Ku Karthik: There's nothing wrong with filling up lyrics with saleable lines
Lyricist Ku Karthik opens up about the experience of penning the viral hit 'Jolly O Gymkhana' from Vijay's Beast and more
Over the last day, social media platforms have exploded with posts, reels, screengrabs and video clips of 'Jolly O Gymkhana', the second single from Vijay-Nelson's upcoming film, Beast. The video, which has already garnered more than 14 million views, has landed its lyricist Ku Karthik in the spotlight. The busy lyricist pauses his writing work to speak to us about the success of his latest single. "It's a coincidence that Vijay sir's 30th song as a singer comes in my 50th film," says Karthik, a self-confessed Vijay fan.
Though the lyricist might have hit fame in 2016 after writing 'Daavuya' (from Remo) and 'Guleba' (Gulaebaghavali), he has been trying to make a mark in the industry since 2005. "I have studied music and made my debut with Kavithavum Kannadasanum Kadhalika Poranga and then worked in director Vincent Selva's Virumandikum Sivanandikum. But 'Daavuya' brought me to the mainstream audience, thanks to Anirudh sir," says Karthik, who went on to work for films like Dora and Hara Hara Mahadevaki. Interestingly, his hit song, 'Guleba', composed by Anirudh's erstwhile collaborators Vivek–Mervin, featured the lines 'Jolly O Gymkhana'. "I worked often with Anirudh sir who has even sung my songs in other composers' songs like 'I Want a Girl' from Dhanusu Raasi Neyargale. I am glad that my 50th film is with him and my favourite actor, Vijay sir."
Only when Karthik went to Anirudh's studio for penning the lines for 'Jolly O Gymkhana' did he come to know that Vijay might be singing the song. "We know the reach Vijay sir's songs have and it gets even better when he sings in his voice. We were keen on doing a fun song with elements of what's trending currently. Unlike people who heard songs on TVs and radios, today's generation watches them on the internet and we were keen on catering to that crowd," says Karthik. "We wanted any messages to be communicated in a fun manner. We stuck to simple words and decided that 'Jolly O Gymkhana' as the hook-word would sound good with similar-sounding words like 'raasamma' and 'ramamma'. Vijay sir's films are pan-Indian and his films are watched even by those who don't speak our language. We thought 'Jolly O Gymkhana' would intrigue them." The response, unsurprisingly, has been overwhelming. "Vijay sir fans have been bombarding my phone with messages. Ani sir's team informed me that Vijay sir apparently said he had wanted to sing such a track for a long time now. They have promised that I will get the chance to meet him. I'm waiting for that moment," says Karthik.
The lyricist explains that director Nelson simply wanted an enjoyable track. "He and Ani sir like to maintain a jolly vibe around them. That mood is contagious and that's what has reflected in the song. I finished the song in 30 minutes." A Vijay track with messages is usually reserved for intro songs but the lyrical video that was released suggests a post-credit one, something akin to the song in Doctor. "I don't really know about the song placement. I'll be forever grateful that I'm a part of a Vijay song. I have celebrated his films in theatres and little did I know that I would one day be writing his 30th song. As a Vijay sir fan, I can't wait for Beast to be unleashed," says Karthik. "Already the first song ('Arabic Kuthu', written by Sivakarthikeyan) has gone viral and even though when I was roped in, the first song wasn't released, we knew it was going to be a raging hit. But, I was also sure that if Ani sir has approved my song, it would be up to a certain standard. I also thought about the song from a fan's perspective. There weren't any dos and don'ts, and I was given complete freedom."
When asked how different it is to write a peppy song like 'Guleba' compared to one with messages, like 'Jolly O Gymkhana', Karthik says, "For 'Guleba', I was writing about a thief singing after a successful heist. Hence, I wrote, 'Cycle gap-la rocket-a thookura hide and seek-u aalu ma'. I was able to establish the character in that song but with 'Jolly O Gymkhana', I wanted it to be relatable. That's why we went with a line like 'Manasil onnu nenacha, adha nadathanum nanba'."
As the conversation veers away from the Beast single, Karthik is pleased with how technicians are getting their due credit nowadays. "I grew up watching films just for the hero and without even knowing the rest of the cast. But today, people are noticing technicians like sound designers and editors. It's a healthy trend, and also adds more responsibility," says Karthik, who believes in ensuring that the investment of producers is taken into consideration when doing work. "Vaali sir did a great job of balancing this. Some might criticise the lyrics we use these days but this has always been the case in the industry. We grew up hearing songs like 'Vaa vaathiyaare oottanda, nee varaangaatti naan uda maatten'. If a song helps in promoting a film, There's nothing wrong with filling up lyrics with saleable lines."
The lyricist, who has penned more than 120 songs, is also famous for his independent singles like 'Orasaadha' and 'Asku Maaro'. "There used to be a time when films had 15-20 songs and then this came down to five to six. Nowadays, there are even films without songs with the usage of montage songs having increased. It all comes down to what the story demands and people are welcoming that idea. So, independent music is the way to go and the reception it is getting is tremendous. The ones made in foreign countries cost the budget of a film made here. But as long as the people of our land love music, it will be a major aspect of films and I hope it remains so," concludes Karthik.