OFFBEAT Stories and music meld seamlessly in Paadhai's original soundtracks
F ollow Paadhai and they will lead you away from a sultry, hot afternoon into a world of neon lights, and thumping beats. Enter Sa studio, where the band is currently getting together its second musical novel, ‘Neon Nagaram', and the air of confidence and anticipation is almost palpable.
Like their latest musical novel, one conversation, leads you to their story. It's the story of Sivakumar and Shammeer Sultan, who turned their passion for music into poignant renditions about love, love lost and now, their latest album revolves around their love for original music. Paadhai's ‘Ranam Sugam', their first attempt at a musical novel, went viral on YouTube and they're back this time, talking about plagiarism in music.
“‘Neon Nagaram' is about music and love and how an RJ loses both but wins it back. We decided to call it that because the protagonist is an RJ who runs a late-night show by that name. The show plays original tracks and asks the audience to identify the desi plagiarised versions. This is just to make people aware that plagiarism exists in the music industry too and someday even if Paadhai is caught plagiarising, we need to be questioned,” explains Shammeer.
Paadhai began in late 2007 as weekend jamming sessions. Siva and Shammeer were friends from school who played the keyboard and shared a common passion for music. “It was a random decision to start a band,” says Shammeer, “We would sit and jam every weekend with a few friends. When things began to work out, the sessions became more frequent and we would juggle work and music, though there would be occasional frowns of disapproval at home.”
Inspired by Rahman
When they had to decide on a genre, they chose them all. “If you look at our music, you'll find a bit of all genres,” they say. With no professional training in music, this band draws inspiration from A. R .Rahman and Illayaraja. “When there are people like Rahman and Illayaraja sir, you don't need a school. In fact, we did the master of our album ‘Neon Nagaram' at Rahman's studio. Everything we do has something about him,” Siva explains.
When the concept of a musical novel came up, it was a herculean task to make the combination work. “The thing about music novels is that the story and the music have to connect. The most challenging aspect of doing a musical novel is that people should be able to co-relate both. I read a lot of books, and I started writing songs based on these. So we thought, ‘Why not write the story and do the music ourselves?' That is how ‘Ranam Sugam' was conceptualised as a musical novel, and after it received an overwhelming response we decided to work on ‘Neon Nagaram'.”
While the entire Paadhai Live team comprises anywhere between 10 and 30 members, Shammeer and Siva form the core. The music, almost entirely composed and written by these two, is fresh, and every song reflects their signature tune. It's something like Daft Punk meeting A. R. Rahman.
“Our team of 30 has been working since November on ‘Neon Nagaram'. It's been one heck of a ride and we're at the studio almost all day, everyday, trying to get this through. This will be the last musical novel from our band, so we'd like to make it the best,” Shammeer smiles. While the ‘Ranam Sugam' tunes have been bought by a director for an untitled movie, the boys have also been given an opportunity to direct the music for another film. And with smaller projects and home-based productions to keep them busy in between, it seems like Paadhai is all set to get big. “Our band is about expressing emotions through music and text. But our ultimate dream is to take the 1330 Tirukkurals and make each into a 100-second movie which we call ‘Haiku Cinema'.
To contact Paadhai, mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
ANUSHA PARTHASARATHY AND ASHA SRIDHAR