BAFTA Breakthrough talent Karthikeya Murthy: I turned composer because of AR Rahman sir
We talk to Karthikeya Murthy, the only musical talent to be selected for BAFTA’s Breakthrough India initiative
The British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) announced its debut Breakthrough Initiative for India, by selecting 10 promising talents in film, television and gaming last month. Interestingly, the initiative which has Mozart of Madras AR Rahman as its brand ambassador chose only one talent from the field of music: Karthikeya Murthy, who made heads turn with his tunes in Madhumita's KD (a) Karuppu Durai.
An excited Karthikeya confesses that he didn't think that he would make it when he applied. "It was director Madhumita and her husband who pushed me to apply for BAFTA Breakthrough. They trusted me more than myself and even supported me with making the showreel I had to submit as a part of the process."
Life has come full circle for Karthikeya in a way as AR Rahman was one of the judges to pick his band as the winners in the reality show, Ooh La La La, several years back. "He was extremely kind. He stood up for us when we weren't selected despite delivering a good performance. He probed into the issue, got it sorted, and finally chose us as the winners." Karthikeya reveals that he has a long connection with ARR, and says that the Oscar winner is why he became a composer in the first place. "When I was a kid, my father (the famous musician TK Jayaraman) used to take me to recordings, and show Rahman sir playing keyboard and say, ‘Dhileep (ARR's old name) epdi vaasikran paaru!' This was the seed to my musical journey." Karthikeya shares that the album of Jeans gave him the final push to pursue music as a career. "I was in 9th grade when Jeans was released. I was listening to 'Hai Rabba' song for the first time. When the line 'Anbae enai, nee neenginaal, oru kanam ennuyir thaangaadhu' came, I got goosebumps because of the composition. I kept asking myself how Rahman could conceive of that experience. I longed for the thrill and excitement of creating such music. It made me a professional musician."
One might assume that the journey might have been a bed of roses for Karthikeya, considering that his family ancestors have been famous musicians. But this wasn't the case. "It was actually the opposite," says Karthikeya, laughing. "Music isn't a financially viable career, and my family knows this well. Though my family has been into music for seven generations, they experienced the association as a scar almost, and the wounds got deeper over the years. So, I had to take up a day job to convince them. They started trusting me only after K Balachander sir gave me a chance to work on his show, Oru Koodai Paasam."
Karthikeya states that composing for films is a different ball game. "I struggled for years to reach the right people for opportunities. I was even chased away by many celebrities' security guards. I guess all musicians out there must have gone through this phase."
The composer, who is currently busy with the composition of many web series shows for top OTT platforms, is eagerly awaiting the call from BAFTA. "I will be travelling to the UK, Where I will be mentored and given global networking opportunities. The organisation is waiting for the severity of the pandemic to subside, so the programme can get started."
He explains that each of the selected talents will be getting a unique program that is in no way similar to others. "I have the choice to design my programme and mentors. It is designed according to the requirements and goals of the talents."
Karthikeya hopes to take the music of our land like 'Kurathi Kummi' and 'Santali' to the international audience if he gets a chance. India has a lot of unexplored folk music. These music forms got restricted geographically. I would also like to employ foreign music in Indian projects and create a cultural bridge. I am hopeful that this networking programme will mark the beginning of that journey."
He feels that the advancement in technology has reduced the incubation period for talents. "It is a huge blessing. It would have been great had this boom had happened a decade ago, since many of the struggles that musicians like me went through could have been avoided. But better late than never!” he says. “I am happy for the young talents who are today able to fill the internet with their music. In fact, they keep me on my toes." He adds that keeping oneself updated every day is highly essential now to stay relevant. "I see teenagers exploring new genres and uploading videos on Instagram every day. If a person fails to stay updated, they would get obsolete in no time. The competition is fierce. Indha competition ku edaila erangi six adikradhu dhan success."