Music composer Prashant Pillai has got Lucky Ali singing in Malayalam in the film Amen. He talks about the eight songs in the movie that is likely to release on March 22

Music composer Prashant Pillai, known for his groovy experiments in Nayakan and City of God in Malayalam, both directed by Lijo Jose Pelliserry, and Shaitan in Hindi, directed by Bejoy Nambiar, had a stratospheric start to 2013 when the songs he composed for the Hindi-Tamil bilingual David, also directed by Bejoy, went viral.

Now, the young Pune-based, Malayali composer is all set to keep the groove alive and rocking with his latest soundtrack, Amen. Directed by Lijo, Amen is a comedy set in the backdrop of a village church that stars Indrajith, Fahadh Faasil, Swati Reddy and Natasha Sahgal in the lead. The audio release of the movie is only on March 17, but the teaser trailers of the songs have already caught the attention of music lovers, especially the heavy-duty ‘Vattolly…’, with which veteran singer-composer Lucky Ali makes his debut in Malayalam.

Prashant talks to MetroPlus about Amen and what makes his soundtracks different. Excerpts…

Amen to that

Amen has a very interesting and rustic storyline with loads of comedy and subtle romance and an array of intriguing characters. It’s a storyline that I have seen evolve over the years ever since Lijo described it during the making of Nayakan (2010). Right from then on I’ve wanted to be a part of it.

However, getting the songs right was no easy task because the movie itself is very minimalistic, Utopian even. There is really nothing loud and flashy. Even the colour palette is predominantly white and pastels set against an abundance of rustic blue and green.

So we needed rather utilitarian music sans any unnecessary sounds that blended with the theme and style of the movie. I’ve thus given a touch of romantic French melodies to Amen – songs that are full of soul, melodies that you would suddenly come across on the streets of Paris.

There are eight songs in Amen, including two soulful romantic numbers – one pictured on Fahadh and Swati and the other on Indran and Natasha, both very subtle but completely different. The lyrics for all the songs – except for ‘Soloman and Sossana’ – were written by Kavalam Narayana Panicker. The lyrics are simply mind-blowing. It was such a fantastic experience working with Kavalam sir, who came up with apt words for each and every beat.

Cut to Lucky Ali

Lucky had sung ‘Ya Husain’, a gloriously heavy Islamic chant for David. At that time I had shown him the scratch version of ‘Vattolly…’ He loved it and was very excited about singing it. It’s not a regular track per se, but a heavy duty vocal ensemble sung solo. Then I told him it was in Malayalam and for a moment he was gobsmacked!

He then asked me to sing the first two lines. He repeated the lines near perfectly. I knew then that we had a winner on our hands. Of course, when the actually recording happened in Pune, he did have a few issues with his diction and pronunciation. We got a vocal coach on board for it. The recording of the two-and-a-half minute song took three days but in Lucky’s voice it became very bluesy, very joyous.

In fact, Lucky’s so into the song now that if someone from Amen’s crew calls him up he answers the call ‘Vattolly speaking!’ (Bursts into laughter).

Three times lucky

This is the third time that I’m working with Lijo and now working with him is like part of my attire. We click big time. There’s nothing great or new about it but it’s very challenging. Lijo makes it very challenging. We are the best of friends outside the profession but that doesn’t mean he’s easygoing on me. I always have my work cut out with him. It’s the same with Bejoy. I can only work with people who are on the same wavelength – intellectually and creatively. That’s why it works with Lijo, Bejoy, Siddharth Bharatan (Nidra)... And that’s also why I’m unhappy about Nee Ko Nja Chaa.

Being experimental

When I make music I am very intuitive. I don’t think about the characters or the scene – I just do it. If the director doesn’t like a song, I don’t edit it or chop it. Instead, I’ll give him another song. This very weird way of working, I think, helps me be quite experimental.

In the works

I’ve got Kuku Mathur Ki Jhand Ho Gayi, which is Bejoy’s co-production with Balaji. I’ve also got the remake of Tamil flick Pizza in Hindi. Then I’m doing Lijo’s Disco.

(Amen is likely to release in theatres on March 22)