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Hitting a new note

NIKHIL RAGHAVAN
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CHAT Guitarist Prasanna about his entry into Tamil films as a music director with “Vazhakku Enn 18/9”

MINIMALIST MUSICPrasannaPhoto: Gerard Richter
MINIMALIST MUSICPrasannaPhoto: Gerard Richter

It is a lot of musicians' dream to score music for a feature film. Not just because it gives a different perspective to one's creativity and a brand new audience, but also because it is challenging. The challenge lies in the creation of scores that must convey the mood and feel of the scenes as conceived by the director.

So, when director Balaji Sakthivel signed guitarist Prasanna to compose music for his “Vazhakku Enn 18/9”, he must have been sure of what he'd get.

As for Prasanna, it's his first Tamil film. “I have done music for Chetan Shah's ‘Frames' and the internationally acclaimed ‘Smile Pinky'. It is not the first time I have been involved with Tamil film music; I have played in Ilaiyaraaja's orchestra as well as with A.R. Rahman, Harris Jayaraj, and Yuvan Shankar Raja amongst others,” says Prasanna, who was introduced to Balaji Shaktivel by director Shankar.

“I was to compose music for Balaji's earlier film ‘Kalloori', but I couldn't set aside dates because of my concerts abroad. When Balaji approached me for ‘Vazhakku…', he had already completed the film. I was on my way to Boston, where I live, when Balaji called me and asked me to watch the film. Just before I left Chennai, I managed to watch most part of the film, found it astounding and immediately said yes to the project. He said I was to have an open mind and decide if any songs were required for the film at all, in addition to the background music,” says Prasanna.

Complementing the dialogues

Later, Balaji, lyricist Na. Muthukumar and Prasanna found that there was hardly any place for a song to be fit in. “Based on the story line, I composed a song and sent it to him. He called me later and said he just couldn't get the tune out of his mind and that he would somehow fit it into the story. When you watch the movie, you will hardly notice it, but it will still register in your mind,” reveals Prasanna.

‘Oru Kural Kaetkuthu Pennae' was recorded with a band of musicians playing acoustic drums, piano, cuatro, guitar, bass and voice. For the background score, Prasanna has used kanjira, tabla, flute, ghatam, congas, didgeridoo, voices and keyboards. Prasanna's approach to the background score of ‘Vazhakku…' was to have very minimal music. The story line demanded that the dialogues be the focus, without being marred by music.

“During my travels abroad, I composed bits of music for some of the sequences and sent it to Balaji. He fit them in the appropriate places, and realised more was needed to string them along for continuity. Finally, we had a whole lot of background music, and it really enhanced the visual impact,” says Prasanna.

Sounds without borders

Prasanna's involvement as the president of the Swarnabhoomi Academy of Music (SAM) too came in handy. SAM had a lot of foreign faculty members, most of whom were leading independent musicians. Many of them played live music in the song as well as in the background score of ‘Vazhakku…' while the students of SAM formed the choir for vocals.

“This lent a fresh approach to music and the outcome is a sound that is unique. For me, a film is a film, and the music is supposed to enhance the viewing pleasure. I'm used to this type of scoring, in documentaries I scored music for. When it comes to scoring music for a feature film, my approach is simple — I don't look for five or six songs to make my presence felt; I believe in providing quality music to the extent required to enhance the director's vision and his creativity,” says Prasanna.

NIKHIL RAGHAVAN

I believe in providing quality music to the extent required to enhance the director's vision and his creativity

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