and soul.

Do you feel nervous about the Oscars? You have won a couple of these already, so does that make it easier? Or do you not get nervous about such matters?
I feel very honored and blessed. It’s a movie which is outside of what people think I’m best at, moving further into American culture and guitar. It’s a pure American movie, and to get recognized for that is a big statement for me. It gives me courage to do more.

I also wanted to congratulate you for the Crystal Award. What can you tell me about your recent charitable work, particularly with children?
I initiated a school [KM Music Conservatory in Chennai] two years back. Students from the West come and teach here and they’re also learning about Indian classical. It started in a very small place, but it’s been going very good. Now, we want to expand it to forty acres. All of the awards are definitely helping to give motivation to our students.

What kinds of things influence your music outside of film? What projects are you currently planning or working on?
A lot of Sufi poetry. Now, I want to do an album with three tenors of India — that’s one idea. And, maybe, something Gershwin-ish on piano. It all depends on time, how much space I have.

Speaking of which, you converted to Sufism in your twenties. How great a role does your faith play in this work as well as the others?
One of the philosophies of Sufism is about seeing the light and experiencing the bliss in this lifetime…. That is very brilliantly portrayed in Danny’s title sequence, [which features images of] people watching football and then people praying and all the stuff [to show how] we’re all the same. It’s all about humanity. It’s about the strange, synchronized, soul connection we all have.

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