Sekhar Menon: Music should serve the film, not the other way around
The actor-musician talks about writing the background score for Prithviraj's recently-released science-fiction thriller, 9
One of the factors that make Prithviraj’s latest release, 9, such an immersive big-screen experience is the synthesizer-heavy background score by Sekhar Menon. The actor-musician’s work helps bring to the narrative a sense of urgency, and one can’t imagine the film without it. Sekhar’s score is reminiscent of the works of popular Hollywood composers like Hans Zimmer and Johan Johansson. “Synthesizers are my weakness, and we have used it a lot in 9,” says the composer, who works on an advanced synthesizer called the ROLI Seaboard, which is also a favourite of AR Rahman.
9, directed by Jenuse Mohammed, is Sekhar’s first full-fledged work as a composer. He wrote the background score, while Shaan Rahman composed the songs. The actor-musician had previously contributed individual tracks in the films, Mayaanadhi and Parava, in collaboration with composer Rex Vijayan.
Incidentally, it was through Mayaanadhi-director Aashiq Abu’s Da Thadiya that Sekhar made his acting debut. He has also appeared in Aashiq’s Gangster, Ranjith’s Kadal Kadannoru Mathukutty, Jis Joy’s Bicycle Thieves, and Jenuse’s directorial debut, 100 Days of Love.
On his decision to work on 9, Sekhar says, “When I heard the script, I asked Jenuse what kind of music he was looking for because it wasn’t a normal script. It certainly required something different and unique. At that point, Jenuse hadn’t even decided on the composer. So I asked him if I could try something, and he gave me the go-ahead. He liked a few tracks I’d written, and asked me to write the score. I came up with four to five tracks before the shoot, and those helped them plan the shots accordingly. Obviously, I had to make minor changes to the music after filming and during post-production.”
Since Sekhar and Jenuse are beginners in the industry, the two made sure that the work they produced was of the highest quality. “Jenuse was very particular about not just the music but also the other technical departments. 9 has a subject that demanded a high level of technical support. Of course, some people didn’t understand the story, but then everyone has their way of comprehending and interpreting a film. I’m happy that a film I worked on is currently being talked about on social media,” the composer says.
Calling himself “a work in progress,” he says he works best when he gets to write the music before the footage is shot. “It enhances the whole process. And we can only write music for whatever is in the script. The music should serve the film and not the other way around. And the fact that Jenuse was open-minded about my method worked to our advantage. Ultimately, it’s the film that should stand out, not my music alone. And I prefer listening to the director’s vision because ultimately it’s he who makes the film. If the director is also the writer of the film (like Jenuse), then it would be most ideal.”
When asked about his future projects, Sekhar tells us he is in the middle of forming a band called Basic Organics. “We hope to explore different musical genres. Currently, we are in the initial stages. I would be able to talk more about it once I start becoming more active with it. Funk and jazz will be the predominant genres. I find myself gravitating more towards jazz lately. I’ve been working on it for the past five or six years.”