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Darbuka Siva: I have collaborated with Vincent Van Gogh for this film- Cinema express

Darbuka Siva: I have collaborated with Vincent Van Gogh for this film

The musician, who is making his writer-director debut with Mudhal Nee Mudivum Nee, speaks about how the project came to be, and his collaboration with artists like Thamarai, and Kabeer Vasuki

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Published: 19th January 2022
Darbuka Siva

In the melodious ‘Maruvaarthai’ (by Darbuka Siva) from Gautham Menon's Enai Noki Paayum Thota, lyricist Thamarai paints time as a tormenter (‘Manikkaattum gedigaaram tharum vaadhai arindhom’). It’s a torment Darbuka Siva can quite relate to, given that Rocky (in which he worked as a composer) and Mudhal Nee Mudivum Nee, his directorial debut, got delayed due to different reasons. But through adversities we learn, says Siva. “My takeaway from doing anything lies in the process. I get my kick out of conceiving something and materialising it. If my work resonates with the audience, that’s a welcome bonus," says Siva.

With everything going on in an increasingly uncertain world, Siva is just grateful that the film is finally getting its release due to Zee5. "They didn’t ask me about stars. They just loved the content and chose it." Every actor in Mudhal Nee Mudivum Nee's rather extended cast is a newcomer. "I wanted the audience to look at people with a fresh perspective, without any judgment or baggage," he says.

Mudhal Nee Mudivum Nee is conceived as a coming-of-age drama that tells the story of a group of individuals and their struggles over a course of time. "There is romance, but this isn't central to the story. Every character comes with baggage and the film speaks about all of them," he says. "You will either find yourself in the film or recognise and empathise with these characters," he adds. The film is set in 90s North Madras and Siva believes that this film will showcase a different side to North Madras. "Cinema has portrayed North Madras in a certain way, but this film does it differently."

Darbuka Siva from the sets of the film

Perhaps it’s because of his experience as a composer that Siva doesn't quite come through as a debutant director; he seems comfortable in the distinction between his roles as a composer and director. "As a writer, I picture the story, and add details randomly whenever they pop up. I then think about where I can bring in songs." Siva doesn't like the phrase, 'song placement'. "Certain emotions don’t land well as dialogues. I opt for a song sometimes to flesh out the worlds within characters."

Working with directors like Gautham Menon and Arun Matheswaran has shaped him as a musician for cinema. "Directors, unlike composers, connect emotions, sounds, images, and the interplay between these to tell a story. I look to understand filmmakers, to understand their language," he says. Understanding the world of the recent release, Rocky, was not smooth, he remembers. "Arun and I bounced off ideas and eventually got an understanding of this world. There's aggressive chaos in the world and I wanted to bring out that raw energy." Arun, too, sought something “discomforting”. “He didn't want music that was beautifully mixed, like with Enai Noki Paayum Thota. I had to explore sonic scapes for Rocky. The process took around a year and Rocky was a testing ground for me," says the musician, whose experimental work has come in for praise. “Rocky isn't conventional in any way. For example, there's a pivotal showdown scene in the end that involves an 'eagle', and any other film might have had speakers blasting the roof off the theatres. We approached it differently. We didn't follow the rulebook throughout the film and that is what we did here as well," explains Siva.

Fascinatingly, Siva doesn’t credit such experiences for shaping him as a filmmaker. “My evolution as a filmmaker comes from a different zone. Just like with music, I’m self-taught here too." The films he watched, and the influences of different art forms have helped him arrive at his filmmaking choices. “While I channelise all these influences into my work, I was also careful to hold on to my identity. I don't want to be a version of someone else.” One such 'influence' is evident in the lyric video of the title track of the film. The lyrics of the song appear over an animation of Vincent Van Gogh's popular impressionist paintings, Starry Night Over the Rhône (1888) and The Starry Night (1889). Painting too has had a big influence on him. "I try to embrace all such influences. I love Van Gogh and I thought this was my way of collaborating with him," he says.

Darbuka Siva from the sets of the film

The title track also sees him collaborating once again with Thamarai, after his work in Enai Noki Paayum Thota. Even the title of the film, Mudhal Nee Mudivum Nee, is a phrase from the song, ‘Maruvaarthai’—Siva believes that it sums up the underlying purpose of the film. “I love Thamarai's poetry, and I thought this line worked perfectly to summarise this film," he says and calls working with Thamarai a “dream collaboration”. "We want collaborators who can step in and invest emotionally in your piece as you do. When Thamarai decides to write a song, she takes in the pain, invests emotionally, and tries to see the world through my eyes." Siva is in awe about how the lyricist strives to convey a story with every line she adds to a song. "She doesn't just fill the lines. Even if you look at the titular track as an indie song, it conveys a story on its own."

Siva credits all technicians for how Mudhal Nee Mudivum Nee has come to be. For this film, he collaborated with, among others, cinematographer Sujith Sarang and editor Sreejith Sarang. "These films are driven by people who strongly believe in it. Everybody who came onboard shared this belief," he says. He also credits lyricist-singer Kaber Vasuki for his work. Though both artists go back to their stints as indie musicians, they had not worked together before Rocky, for which Kaber wrote the much-praised poem, ‘Kaalam oru dhrogi’. "Arun wanted to create something that reflects the randomness and elasticity of time. So, it has a recurring motion to it." The title of Darbuka Siva’s film, Mudhal Nee Mudivum Nee, too suggests something rather cyclical. “Once you watch the film, you will understand our title better.”

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