Vivek-Mervin: Independent and film music shouldn't be compared with each other
The composer duo, who are back in the independent music space with the new single Pakkam Neeyum Illai, talk about balancing film music and indie music
The entertainment industry has gone through a massive transformation in the last decade. Film reels turned into digital drives, OTT releases became the new normal, and most importantly, entertainment is no longer restricted to films. Music too broke the shackles of cinema and independent music started gaining prominence. The Vivek-Mervin duo are among the mainstream film composers to embrace this transition and deliver chartbusters like Orasaadha and Gaandu Kannamma. With their new single Pakkam Neeyum Illai also getting the same kind of love, the elated composers promise that they will continue producing independent numbers despite their film commitments. "Indie music is our origin. We belong here. Coming back to this space gives us extra happiness. Even before our film debut Vadacurry came out, we decided to create at least one independent song annually without any restrictions," says Mervin.
Vivek believes the last decade marked the boom of independent music, and that it will soon take over from films. "Every film that came out in the 80s and 90s had six or seven songs. In fact, Indian cinema was built around such musicals. But now, a lot of films stick to only BGM and do away with songs. The change has clearly begun." He adds that the pandemic situation has accelerated this. "Many independent artists came out with their first singles during the lockdown. A good laptop, mic, and a room are all one needs to deliver a hit song. If Punjab can produce such high volumes of indie songs, so can we. The audience has begun to embrace it. They just have to remember that independent music must not be compared to film songs."
Vivek and Mervin's journey began long before they debuted in cinema. Their bond is still strong and they continue to be one of the most successful duos in the industry. Mervin attributes this to their differences. "We have different views and ways of approaching things, which we combine to give the best. And while there is a lot of creative discussion, there has never been an argument. As much as we know each others' strengths, we know our flaws too. I see this as our biggest plus." Expanding on their working process, he says, "Every day we meet at our studio and create a bank of music. Mostly, the mood we start our day with determines the genre of the songs we create. If we are angry over something, we create a high-octane Mavane; if we are in a quirky mindset, we make a Guleba. If it suits a particular script, we use it for a film or save it for our independent ventures."
Invariably, all their hit numbers have a hook that becomes a major attraction among the audience. Vivek says this isn't intentional. "I don't think there is any formula to create a hit song. The catchy music or lyrics organically flow into our work, we don't plan for it. We just stick to our instincts." Mervin adds that they treat every film with the same importance regardless of its star value. "Just like actors should fit into a script, music should also blend with it seamlessly. We hate to deviate from what a script demands just because it has a star. Everything must perfectly fuse together as one single product. However, experienced stars like Dhanush or Prabhudheva can add a lot of value in their own ways. Prabhu sir can precisely predict the reaction to a song in the theatre and Dhanush has a clear vision of the elements that are expected in a song."
While the duo has had multiple hit albums over the years, they are mainly considered to be urban composers. Asked if a folk album is in their wishlist, Vivek immediately replies 'yes'. "Rural music is actually next on our checklist. Sulthan will be our answer to that," he says, giving us a small glimpse into the music of the Karthi-starrer, which the team has otherwise been tight-lipped about. Mervin adds, "Sulthan is an ambitious and special project for all of us. We are being extra careful to not spoil the experience for the audience by sharing any details. But, I can assure you that it will be an unusual album and it will be a blast for the audience."