Sushin Shyam: Audiences have become receptive to new sounds
The composer, who has worked on films like Varathan, Maradona and Lilli, talks to us about his working process
With three major releases -- Maradona, Varathan and Lilli -- coming one after the other, Sushin Shyam is currently the most in-demand music composer in Malayalam cinema next to Gopi Sundar. The extraordinarily talented Kannur-native began his career as a music programmer on several South Indian films before the monotonous routine eventually wore him out and compelled him to switch gears.
"It was no different from one of those regular IT jobs, only difference being it was music. I wanted to break away from that and start working for a select group of people, doing good projects," says Sushin.
It was Mayanadhi-composer Rex Vijayan who gave him his first big break through Anil Radhakrishnan Menon's Sapthamasree Thaskahara. It was Rex who suggested that he start doing independent background scores. He also got to compose a song for Kismath.
Does he work on multiple projects at a time? "I prefer focusing on one project at a time. It's difficult to manage so many people at the same time. We deal with different emotions in different films. One cannot write something dark while working on a romantic score," says Sushin.
The two songs from his latest project, Varathan, are currently trending on social media. Starring Fahadh Faasil and Aishwarya Lekshmi, the film is expected to be released on August 24. Sushin says the film has a strong musical presence. "It's unlike any other Amal Neerad film, with less distractions from the technical side. The focus is more on the subject matter. It's a family-oriented story."
Though Sushin is able to manage time limitations, he believes that having more time would help improve things. "It would be better to have more time with some films. You have more time to reflect on the score. Sometimes you can tweak the score to enhance a scene that lags. On The Great Father, we only needed 17 days; there was no time for experimentation. On Ezra, we got around six months."
The composer's working process differs from film to film. Sometimes, he tells us, the footage is cut to music and sometimes vice versa. "For Ezra, the score was composed before filming, Hollywood style. I had discussed the placement of themes with the director first. When he narrated the visuals, I was imagining it in my own way. I might write a grander score based on how I picture those visuals. I find this system (of composing the score before the shoot) better because sometimes a director can come up with a better way to film the scenes," says Sushin.
He adds that he gets a big kick out of writing scores for dark subject matters, especially when it is horror. The upcoming Lilli, which is scheduled for release on September 7, is a survival thriller filmed in a single location. "As Lilli required no songs, I only had to handle the background score. We had discussed the music before filming. After seeing the footage, I thought of incorporating an unreleased track made by our band (The Down Troddence), which we felt would be very apt for the film's mood and visuals."
Malayali audiences today are more receptive to fresh sounds, observes Sushin. The rap song in Maradona, which became an instant hit, came out of an urge to do something new. "I wanted to try a sound similar to what Santhosh Narayanan did in Jigarthanda, something aggressive," says Sushin. "As for the guitar theme, I tried placing it in different portions but then I felt that this theme fits all characters and need not just be confined to Tovino or Chemban."
Sushin is working next on Kumbalangi Nights, which is produced by Fahadh Fassil's production company in collaboration with Dileesh Pothan and Shyam Pushkaran's Working Class Hero. As he has been working without a break, Sushin plans to take a big one after finishing Kumbalangi Nights.