Ghibran: It's time film songs took the back seat
The music director, whose latest single Neeye Charanam has been viewed close to a million times on YouTube, talks about the rise of Indie music
Composer Ghibran, famous for his work on feature films, returns to the indie space with Neeye Charanam, a single voiced by himself from his All About Love collection (the first track, Azhagu, was released a year ago). “I've always wanted to work on a song about puppy love. I waited for a script like Thulluvadho Ilamai, but since I didn't get one, I thought I should do it as a single.”
Here’s Ghibran over a video call from his studio:
Tell us about your All About Love collection of singles?
The concept is based on the different forms of love around us. We have used the word 'charanam' to denote god. That word seems to convey to me the idea of 'you're everything to me'.
When it comes to the creation of these songs, it's completely different from how I approach film songs. For a film, a director explains the situation and we give them a few tunes for selection, after which the lyrics are written, and a singer is chosen. Here, I completed the song's music keeping the idea of Neeye Charanam as the base. I then sat down with a lyricist to complete the lyrics. Finally, a director got on board about the visuals and a script written. There was a lot to learn and we all felt a sense of satisfaction upon seeing the final product. We wanted to finish the shoot of Neeye Charanam by February this year, but then, the pandemic happened. But now that normalcy is resuming, we hope to get at least one track out every two months.
You teamed up with Kamal Haasan for a track called Arivum Anbum during the lockdown. What else kept you busy during the lockdown?
When the virus broke out in China, I knew it would get here and I wanted to be prepared at least till September. Whatever timeline I had planned for, is pretty much how things transpired. I enrolled in many courses and studied a lot. I did a spiritual series and Positive Stories (on his YouTube channel). I am also working on a start-up idea. It was quite a productive time and the future will tell if I did a good job based on the output.
You have been speaking about the need for a parallel music movement for years. Have things improved?
The scene is better now than it was. I am still waiting for a boom and when that happens, indie will take over. I think we are quite close, and to accelerate the movement, we have to come up with more singles. It's time film songs took the back seat.
After working on films like Vishwaroopam 2 and Raatchasan, you spoke about the desire to work on lighthearted films, and then you did films like Sixer and . But now you seem to be back to serious films again, like Ka Pae Ranasingam.
Yeah (laughs). The offers I get are for heavy content-driven films that I just cannot get myself to refuse. I work on debutants’ films, like Ka Pae Ranasingam and the upcoming Maara. It’s a risky game, of course. There have been films I believed a lot in, that did not work out later at all. But I believe directors and their passion. I don't do a film that doesn't excite me. If I do get a fun film in between, I'll happily do it.
Speaking about Maara, it’s a remake for you after Papanasam.
For Papanasam, Jeethu Joseph shared his perspectives, which provided me with references for the songs. When I gave him a song like Yeya En Kottikara, he got excited. For the background score, he gave me a free hand. For Maara, we took no such references from the original (the Malayalam film, Charlie). Only when people mention that it's a remake does it even occur to us. The song placements will be different here when compared with the original film.
You made your Malayalam debut recently and worked on a pan-Indian film like Saaho. Does music differ from one language to another?
There are a few adjustments one must make. For Athiran, I had to tone down because the director said that it was a bit too much for the Malayalam audience (laughs). It took me a while to get used to it—quite akin to making coffee for people with different strength preferences. For Saaho though, it was the opposite. No matter how much I did, the music felt light. During your travel with a film, you realise what kind of film it is, and that goes on to define the music you do.
To understand the sensibilities of an audience, I remember to constantly mingle with people. I travel by bus; I visit tea shops. The further I am from my comfort zone, the more I understand about people. All the use of face masks means that it’s easier for people like me to integrate into the masses. Listening to a playlist on a public bus gives you a great idea of what people like. Such experiences help me make better, more relevant music.