Santhosh Narayanan 25: From Attakathi to Pariyerum Perumal, retracing the composer's six-year journey
Ahead of the release of the composer's 25th film, Vada Chennai, here's the Cinema Express team with a look back at the composer's musical journey in Tamil cinema
With Vada Chennai's audio slated to release on September 23, we trace the journey of music composer Santhosh Narayanan whose 25th film will be the Vetrimaaran directorial.
A programmer for AR Rahman, Santosh played in a band called La Pongal. During this time he composed the music for a national award-winning short film called Advaitham. The short opened the doors to his first feature film debut.
A film based in North Chennai needed to root its music to the area. Santhosh's use of Gaana and Gaana Bala's chartbuster Aadi Pona Aavani ensured that this will be a memorable debut for the debutant music composer as well as for the film's director Pa Ranjith.
A sci-fi film, the album featured a solo track called Oru Murai sung by Pradeep Kumar. A music composer himself, Pradeep and Santhosh studied audio engineering together and he has played the guitar in all the songs that he has sung for Santhosh.
Santhosh ventured into the horror genre with yet another debutant, Karthik Subbaraj, with a certain Vijay Sethupathi playing his first role as a full-fledged hero. While his background score was lauded for its quirky usage of pop beats, the film also had a standout track in the form of Mogathirai, sung once again by Pradeep Kumar.
Nalan Kumarasamy's debut directorial was a black comedy and the film's theme, Sudden Delight, was many a youngster's mobile ringtone. With Kaasu Panam Dhuddu Money Money by the Gaana Bala-Anthony Daasan duo and the genre-blending beauties, Mama Drouser, Come na come and Kaasu Panam, becoming rages overnight, Santhosh proved he was the face of the new-age music directors.
While the soothing melody, Boomiyil, sung by Pradeep Kumar was a hit, this was otherwise an experimental album where Gaana Bala was part of a rock/rap mixed number and Santhosh's step-daughter Dhee sung for the first time in the disco number Disco Woman. The film used a native Dolby Atmos mix as against what was in use at that time -- that of converting already composed music to Atmos.
Considered by many to be Ilaiyaraaja-esque, the album of Cuckoo featured Sean Roldan's first singing credit, Manasula Soora Kathey. The film also featured Vaikom Vijayalakshmi, a visually-impaired singer, making her singing debut in a film that talked about love between two blind persons. The entire album was recorded with live instruments, and was completely acoustic in nature.
Santhosh's second collaboration with Karthik Subbaraj was a gangster film and Jigarthanda's jazzy BGM was praised so much that an OST featuring not just the complete soundtrack but also background score was released separately. Ding Dong, with its Vinu Chakravarthi inputs, was a fantastic intro song for the villain, Bobby Simha, while Pandi Naatu Kodi--again featuring the villain--written and sung by Anthony Daasan, was a chart-topper.
At its audio launch, Santhosh said that the background score of the film would be a highlight, and that Kakidha Kappal and Agayam Theepiditha would win the hearts of the listeners. And he was right. While the former was a jazzy gaana number sung by Gaana Bala, the latter was sung by, you guessed it, Pradeep Kumar. A third number, Naan Nee, written by new lyricist Umadevi and sung by Shaktishree was also a hallmark of the album.
With Enakkul Oruvan, Santhosh returned to the electronic roots of his programming days. The music director, who had made most of the background score for Lucia, was tasked to do the same for the remake, and he obliged with his usual Sydney orchestra and a percussion band called 4 Idiots. Manickavinayagam sang for the music director for the first time in this album as did Dhibu Ninan Thomas (the music director for Kanaa) and actor Siddharth (who sang Prabhalamagave). Lyricist Vivek also debuted with the film.
Irudhi Suttru was Santhosh Narayanan's trademark album, yet again proving the musician's expertise in juxtaposing sound elements. The tantalizing Ey Sandakaara sung by Dhee and the foot-tapping kuthu number, Vaa Machaney, were the picks of the album.
Kadhalum Kadanthu Pogum
Kadhalum Kadanthu Pogum established Santhosh Narayanan as someone who could make contrasting musical worlds coexist, case in point being the retro-styled Parava parandhuchu, the hilarious Bongu Kichchaan, and the delectably jazzy, Akkam Pakkam. The musician was on a roll.
Manithan's breezy album features the new-age melody, Aval, rendered beautifully by Pradeep, the paced-up Mun Sellada, which flaunts Anirudh’s sultry vocals and rousing rap vocals by ADK, and the wonderfully imaginative Kondattam track.
Featuring the mesmerising Dhushta number, an alternative-rock flavoured song fused with voodoo folk music, the langorous Onnu Rendu, the anguish-laden Othayilla and the rousing, yet quirky Manidhi, Santhosh's Iraivi album was truly one of a kind.
Santhosh Narayanan retained his signature cross-over style to produce a fantastic soundtrack for the Superstar, which was very different from Rajini's erstwhile albums. The scorching Neruppu Daa with rocking vocals by Arunraja Kamaraj, the intimate Mayanadhi featuring brilliant guitar strings by Keba Jeremiah, and the rhapsodic Veera Thurandra rendered in Bond theme song style by Gaana Bala were all standouts.
The predominantly rustic Kodi album boasted of the ear-pleasing Ei Suzhali, a retro-style folksy number fused with modern jazz keys, and the feisty Kodi Parakkudha, made appealing by Dhanush and Arunraja Kamaraj's powerful vocals.
This was a rare Santhosh Narayanan album in that it featured only four songs. Though none of the songs became chart-busters, the quirky Dhikku Dhikku Sir and Thakida Thakida gelled well with the narration.
Technically, Santhosh Narayanan's first full-fledged commercial album, it featured kuthu numbers like Pattaya Kelappu and Papa Papa. The theme song of the film, which went viral across social media platforms, was also featured in the Ajay Devgn-starrer Golmaal Again.
The spirited album--the first one for Rajinikanth to feature five rap songs--boasted of Semma Weightu, a heavy-on-electronic music track, and the electric Kattravai Pattravai which had Yogi B, Arunraja and Roshan breathing fire into the lyrics. The soundtrack also had tracks like Kannamma and Thanga Sela, which gave the audience a glimpse of the evergreen 80s Rajini.
Promoted as our very own Royapurathu La La Land, the romantic comedy marked the composer's first shared album. With two of the tracks composed by singer Pradeep Kumar, the film became a hit primarily because of its excellent songs. The address song (S Madhu), a funky subversion of the TASMAC song, the area gaana (Enga Veetu Kuthuvilakkey), which skilfully marries Villuppaattu with the raw energy of North Madras gaana, and the Thangachi song, an offbeat folk number made for irresistible earworms
One of the very few Santhosh films to be set in a rural setting, the composer has delivered one of his most diverse albums yet. Dabbling in different styles in each of the songs, Santhosh ticks all the boxes of unconventionality in this album. From an outlandish Karuppi to the hard-hitting Naan Yaar, the composer is clearly in his elements. While Santhosh returns to familiar ground with Potta kaatil Poovasam, he floats into a dreamy Vaa Rayil Vida Polaama. The rustic Engum Pugazh Thuvanga rounds off an album that Santhosh called one of his best-ever works, and rightly so.