Ghibran: Thalapathy made me fall in love with background music
The composer, in between composing for Saaho, talks to us about his travel so far in cinema, his love for background scores, and a shift in his priorities
Twenty-fifth films are considered milestones, and artists typically ensure that such a project is usually associated with the biggest names. Ghibran, whose Kadaram Kondan is hitting the screens this Friday, says he didn't even realise this was a landmark project for him. "The project just happened. One day, director Rajesh M Selva and I were randomly counting my films in Wikipedia, and that's when it hit me that Kadaram Kondan was a milestone film for me." The composer, in between composing for Saaho, talks to us about his travel so far in cinema, his love for background scores, and a shift in his priorities...
Excerpts from the conversation:
How do you evaluate your 25-film-old journey in cinema?
It has been an exciting journey with lots of ups and downs, and it has changed me a lot. I am not the same Vaagai Sooda Vaa Ghibran now. Avan enga irukaanne therla ippo. (laughs) Till I signed my first film, I didn't know what a hit was. I was a rank outsider to cinema. But now, 25 films later, I can confidently say I have mastered how things work. I believe I have evolved as a person. The way I see everything, has changed.
You're a self-proclaimed Vikram fan. How did that influence Kadaram Kondan's music?
Kadaram Kondan is a clever commercial film that also brings out the performer in Vikram sir. He hardly has one page of dialogue in the film; so my music had to speak for him and replace the effect of a punch dialogue. As a fan, it was super-exciting for me to be the voice of my favourite hero.
The trailer of Kadaram Kondan felt similar to Thoongavanam. Can we call Kadaram Kondan a spiritual successor?
Thoongavanam was a completely action-driven film, with intense characters. But in Kadaram Kondam, all the characters are driven by emotion--oru eeram irukum ellarkulaiyum. As for music, there may be stylistic similarities like the usage of EDM, but as an original soundtrack, Kadaram Kondan will stand out.
Background music has always been your forte. When did this love for BGMs begin?
I have been in love with BGMs from childhood. I feel Thalapathy caused it all. I saw Rajini sir's intro fight scene in the film with the audio muted as we had visitors at our home. The visuals sans music could hardly create the impact of the original version. That was when I realised that background score can either elevate a scene or kill it. This thought motivated me to learn orchestral scores later and I also got an opportunity to work with Hans Zimmer in 2005, but due to various reasons, I wasn't able to.
What do you look for in a project?
I need to know the story before signing a script, and more than that, the director's wavelength should match with mine. That has become my priority. Each film eats up about six months, and I want this period to be a pleasant one. Arranged marriage la ponnu paakara madhri dhaan. I'll figure out whether I can work a filmmaker or not based on a brief conversation. (laughs)
In Sixer, the lead suffers from night blindness, and in Dhanusu Raasi Neyargale, the lead is extremely reliant on astrology. You seem determined to work on quirky projects this year?
You can say I'm determined to do more commercial films this year. As a viewer, if I get to choose between an award-winning film or a commercial entertainer, I would watch the latter without a second thought, but somehow, all the offers I have got are serious ones. Onnu kuzhanda kuzhi ulla vilundhdum illa adha kadathitu poiduvanga... (laughs) I guess people get scared upon seeing my body of work. Only now have they started to trust that I can do good work on commercial films.
You are scoring the background music for Saaho, a multi-lingual commercial entertainer. How is the pressure to compose music for the pan-Indian audience?
We have started to consume so much content; our ears have become international. The reason why we get irked by bad CG is because we are so used to watching films like Avengers. Even though a film has a series of orchestral tones, you hum the bgm only when it is catchy. Saaho has a lot of such tunes and yes, it will be loved across India.
What's your take on the extreme hype surrounding Saaho?
The entertainment industry has evolved so much now that we can get entertained without paying anything through platforms like YouTube. But still, people pay money to watch a film in theatres, for a cinematic experience. I can guarantee that Saaho will give you that. Kudukkara 150 rubaaiku semaya entertain panni dhaan anuppuvom.
How do you prepare to work on films belonging to such different genres?
When I started composing for films, I wasn't organised. I would work at night till 3 AM and assumed that I was creative only during those hours. I thought we composers are cursed that way, but after a few years, I started to begin my day at 5:30 AM and ended at 10:30 PM. This habit gave me longer days. I allot the first three hours of the day to prayer, meditation and healthcare routines. My entire day depends on these hours as they set the mood for the rest of the day. Thankfully, I am not working on any emotionally draining films right now. They take you through an entirely different mental trip. Generally, it doesn't take me long to shift from one genre to another.
While some composers have patterns, all your works have been different. How do you maintain this unpredictability?
It's simple. Music is just like vocabulary. The more you learn, the more you feel confident to experiment. Before coming to cinema, I had worked on over 1,000 ad films and numerous devotion songs across religions. I have even composed propaganda songs for all the four major parties. Yaar jeichalum, en paatu dhaan jeichadhu nu solluven. (laughs) Knowledge comes with exposure. As I have seen a lot in life, it is easy for me to come up with new forms of music.
At a time when celebrities, including composers, have both die-hard fans and detractors, how is it that you don't seem to have any loud critics?
(Laughs) I have never felt happy that I have no haters. If I did that, then I would have to start worrying the moment someone says they hate me. For instance, Sixer la ellam erangi kuthi irukkom. When people who love 'En Thaara' from Thirumanam Enum Nikkah listen to it, they might think I have gone crazy. But according to me, I've done justice to the film. That's the only thing that matters.