Cinema is drowning and taking down music alongside: Simon K King
The composer, whose upcoming film, Market Raja MBBS, is expected to hit the screens this Friday, talks about present scenario in Tamil film music, his musical philosophy, and more
Gone are the days when our films followed the six-eight-song template. Even CDs, which replaced the Side A-Side B cassettes are now almost obsolete. Composer Simon K King, who‘s worked in radio since the turn of the new millennium, has seen these developments from close proximity. “The film industry is overfeeding the audience with music. There are almost three-four films releasing a week, and almost 15 songs for the audience to choose from. There is no space for a song to breathe in this present scenario,” says Simon, whose upcoming film, Market Raja MBBS, is set to hit screens on Friday. “In such a scenario, cinema itself seems to be drowning and seems to be taking music along with it. I really want the Pudhiya Mugam era to be back. The film might not have run well but is one of the best AR Rahman albums. We must go back to a time when music was treated as an independent entity. A song must have the space to outlive a film.”
Simon, who has worked on just a handful of films in his six-year-old career, believes the reception to his music can be categorised as disappointing, but he refuses to take it too seriously. “It might seem like the ‘Aal iz well’ ideology, but publishing is a sacred process. When I publish my music, it becomes a part of history. A song that I compose today might not work out now, but I do believe the time for that song will come, even if I’m not alive to see it. It might take 10 or 20 or even 50 years for someone to revisit my music. All I want for that person to see is that my content has a certain quality to it,” says Simon, who is quick to add that he also doesn’t believe in taking producers for granted. “I know there are certain compromises in cinema. Even within the same template, I want to experiment as much as possible.”
Does a masala entertainer like Market Raja MBBS give a composer the space to experiment? “It depends on the filmmaker. A director like Saran sir, who comes from the K Balachander school of filmmaking, has a clear and mature way of thinking. He sees the overall picture, and my collaboration was more of a partnership. It was exciting, especially when he was receptive to my ideas, even if they were in contrast to his own.”
One such idea was the quirky Dha Dha song in Market Raja MBBS, which is picturised on debutant Nafeez Arav, winner of the first season of Bigg Boss Tamil. “It was a song celebrating a gangster, and I didn’t want to use the typical kuthu or area gaana song. Coming from North Chennai, I didn’t want to feed the cliche. So I worked with my lyricist friend Rokesh (Danga Maari fame), and did something on the lines of Afroman’s Because I got High. It is gaana with a style of rap,” says Simon.
This is not the first time Simon has experimented with multiple genres for a song. Even in his first film, Ainthu Ainthu Ainthu, directed by Sasi and starring Bharath, there was Ezhavu, a hip-hop number infused with oppari (a folk song about lamenting death). In his next film, Sathya, he had a song called Sangu. In an industry where luck plays a major factor, it is surprising how Simon got away with these ideas.
“For Ezhavu, Sasi sir backed me. Many people advised me against using such words in my songs. Bad luck, they said, and incidentally, I actually didn’t have films for the next couple of years. In my very next opportunity in Sathya, I had a song titled Sangu,” he says. As luck would have it, Simon’s biggest success so far has been Yavvana from Sathya, a foot-tapping number that isn’t particularly ground-breaking. “I am happy people liked it, but I don’t like being tagged as the Yavvana composer. It is like people are telling me I haven't done anything worthwhile after that. I want to break that image.”
Is this why he has been choosing thrillers? His next film, Kabadadaari, a remake of the Kannada film, Kavaludaari, is again, a thriller. "Music can elevate a thriller, but it is important to treat each film differently," he says. "I prefer not watching the original film while working on a remake. I treat the film as a new project and deliver a sound design that will work best for that script.”
While it is clear that Simon is a composer who strives to be different, doesn’t he have dreams of being part of these big-ticket releases with major stars and filmmakers? “Of course, I do harbour such dreams, but I am a selfish artist. If I alter my music to suit a star or a producer, I might get my next opportunity, but I’d be compromising on my ethics and quality. Also, more than working for a personality, I want to work on good films with strong scripts such as Asuran or Pariyerum Perumal. Instead of being in the shadows of an already huge personality, I love the challenge of working with a new team and a fresh script. You also grow along with them. Isn’t that a more beautiful process?”
Here's the video interview: