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I have heard certain independent musicians say that the reason they stay away from making film music is because of the lack of complete creative freedom. Do you agree?
What you said right now is the biggest challenge that any film music composer faces. To keep your signature intact in the music even when you create it for a particular situation given by the director is the most important thing. That's the challenge that I take up and also what I like the most. Yes, we are given the situation and the music has to be approved by the director and yet, you try to keep your presence felt in the music. That's the beauty of it, the collaboration. I don't see it as a limitation. I like to think that I'm given a playground. But using my talent, I get to decide where to take the ball, where I should be static or dynamic and when I should hit a goal. It’s not an easy task.
Listeners often feel that every song you make is rendered by the 'right' voice. How do you pick your singers?
I never fix a singer before the song is made. Only after I'm done with the music, I think of a voice that's fit for the song. Nowadays I even go looking for the 'right' voice. I listen to many and then pick the perfect one. After doing Vathilkal song, I didn't have a clear idea as to who I should give it to. But I felt that it has to be someone new. So as suggested by my friend and singer Ravisankar, I listened to a few songs by Nithya Mammen. And I immediately felt that she would be the right choice. Similarly, singer Arjun Krishna who’s also sung in this movie is extremely talented. I’m sure there's a bright future for him.
Do you compose after the lyrics are written or is it the other way around?
This song in Sufiyum Sujatayum was written and composed simultaneously. I believe only if the lyrics and the music are made to complement each other, the song will turn out to be perfect. You can see the making video of it on YouTube. That is exactly how it was made.
Now that the song’s turned out perfectly and has also been picturised beautifully, do you feel bad the viewers didn't get to enjoy it on the big screen?
For any artist who works for cinema, their dream is to see their work on a big screen. There's no doubt about it. My producer has said that we would also have a theatrical release when the time is right. So hopefully in a later stage, it will happen. Though certain aspects like when the cinema halls can be open, even if they do, will people still visit theatres, all that remains uncertain. We just don't know as of now. But still, there is a dream.
But that said, what I like most about OTT releases is that we get to see beautiful content - the kind that is unlikely to hit big screens - being received so well. For instance, there is Amitabh Bachchan’s Gulabo Sitabo. It's a wonderful film and people are raving about it. But we don't know how well the movie would have done at the box office. But when you see such stories in the comfort of your home, it somehow works. Also, when such good quality content is being produced, it's equally good for the musicians who work in those projects. As more films get specifically made for OTT, a lot of artistes also get work. So there are films for theatres, films for OTT, altogether is good for everyone.