'There was no day or night, just Kaala all around'
"There was no day or night — just Kaala all round." That was the mood whilst recording the addictive guitar opening you might have heard on the recently leaked trailer of the Superstar's new film. Over three days spent 'living' at music director Santhosh Narayanan's studio, Tamil metal head and guitarist Jhanu Chanthar takes us behind-the-scenes of his jam sessions for the much-awaited Rajinikanth film, Kaala, portraying the actor as an ageing don in the slums of Mumbai.
Remembering his time spent on the film, riffing for sometimes as long as six hours at a stretch under the able direction of Santhosh Narayan, he says, "It was quite crazy. Santhosh told me to bring my bag and all my guitars and equipment so that we could just spend uninterrupted time recording the music." This usually started at midnight and went on well into the wee of hours of the morning. The warm up to all of this was usually a few games of chess, we're told. "Santhosh and his dad both love chess. So it became our routine before every recording. We would play on the chess board that was on the first floor and then head up to the second floor (studio) to record," Jhanu recalls.
If you're scratching your head at this point, wondering why you don't recognise the name of this musician, fret not, you most certainly have heard his work.Do the opening chords of Neruppu Da (Kabali) ring a bell?
Back in 2016, it was a dream come true for the then 29-year-old to play for Kabali. Not just because he was a die-hard Rajini fan, "I actually cried when Baasha got beaten up," he says — but also because he had never played on a film before this one. How many musicians can say that their debut in Kollywood was for a Superstar film?
But Kabali and Kaala have been entirely different experiences musically. "As different as an Audi and JCB tractor, in fact," Jhanu offers with a laugh. This music for Kaala we're told was all about "raw power" and "grit" to match Rajini's character as emotional patriarch Karikalan, quite the opposite of his refined suit-wearing persona in Kabali. "So I was told repeatedly that it could not be polished," reveals Jhanu who is also known in Chennai's independent music circles for his live performances with a number of bands including Skrat, Oorka, Kulam and his own self-titled Tamil rock act, Jhanu.
While he isn't at liberty to share the names of songs in the film just yet, he does surprise us with this. Making a case for full time musicians everywhere, he discloses, "I got paid a lakh for three days. It's a reminder that you don't have to be a celebrity singer or music director to be compensated well — just focus on the music."