I never listen to my own songs: Imman
The much sought-after composer, who's got films like Viswasam, Tik Tik Tik, and Seema Raja lined up, takes time to reflect on his career
For D Imman, music is all about trying to connect with 'people's souls'. He never even imagined becoming a composer in the first place, let alone one who would complete 100 films in a decade and half. "From my childhood, I wanted to be associated with music in some way. I come from a really modest background, and my relatives were sceptical about cinema. Whatever I've achieved so far is a bonus. I feel blessed and can't ask for more," he smiles. "I still remember that my first film, Thamizhan (2002) with Vijay, wasn't all that successful. Even before I got that break, I'd struggled a lot. But I have always been determined," he adds.
Imman has introduced almost 125 new voices to the industry over the years. "I want to help aspiring singers. I didn't have someone to guide me when I entered films. I had no one to tell me if a production firm was reliable or not. I would just sign a film, and only after a month of shooting would I realise that the project had been shelved," he says.
The composer, who has a number of projects in the pipeline, including biggies like Viswasam, Kadaikutty Singam and Seema Raja, expresses particular excitement about Tik Tik Tik, touted to be India's first-ever space film. "I know both Shakti Soundar Rajan (director) and Jayam Ravi from our Miruthan days. The film came as a breath of fresh air for me, as I'd grown used to working on rural subjects," he says. "Seventy per cent of Tik Tik Tik happens in space, and the music had to seem like it belongs there. As you know, sound doesn't travel in space; so, I had to be extra careful about conveying emotions through background score and songs."
Prabhu Solomon, Suseenthiran, Ponram, Ezhil. I like them because they understand me, and vice-versa. I share a wonderful vibe with each of them.
He's happy for the variety that's coming his way, chiefly on account of Shakti Soundar Rajan's projects. But Imman quickly adds that he didn't mind doing back-to-back rural subjects. "After Mynaa (2010), I was in a good space, and was doing films without a break. I had no complaints about all the rural scripts. I enjoyed being busy," he says.
Imman's a rare composer who's been appreciated for both fast numbers like Dandanakka..., Damaalu Dumeelu, Oodha Colour-u Ribbon, and Fy Fy Fy, and his melodies. "KV Mahadevan, MS Viswanathan, Ilaiyaraaja and AR Rahman... Ivanga pannadadha naan panna poradhu illa. But my identity is melody, and I'll never lose it. No matter how fast-paced my songs are, I try to make sure that even they sound melodious and soothing," he smiles.
Being at peace with himself is important to the composer. He says it translates into music. As for his process, it's rather instinct-driven. He sits with the lyricist and the director while figuring out his tunes. "This might be an age-old process, but it works for me," he says. Interestingly, Imman shares that he never listens to his own music once he's done. "Once I hand over the songs to the audio labels, you won't find me listening to my own songs. I don't want to end up repeating tunes," he says.
I ask if he's worked on any project that was particularly hard. He laughs. "Oru simple tune compose panradhu dhaan romba kashtam."
Any dream collaboration? "Truth be told, I've never been star-struck. No artist is bigger than the art form. Take Ilaiyaraaja sir, for example. He has given us some fantastic songs, which didn't feature Rajinikanth or Kamal Haasan, and we love them all the same. Like, Thendral Vandhu Theendum Podhu. That's how a composer should be," he says.