Thanks a lot Alphons for taking the time off from your extremely busy schedule to speak to Kairos readers. Could you please briefly introduce yourself and family?
Alphons: Hello everyone. I am Alphons Joseph, married to Rajni Aravindan and we have two children – Joseph Alphons, a sixth grader and Maria Alphons, a fourth grader. My journey with Jesus Youth started in 1989 at the ‘Campus Meet’ in Thrissur, Kerala, where I was part of the music team. I was actively part of the campus ministry for a long time after that and presently, I help with the activities of Rexband, doing many training programmes in addition to music shows.
Professionally, I work as a music director and a playback singer in the Malayalam film industry. I also run a music academy called Crossroads school of Music, which is the fulfilment of my long-time dream to provide systematic music education different from what the normal schools were offering.
What came first, your God experience or the discovery of your musical talent?
Alphons: In a way, I was blessed to be born into a musical family. My father is an immensely talented musician, who used to lead and compose songs for our parish Church choir. My dad’s brother was also a music composer. Though from a very young age I used to be part of the Church choir, I don’t think I ever had a personal relationship with God during that time.
My first encounter with God happened while attending a youth retreat in Thrissur. Until then I had a lot of questions about faith and God. Though the retreat didn’t answer all of my questions, I got enough conviction to render my earlier doubts irrelevant. I felt an attraction to the Holy Mass and the Word of God, and was sustained and built up through Jesus Youth fellowships and formation.
It is He who gave me
everything – my talents,
fame, my position in
the movie industry, and
the Lord was asking
whether I loved Him
more than all of that.
This question kept
coming back to me, yet I
couldn’t bring myself to
reply affirmatively with
a full and sincere heart.
Was there any point in your life that you had a desert experience? Or can you recall a time when as a successful musician, you felt you had to make difficult choices that would affect your career?
Alphons: Many times! One major experience was after the World Youth Day in Australia, in 2008. It was a hectic schedule with Rexband touring New Zealand and Australia. While in New Zealand, I felt a nagging pain behind my neck, which soon got worse and all through the month’s stay, I experienced extreme pain of the cervical. Once back in India, the doctor advised complete rest as there was a risk of paralysis if adequate care was not taken.
I had to cancel all my existing and future movie projects. Soon depression started creeping in as there was nothing to do – I couldn’t work, I couldn’t sit and pray, not even read the Bible as I was mostly bedridden. The thought of ‘why did this happen to me’ started growing in my mind. This was the time when some of my friends suggested a retreat at Divine Retreat Centre and this turned out to be an extremely enlightening experience. I felt all the sessions were speaking about my situations and apprehensions, and I got a lot of convictions from there. After the retreat, I went for an Ayurvedic treatment, where I could spend long hours in prayer and reading the Bible.
One of the elders brought me many books and one of them was on St Francis of Assisi and one on ‘life and death.’ This book gave me a fresh perspective on eternity and how to live life focused on eternity. Reading them, I began to slowly realise why God had allowed this period in my life. Even though I was ‘active’ in the ministry, I never had time for anything.“If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied”(1 Corinthians 15:19). As I reflected on this Word of God, I wondered how much of my daily 24 hours was lived with an “eternity perspective.” I sensed that although I was doing the work of God, deep inside, my heart was in the world.
I began to earnestly pray for God to reveal his will. I sensed Jesus asking me the same question that He once asked Peter, “Peter, do you love me more than these?” It is He who gave me everything – my talents, gifts, fame, my position in the movie industry, and the Lord was asking whether I loved Him more than all of that. This question kept coming back to me, yet I couldn’t bring myself to reply affirmatively with a full and sincere heart. I began praying for the strength to say ‘Yes’ to Jesus. Reading the books of St Francis of Assisi encouraged me to let go of all that I had for God. I started praying for the strength to love Him more than everything in life, and shortly afterwards took the decision to dedicate my life for full-time mission. Immediately after this, my health started improving and soon, I was healed completely.
To get more clarity, I attended a retreat by Fr Dheeraj on mission. He prayed with me for a long time and confirmed that God was indeed calling me for a life of mission. But for the moment, He wanted to me go back and be His witness in the movie industry. Though not too happy, I decided to get back to my job. My illness had kept me almost five months away from the industry. With not much work coming my way, I decided to join for an MA in Carnatic Music at Calicut University. But before the
Most of my decisions are
made during Eucharistic
Adoration. Life gets a
whole new perspective
when we spend time
with the Lord. And
we are able to listen
to the whisper of the
Holy Spirit in whatever
situation we are in.
end of the first semester, I received a call from AR Rahman’s office to sing a song for Gautham Menon’s “Vinnaithaandi Varuvaayaa.” It was a huge surprise for me as I had never sung in a movie before. From the moment I arrived at Rahman’s studio, I could feel the providence of God at work. This was a song that was not there in the movie, but at the insistence of Rahman Sir, the producers agreed for a promo song. When the song was done, the director liked it so much that he asked me to go with them for the audio launch, provided I had a valid UK visa. Providentially, the previous time we went for a Rexband show in the UK, contrary to norm, they had given us a six month visa, which was to expire the week after the promo event. I went for the event, which was a success and the song itself became a huge hit.
For me, it was more of a testament to God’s faithfulness. I had the illness and during that difficult time I decided to surrender my life, my career and everything to God and he repaid it a hundred times over. Earlier I was known only in Malayalam industry, but through this song, I became popular in Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and even in Hindi. However, I am all the more convinced that the greater the heights God takes me to, it is to give Him ever greater glory through my life and testimony.
How do you make your choices and decisions in life?
Alphons: Most of my decisions are made during Eucharistic Adoration. Life gets a whole new perspective when we spend time with the Lord. And we are able to listen to the whisper of the Holy Spirit in whatever situation we are in. I have felt that my decisions flow from the Holy Spirit, through a true living of the sacramental life and by spending time with the Lord in Eucharistic Adoration. I also pray for the intercession of Mother Mary and there have been umpteen instances where I have felt the tangible intervention and mediation of Mother Mary. Also, I have experienced God speaking to me through the Word of God as well as through elders.
How do you balance your faith and your career?
Alphons: I am convinced about my priorities. They are my family and my faith life. I’m equally aware that I have to pay the price for this conviction. I had to say ‘No’ to many lucrative dream projects that had come my way. Many of my friends in the movie industry feel that I am a fool to let go of such opportunities. They feel I am not serious enough for my career. But, I never had any qualms about letting go of those projects, however big and lucrative they were, which would potentially have wanted me to compromise on my faith life. My goal in life is to spend eternity with Christ and everything in my work is oriented towards it.
Can you mention a few people who have inspired you?
Alphons: There are many within the movement. Manoj Sunny, Edward Edezhath, Elvis, and many others through their choices have challenged my faith journey. The life of saints, especially St Francis of Assisi made a remarkable change in my life. Also, my dad has been a great inspiration. Even at this old age, his dedication to daily Mass and his unwavering faith has been the strength of my life. Also, AR Rahman has been a strong inspiration.
Thank you, Alphons, for taking the time to speak with us. We and all the readers of Kairos wish you all blessings and prayers as you continue to be a beacon of light for many people in the entertainment industry.