Music can't be treated as a commodity: Jakes Bejoy
Ahead of the release of Ishq, the composer talks about his working process, collaboration with Sid Sriram, and the importance of sharing a good rapport with film technicians
Like the title song he composed for last year’s Ranam, Jakes Bejoy’s latest work, Parayuvaan, from Shane Nigam’s new film Ishq, is instantly addictive. The soulful, melodious romantic number sung by Sid Sriram carries the same magic as another successful Jakes Bejoy-Sid Sriram collaboration, Maate Vinadhuga from the Vijay Deverakonda film Taxiwala. Jakes is currently going through the busiest phase of his career, with over eight films coming up next, aside from Ishq.
How was Parayuvaan born? And why did you pick Sid?
I wanted to capture the vibe of the current youngsters aged under 25. My brother is around 22. They are not listening to the same kind of music that I used to listen to at that age. Plus, I also wanted it to capture the present energy of Kochi (where the film is set). And I brought in Sid because he is a versatile singer capable of delivering different moods. His voice carries the right blend of the east and west. He is trained in classical music and has also mastered genres like R&B and Soul. That’s why he connects instantly with the people. It’s a quality that’s required for all singers because if you look at the content in most of the films being made today, there is a western influence as well as a combination of east and west.
Sid is unfamiliar with Malayalam. How did you get him to sing the track so effortlessly?
Sid is very selective about what he sings. I first make him listen to a track, and, if he connects to it, he records it within a week. When he agreed to do this one, he wanted to do justice to the language. So I wrote the song in English and then sang it for him to give an idea of the correct pronunciation. I am very particular about diction. Sid is a very patient guy — he takes the effort to get it right. He did 80 takes and I picked the best of the lot.
How many tracks are there in Ishq?
There are a total of two songs and a background score. One song is by me and the other by a guest composer, Gowry Lekshmi.
Do you get more freedom to try out different stuff in a small-budget film as opposed to a big-budget one?
For me, it’s always about the content, regardless of the budget. It becomes easy to compose the music if the content is strong. And at present, Malayalam cinema has got that. I’m trying not to do projects that I can’t connect with. There are other ways to make money. I can’t see it as just a business. Music can’t be treated as a commodity. Once you hire me as the music director, I should be given the complete freedom to come up with the right material — the way I like it. One should think about hiring me only if there is a strong trust. If you don’t have that trust and have an idea of how the music should be, there is no point in imposing that on me. Or, it should be a give and take approach. Some directors have good music knowledge and yet, they respect your space. In cases like that, you don’t mind being a little accommodating.
How important it is for you to get along with a director? Who else from a film’s team do you need to share a good rapport with?
It’s like this: Once you give me an idea, then you should leave me alone (laughs). Otherwise, it can be a problem. I’ll get confused. It’s not the case with just the music director, but every other department. If the director is confused, then it turns into sleepless nights for us. Imagine doing something that you think is your best work and then the director is telling you it’s not what he wanted. It can be devastating. It’s very important that someone from the team is on the same page with me. It can be a director or an associate or anyone else. I’ve never signed any film where I don’t have a good rapport with at least one person from the team. If you get a director who is on the same page, then that’s the best thing.
Was the music in this film cut to the footage or the other way around?
They approached me after the footage was shot. It’s hardly been a month. Then I made a track, and then they edited the footage accordingly. As I had already seen the film, I had a clear idea of what they wanted. I easily connected to it. I don’t need a piece of reference music when the footage gives you everything you need to know. We generally say that if the music flows easily when you’re working, it means that the film must have been perfectly edited. Ishq is a perfect example. When there is a shift in the genre when we are doing the score, that means there is something wrong somewhere. I think it’s a much better approach to have the footage already in hand rather than create something from your imagination. I really liked the vibe of Ishq, and the energy being reflected by Shane at the moment.
Some sound designers say it’s hard to work with composers when they start demanding that their work be more prominent. Have you experienced this problem?
I always make sure that I work closely with sound designers. I consider music and sound design as one unit. When the sound design doesn’t gel well with the music, it becomes clumsy and... something else altogether. I need to know who my sound designer is and what he is doing. Problems usually occur when there is no involvement or proper communication from both sides. On all the films I work in, I make sure we have a competent sound designer. Though we still see in Malayalam cinema the attitude of doing something in a rush, I also see changes happening. Some people need to know that there are films that have become hits only because of the soundtrack and music.
What music are you listening to at the moment?
Capital Cities, Bob Moses, Mansion Air, Amit Trivedi, Alexandre Desplat, and Trent Reznor. I’m also fond of Jóhann Jóhannsson’s work, especially in the films Sicario and Prisoners.
Ishq comes out in theatres on Friday.