It was the soulful song, ‘Parayuvaan’ that serenaded Shane Nigam-starrer Ishq to theatres. Sung by Sid Sriram and Neha Nair, it became an instant hit. It has turned out to be a harbinger of good times for its composer Jakes Bejoy, who now has his kitty full with projects in Malayalam, Tamil and Telugu.
“I am overwhelmed by the reception to the song,” says Jakes over phone from his studio in Chennai. He had been looking forward to the song in Ishq after tasting success with his tracks in Queen , especially the Lal Anthem, ‘Nenjinakathu Lalettan’, and Ranam .
Jakes says that ‘Parayuvaan’ was the right song for Sid to début in Malayalam. “We had worked together in a Telugu film Taxiwaala on the track ‘Maate vinadhuga’, which was a tremendous hit across South India. It was my wife, Anne, who suggested that Sid would be perfect for that track and he was brought in just three days prior to the audio launch. As for ‘Parayuvaan’, even though Sid was in the US then, he learnt it via Whatsapp,” says Jakes, adding that Sid had put in a lot of effort to get his diction right.
Sid was his first choice because Jakes felt that his voice was apt for the emotion and flavour of the subject. “It is about a young couple and the story is set in Kochi, a city that always gives me positive vibes. I wanted a song that would appeal to young listeners who are plugged into all kinds of music. I wanted an urban track, with the intricacies in Sid’s voice thrown in,” he says.
Jakes announced his presence in Malayalam with the album Malayalee (2007) in which he associated with Vineeth Sreenivasan, his senior from college, and Shaan Rahman. He was an engineering student then. After the course, he moved to the US to do his masters in Music Science and Technology with an elective in orchestral music at Stanford University. “I was not cut out to be an engineer. I wanted to pursue music and since no college here offered a proper undergrad course on music composing and production, I had to move abroad where there are umpteen options available,” says the 34-year-old musician.
The stint in the US was a turning point in his life. “It was a humbling experience because I realised that I was nobody compared to the talents there. I was taken in by the campus, people, culture, music... It is the birth place of many technical innovations in music too. One of our assistant professors was the co-founder of Smule. My interest lay in orchestral music and I could focus on that as well,” he explains.
However, his efforts to get into Hollywood didn’t bear fruit. Nevertheless, his technical background helped and he ventured into the gaming industry.
“I was with Shabha Games, a subsidiary of gaming company Activision Blizzard, where I worked on incorporating music into games. Then I got a job in Tapulous, which was later taken over by The Walt Disney Company. I worked there for over two years as audio engineer. We made games based on Disney’s productions, including Toy Story 3, Cars 2, Tap Tap Revenge series, and Tiny Death Star , to name a few,” he says. But he couldn’t keep himself away from composing for long. He returned to India and set up his studio in Chennai.
“If it is doable, I would advise all musicians to go abroad to get exposure and to acquire knowledge in music. In fact, I am thinking about taking a sabbatical after a few movies and go to Berkelee [College of Music, Boston] to learn about jazz,” he says.
- A native of Erattupetta, Jakes started learning Carnatic music from childhood, encouraged by his parents, Bejoy Jacob and Shammy Bejoy. “They loved music and the training in classical music now helps me as a composer,” he says.
- AR Rahman has been an inspiration for him. He enjoys listening to film scores of Alexandre Desplat and late Jóhann Jóhannsson. Bon Iver and Norah Jones are among his favourite artistes.
- A huge fan of Johnson Master, MG Radhakrishnan and Baburaj, he follows the works of Amit Trivedi and Santosh Narayanan. “It has become my morning routine to listen to several artistes,” he adds. Rahman’s ‘Nila kaigirathu’ is a song that is close to his heart. “I tear up whenever I hear the song.”
However, he asserts that he has never tried to squeeze in his learning into his film compositions. “What I did in Kavi Udeshichathu had nothing to do with what I studied in Stanford. Whereas in Ranam , it was just me driving through San Francisco to my workplace,” says the musician.
Meanwhile, he is pleased that things are changing in Malayalam cinema with new narrative formats and musical experiments. “Only those who know my kind of music approach me and so I am in a comfortable space as a musician. For example, I am now working in Joshiy sir’s Porinchu Mariyam Jose . He is open to new soundscapes, which is very encouraging,” he says.
Although he has several projects lined up, Jakes says that he has never had a steady graph as a musician. “I started my journey on a high with Malayalee , but after that I was not in the picture for many years. In the US I had to start from scratch. After I came back, my initial movies didn’t work at all. Although the songs in Monsoon Mangoes are extremely close to my heart, they went unnoticed. But I never stopped trying,” he says.
Line-up of projects
In addition to Kakshi: Ammini Pillai in which he has done the background score, Jake’s upcoming projects include Santosh Sivan’s Sin , Tovino Thomas’ Kalki and new projects in Tamil and Telugu.
“It was the success of Dhruvangal Pathinaru that took me to Telugu. However, Malayalam will always be my base and I will take projects in other languages only if I am impressed with the project,” he says.