Music

I have a child-like excitement each time I create something: Prashant Pillai

Prashant Pillai   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

With a discography that includes Malayalam, Hindi, Tamil, Telugu and Marathi, Prashant Pillai has always been at the top of his game, with his songs and background score. With a soundscape that is “mostly experimentative and avant-garde”, the ace musician has been making unconventional music for the last two decades.

Prashant has composed the songs and background score of the upcoming Malayalam film, Saajan Bakery Since 1962 directed by Arun Chandu. The movie has five songs, with lyrics by Vinayak Sasikumar and Anu Elizabeth Jose. In a chat with MetroPlus over the phone from Bengaluru, the 39-year-old talks about the working in the movie and the principles that guide him as a musician. Excerpts:

Songs of Saajan Bakery…

This is perhaps the first time that I have worked with some of the mainstream voices in the industry. Usually I choose new voices and musicians, especially underground artistes who’ve had their bit of fame and now are doing what they love. Since it is a light-hearted subject is lighter and the sensibilities are different, the tracks had to be soul-soothing. There was a conscious effort to present something fresh to go with the old-world tale that the film narrates.

Voices in the movie

The title track, ‘Once upon a time in Ranni’ sung by James Thakara [frontman of the band Thakara] is a throwback to the ‘80s and his voice was perfect for that. I’ve always loved working with him because he can surprise listeners with the earthiness in his voice. That was the texture I needed to give the retro effect for this song.

This is my first project with Vineeth [Sreenivasan] and it was Arun’s idea to bring us together. The breezy song [‘Thoramazhayilum’, a duet with Preeti Pillai] was the second or third version of the song that we made. There is an innate charm in Vineeth’s voice and this one complemented that feature. [KS] Harisankar has two songs and he told me that he has discovered a completely new side to his voice.

Your sister Preeti is part of almost all your projects...

We are like a cat-mouse combination. She being younger to me by eight years, I am the bully. I am tough on her because I know her range as a musician. At the same time, I have no issues in admitting that whatever I am today as a musician is because of her. She is a trained Carnatic musician and I owe a lot to those countless sessions we have had, with her singing and me playing the tabla. She is always there in my projects, whether she is singing or not. When we make a song, we become two kids singing in our home on a sultry day. We enjoy the process.

Food is an integral part of the movie and how have you brought that element into the album?

I am in harmony with food, if you remember what we did in Angamaly Diaries or Jallikkattu. But this might be the first time I am scoring for an ‘almost-vegetarian’ film…there is no meat in the frames! There are a couple of scenes where food is shown to have an emotional connect with the characters. For that we have treated the music in a slightly different way by bringing in a nostalgic flavour into it.

On song
  • Prashant worked with AR Rahman after completing his sound engineering in Chennai. He then moved to Pune where he did a lot of jingles. He was the co-composer Bejoy Nambiar's critically acclaimed short film, Rahu.
  • His début film is Lijo Jose Pellissery’s first film, Nayakan (2010). Since then he has been part of all films of Lijo, namely City of God, Amen, Double Barrel, Angamaly Diaries, Ee. Ma. Yau. and Jallikattu. He has worked with Bejoy in his films such as Shaitan, David, Wazir and Solo. He has also scored music in Anurag Kashyap’s Mukkabaaz.
  • Among his other notable Malayalam projects are Chandrettan Evideya, Anuraga Karikkin Vellam and Unda.

Your creative process

I don’t stress myself to arrive at a composition. I do it naturally and instinctively. I just enjoy the process and if the director also enjoys it, then we have a song. There is no conscious effort to make it appealing.

On your writings on self-care...

I am a strong, intuitive person, something I got from my mother. I have had several ups and downs, which have made me strong from within. The lessons I learnt come across in my articles on my website [prashantpillai.com] and the quotes I upload daily on my Instagram handle (@iprashantpillai). In a recent article on the website I have talked about four easy steps to practise emotional care. Even if these methods may not be the same for everyone, at least it might open a door to help someone. I want to help people around me, especially those who follow me or listen to my music or who consider me worthy enough to give them advice. People message me privately on my Insta pages. However, I am trying to come up with another platform to reach out to more people and help them.

How has this influenced you as artiste?

I try to give the best and I am content with that. I know my shortcomings and to play to my strengths. It is about being true to yourself.

Your inspiration(s)

There was a point when I listened to several artistes. But now I consciously stay away from them because I have got the best of what I wanted from them. Now it is about self enquiry. One of the biggest inspirations has been musician Ray Charles, who was visually challenged. His story and what he has done for music inspire me to bring something new to the table every time. I have a child-like excitement each time I create something.

Upcoming projects

Pyali, produced by the late NF Varghese’ daughter, and Moonwalk, a project on the evolution of break-dance culture in Kerala.


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Printable version | Jul 27, 2021 5:03:59 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/music/in-conversation-with-composer-prashant-pillai/article32758732.ece

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