I divide criticism into two categories - one coming from those who understand music, who are worthy of being critical because they are knowledgeable about what they are saying; and then there is another category of people who would criticise you anyway, whether your work is good or bad.
I want young Indian composers to be able to do more than just film music. I want to give them the skills that will enable them to create their own palette of sounds instead of having to write formulaic music. It doesn't matter if they become sound engineers, producers, composers or performers - I want them to be as imaginative as they like.
My music is mostly for the music. And it gives the liberty to do anything which I want. And nobody limits me to one genre of music. But I learn from life and I try to give back to life, in a way, whether it's the thought of the song or whether it's the approach to the arrangement or anything.
I joined the Madras Christian College but dropped out after three months. Telugu music director Ramesh Naidu asked me to assist him, and I did so for over a year. I did think of rejoining college, but by then, I was discovering the musician in me. I worked with Illaya Raja and Raj Koti and soon shifted to commercials. This led to movie offers.
Music is the only passion I shamelessly indulge in. However, for recreation I enjoy watching movies. 'Wizard of Oz' was the first film I ever saw, followed by the 'Bond' movies. I also watch a lot of World cinema through DVDs mostly brought by one of my best friends who's now based in Toronto.
The more dollars the studio producers put in, the less freedom we have. If the budget hits $100m, they get scared - they'll take the existing score of a successful movie and expect composers to copy it, like wallpaper. The biggest challenge for any composer in Hollywood is to be as creative as possible within those boundaries.
Some things are very low profile, but if they excite me creatively, I accept them. Sometimes there are high-profile projects, and you have to do it. We all have human limitations. It is a painful decision to turn things down. Even accepting 'Slumdog Millionaire' was a decision that I had to sacrifice another project.
The institution of marriage works better when there's a spiritual connection. If you're marrying just for the sake of the woman, then you may lose interest in each other very soon. When we marry in the interest of the Holy Spirit with the intention of serving God and humanity, then it gives a much larger perspective.
I'm a Sufi Muslim, I would say. I believe in using the medium to create a good vibration because art is so important to society. Some projects I don't do because I feel that it's going to create a bad vibe. I don't do propaganda films that are anti another religion, anti-Muslim or anti-Hindu.
My mother's belief in spiritual healers grew stronger after our family went through a rough patch following my father's death. Sufi saint Karimullah Shah Kadri changed our lives, and all of us converted to Sufism. But it wasn't an instantaneous decision - it took us 10 years to convert. The change in religion was like washing away the past.
The demand in India is to have a hit, which becomes a promotion for the movie and makes people come to the theater. You have five songs and different promotions based on those. But when I do Western films, the need for originality is greater. Then I become very conscious about the writing.