'I believe there is a composer inside every singer'
...says singer Niranj Suresh, whose latest track Kanne Kanne from Mandharam is the talk of the town. The singer talks about his career and changing tastes in music
Already a popular name in the music industry, singer Niranj Suresh doesn't need a huge introduction. In a span of four years, the Kochi-native has sung in more than 20 films, working with composers like Deepak Dev, Vidyasagar, Gopi Sunder and Bijibal, in addition to being involved in three bands. His latest track Kanne Kanne from the new Asif Ali film Mandharam is already a hit.
Excerpts from an interview:
You come from an engineering background. When did you get bitten by the singing bug?
That realisation came during my engineering days. My dad and younger brother used to sing but it was I who chose it as a career. I loved Western music.
When did the idea of doing playback singing come to you?
I didn't intend to pursue playback singing as a career at first. I was more into independent music, involved in a band called Motherjane. It was sometime later that I thought of trying playback singing. Though I'm not a trained singer, I am training now because if you are singing another person's composition in the way they want to, it's better to train yourself.
Were your parents supportive?
Not initially. When we try something different, naturally there is going to be some opposition in the beginning. But now that I've diligently followed my passion and found success in it, they are happy.
Today there are a lot of singers putting out their work online. Some of them go viral and composers want to work with them. How many such singers make a successful entry in cinema, and — do all of them possess the discipline required in this industry?
There is a big difference between singing in our own space — it can be in a live show or in a room alone or with your friends — and singing in the studio. Playback singing is something else entirely. It requires a tremendous amount of patience and discipline; not everyone can do it. I got accustomed to the rigours only after singing in a few films. What took me 2-3 hours initially doesn't take me that long now. I come across many such talents and appreciate them. Some composers call them because they think they've found the right voice for their song. But only a few get selected.
You have dabbled in different genres and languages.
If you have music inside you, you can sing anywhere in any language. I've sung in Tamil and Telugu movies too. I don't confine myself to just Malayalam. One has to explore everything. And I experiment in all genres. I started with metal music but now I can sing melodies as well. For e.g, Kanne Kanne is much different from my earlier songs where I was almost roaring (laughs).
Your track "Thechille penne..." from Role Models was a hit. But some people are of the opinion that this sort of work is ruining music today.
Usage of terms like 'theppu', 'scene contra', 'freak penne', etc., keep these contemporary tracks alive. But this is not the only kind of music that's coming out. It's all about one's preferences. There are meaningful songs being written as well. So there is a fine balance. Some functions prefer using these trending tracks. Sometimes they work not because of the lyrics but the music. And then there is something like Jimikki Kammal which worked in spite of its ordinary lyrics. How many people paid attention to its background music?
While I agree that the old songs were exceptional, one has to evolve. That sort of music suited that era. Can those songs create the same effect if made today? When the language changes, music also changes. Even some people from the older generation are okay with the 'new gen' tracks after repeated listening. The films being made today are different. This generation and the situations they go through are different. Also, we have to take into account factors like viewership and trends. Composers are pressured to come up with stuff that has the potential to go viral. Everything that is beneficial to a movie matters. Every view in social media matters. Today, it's all about digital marketing.
Don't you think that there should be more female composers in Malayalam cinema?
Yes, women need to be encouraged more. But I feel that most of them are sticking to only singing; they need to think beyond that. I believe there is a composer inside every singer. They should try to come up with compositions of their own. The main reason why newcomers don't get picked enough is directors want someone who is popular/trending and producers look at the market — a star composer means more money. Maybe if established directors make the effort to hire newcomers, they might get noticed more.
But some male directors/composers are not comfortable taking instructions from female composers. And most women are not comfortable working with men in the industry given some of the stories we hear.
These things happen in every field, not just cinema. But it's our profession that gets highlighted more, and I'm getting tired of this attitude. But we can't reach anywhere if we limit ourselves. We must act boldly. These days, you don't have to approach a director to be a music composer. You can put out your stuff online, and, if it works, you get noticed. It's not that difficult. And if you are able to get investors, you can shoot a music video of your own. It's up to you to create the content and it's up to the public to decide if it's a hit or not.