Music composer Girishh Gopalakrishnan on his experiments for the film Vidiyum Munn

Like short filmmakers who have circumvented assisting an established director before going onto make full-length feature films, music composers, too, are tearing down the norms of the industry. Film music composer Girishh Gopalakrishnan, who shot to fame with ‘Vanakkam Vazhavaikkum Chennai’ in Pandiraj’s Marina, is a small part of this wider change. With the recently released album of his second feature film Vidiyum Munn directed by Balaji Kumar, he seems to have made a name for himself despite taking a non-traditional route to becoming a composer.

“I didn’t want to assist a music composer and work my way up,” he says. Instead, the young composer went to the U.K. to do a course in film composition. This sojourn, he says, turned out to be spiritual. “I had the opportunity to collaborate with musicians from other countries. The systematic feedback I received for my coursework was useful.”

After three fruitful years in the U.K. where he also had a stint with the National Youth orchestra, Girishh came back to Chennai. While he was doling out demo CDs, he was roped in by Pandiraj. “I guess I provided the sound he was looking for,” he says and adds, “But, I was in no hurry to sign more films; I’m not, even now. It has taken me more than a year-and-a-half to find a challenging script.”

Like-minded

The composer seems to have had a great working relationship with Balaji Kumar simply because they both have similar ways of thinking when it comes to creativity. “Though he didn’t seem to like my work in my previous film, we both shared similar tastes in music — the list of bands and genres that we both hate are probably more alike than the ones that we like.”

Scoring music for the film was challenging because, he says, he was working for a film that is tense and emotionally charged and with a filmmaker who knew what he wanted. “Though he was clear on what he wanted, I was given a lot of liberty. I have used a mix of orchestral and electronic musical influences in the score. The music oscillates between two emotions — extreme aggression and delicate innocence.”

Contrary to popular perception, Girishh feels such experimentation is possible only in the Indian film music scene. “One can try such interesting experiments in India unlike in the West, where a song has to sound a specific way conforming to the genre.”

The industry is slowly coming to terms with the fact that this level of insight into the craft of film music composition is necessary. “It helps to have a sort of systematic education.” As for the conventional approach, he says, “I don’t like the word ‘assistant’. Mentoring is the ideal way to go about learning any craft. The relationship between the mentor and the one who is mentored is more fruitful than when one merely assists.”