Through his musical score, Ramesh Vinayakam attempts to convey the mood and flavour of the bilingual period film, ‘Ramanujan.’
The bio-pic of ‘Ramanujan,’ the mathematical genius of the 20th century, has been canned by award winning director Gnana Rajasekaran. It is a bilingual in English and Tamil. The finishing touches to the soon-to-be-released film are going on at a feverish pace. Composer Ramesh Vinayakam (RV), who is well versed in Western and Carnatic music (his innovation for raga singing, The Gamaka Box, was featured in this column recently), has taken care of the music, which is a vital feature of the film, which with its cross-continental touch, needed special treatment in the background score. RV has not only recorded pieces with some of the top musicians of the industry in Chennai, but also recorded pieces in Germany with the full support of his production house.
Sitting in his modest Kotturpuram studio, RV talked about his experience in scoring music for ‘Ramanujan.’ Excerpts:
How many songs are there in the film?
Three, and they blend in naturally.
Are they based on Carnatic ragas or in the current filmmusic style?
The film is set in the period between late 19th and early 20th century. To be sincere to the script, I’ve attempted to create an ambience of that period, although we really do not know what Indian music was like at that time. Also, there is a bit of fusion too.
Why did you choose Germany for the recording? Is it only for the background score or for integrating the orchestral music for a song?
Initially I thought of UK, but then Christmas and New Year intervened. Therefore, I chose Germany. You see, Eurasian culture is the same everywhere. And, yes, it is for both background score and song. This biopic is not only set in a period 100 years ago, but also spans two continents and cultures. It is a huge challenge to deal with. The mathematician and genius, Ramanujan, spent the most important part of his life in London. The film moves back and forth from the conservative South India to the modern U.K. It also has the principal character of Professor Hardy and deals with his emotions too, apart from Ramanujan’s. That is why, to give it the European touch, it was decided to record the music there. While I would have loved to record English musicians themselves for my music, it just so happened that I found a German orchestra that has a profile of playing cross-cultural global music, apart from classical music. We kind of hit it off!
What is the name of the orchestra?
GermanPops Orchestra. They have worked with Sir Paul McCartney, Deep Purple and other famous names. They are the leading ensemble for classical cross-over projects such as symphonic rock concerts, film music and studio productions. CDs with the GermanPops Orchestra were honoured with Grammy nominations, one turned platinum and several gold.
Did you get any inputs from the members to improve or embellish your musical score?
In the West, the composer is the supreme and the conductor comes next. Their approach is different, in the sense that the notation for the music - or score – should be complete, which means that whatever is expected from the musicians and the orchestra is written to the last detail. The system of musical communication has evolved alongside the musical evolution. This makes the composer prepare the score, so that the music sounds exactly as he wants. The musicians are trained to play music on sight! They are so good that they can even perform difficult pieces immediately at the required pace, with expression, dynamics and articulation. Unless there is a technical impossibility, they will not interfere. The composer also will not let them do so. It is sacrosanct. They can give their opinion or express themselves if they like the music. The pianist was very happy about the music and as a pianist myself, I too felt happy. So was the Recordist Johannes, who is also a musician. He told me that my music sounded like Phillip Glass’s!
How long were you in Germany?
For almost a week. I landed at Frankfurt alone and moved to the well respected Bauer Studios at Ludwigsburg.
What is the film director’s reaction?
I suppose he should tell you that himself. He is very happy that I gave the film a colour of my own. I was also very happy working with him.
Who are the singers, and did they meet your expectations?
From getting the legendary Vani Jairam to sing a song to introducing Kaushiki Chakraborty to the South, I have done my bit here. Unnikrishnan has rendered one song. They have all done wonderfully well.
What do you feel about the music in the English version?
As far as the music is concerned, there cannot be much of a difference, as it deals with the same characters and their emotions. This is about a mathematician, but after all, he is also human, isn’t he? The film is about human emotions, struggles, disappointments and triumph.
You mentioned Naalayiram and Azhwar’s apt Pasuram in the theme of the story.
Yes, it is incredible that an Azhwar has written the lyrics apt for ‘Ramanujan,’ the film made in 2014, singing the praise of the Lord through numbers! And that is what finds a place in the film.