Friday Review

Music, his driving force

Musician Ouseppachan Photo: Thulasi Kakkat

Musician Ouseppachan Photo: Thulasi Kakkat   | Photo Credit: Thulasi Kakkat

Ouseppachan, who has completed 30 years in the music industry, continues to be in top form, with many of his songs becoming timeless classics.



Ouseppachan’s music touches the heart with ease and quits the memory with difficulty. A brilliant violinist-turned-music composer, Ouseppachan has created music that refuses to be dated for more than 30 years. Melody is the primary moving force and organic essence of his art. And even when he has had to bow to the demands of cinema, Ouseppachan has strived to retain honest melody.

The last in the list of archetypal Malayalam composers, the only one perhaps to survive the onslaught of the ‘artificial’ music of computers, Ouseppachan and his brand of music is still in vogue. In over 125 films Ouseppachan has created over 585 songs apart from numerous non-film songs and devotionals.

“I have attempted to evolve with my listeners. Audiences, their tastes, and trends have always changed and will continue to do so. There’s so much to learn if one has the inclination for it. I used to spend hours in the studio, long after my recording sessions were over, trying to decipher the gadgets there. This interest grew and when computers and state-of-the-art machines took over I was ready. I spend a lot of time in my studio at home, either creating tunes or understanding the latest trends in recording technology. Today, I can challenge any young, high-tech musician on this new, electronic-age music,” says Ouseppachan who has already signed a long list of films this year.

Ouseppachan was already a successful violinist when he arrived in Chennai. His love affair with the violin began while at school. This passion led to his leaving the seminary, earning the wrath of his parents who did not want their son to be a professional violinist. “Voice of Trichur was an amateur music group that comprised talented musicians. I joined them as a violinist and this proved to be the turning point in my career. It was singer P. Jayachandran who recommended us to Devarajan Master. Impressed, he asked me to play for singer P. Madhuri’s music programmes. By then Johnson (the noted composer) had reached Madras [Chennai]. I followed and we began playing for Devarajan Master’s recordings.”

It was the violin that gave Ouseppachan his first break as a composer. Director Bharathan had often seen this young violinist in the studio, playing the violin in gay abandon. “Bharathan must have already formed a visual in his mind. He was then making Aaravam (1978) and wanted someone to play the role of a violinist in the film. This character does not talk but expresses his emotions through the violin. I accepted the role reluctantly. Some of the bits I played during the shoot were used as the background score. Bharathan was impressed and asked me to do the entire re-recording for the film. I asked him if Johnson could also help and that’s how we did it.”

It was Bharathan, once again, who offered Ouseppachan his first independent work. Kaathodu Kaathoram (1985) had Mammootty playing the role of a violinist. The magic of Ouseppachan’s violin and the intensity of his music stirred the audiences who were listening to fresh, eloquent sounds. There was no looking back for this composer.

He brought with him his training in Western and Eastern music combining it with everything he picked up from the masters he worked with. “I had the advantage of being a violinist. Anyone who plays a musical instrument with some sort of perfection and is trained thematically can see music while creating it. You can experience it physically. The notes are on our fingertips; we see their movement through a musical instrument. The singer is guided and driven by the ear. A violin is a singing instrument, one that comes closest to the human voice. We can feel; we can see the whole song on our fingertips.”

While working with lyricists and directors of different generations, Ouseppachan did form a special bond with poets such as Shibu Chakravarti and Girish Puthenchery and directors like Bharathan, Fazil, Kamal, and Priyadarshan. “I was fortunate to have worked with O.N.V. Kurup sir (lyricist of Kaathodu Kaathoram), P. Bhaskaran Master, Shibu, Girish and many young lyricists; I have worked with so many talented writers. The success of a song depends on how it is visualised and presented. Bharathan, Fazil, Kamal and Priyan gave so much importance to music and when their films turned into hits, the songs also became popular.”

Ouseppachan’s choice of singers was also just right. He brought back singers from retirement and also gave young singers a fresh lease of life. “P. Leela, Janamma David and P.B. Sreenivas had faded away from the scene when I thought their voices were apt for some of my songs. Leela chechi sang for Oru Muthassikatha, Janamma David in Kakkothikavile Appooppanthadikkal and PBS in Purappadu. They were voices that, perhaps, lacked sophistication but stood out for their clarity, full-throated rendering and emotiveness.”

A good singer, Ouseppachan rarely relies on ‘track’ singers. He has also sung in some films. Many famous musicians such as Vidyasagar and Harris Jayaraj are his disciples, while Gopi Sunder once worked as his assistant. He has scored music for a couple of Tamil and Hindi films, while the songs in the English film Dam 999 made the first cut at the Oscars.

A winner of three Kerala State awards for Best Music Director, Ouseppachan won National honours for his songs and background score in Shyamaprasad’s film Ore Kadal, a first for a Malayali composer. “That was a huge recognition. I was elated because someone noticed the uniqueness of the music and the work that went into it. All the five songs were set in Shubhapantuvarali raga, perhaps the only instance in the world where five songs in a single film were based on a single raga. This was a raga that fascinated me and I had worked a lot on this raga and its possibilities. Years later when Shyamaprasad asked me if I could set songs in one raga, I did not have to think twice because it was ready in my mind.”

Ouseppachan has also made his mark as a sensitive composer of background scores. But he still considers Johnson a cut above him. “He was the undisputed master of this art. There was a seamless blending of the music and the scene that one would not hear the music at all. I still do not know how he used to do it.”

It’s been one long musical journey for this musician. Looking back is there something that he has had to sacrifice for the sake of his career? “Yes, my violin. It has taken a backseat. There was a time when my dream was to become a world renowned violinist. I used to work really hard for this. This is my biggest regret.”

Honours

National Award for Best Music Direction : Ore Kadal (2007)

Kerala State Film Awards:

Best Music Director: Unnikale Oru Kathaparayam (1987)

Best Background Music: Ore Kadal (2007)

Best Music Director: Nadan (2013)

Best of Ouseppachan

‘Nee en sarga sangeethame…’: Kaathodu Kaathoram

‘Thaarum thalirum…’: Chilambu

‘Unnikale…’: Unnikale Oru Kathaparayam

‘Annaloonjal…’: Purappadu

‘Paathiramazhayetho…’: Ulladakkam

‘Anthiveyil ponnurukum…’: Ulladakkam

‘O Priye…’: Aniyathipraavu

‘Samayamithapoorva…’: Harikrishnans

‘Thumbayum thulasiyum…’: Megham

‘Thamaranoolinaal…’: Mullavalliyum Thenmaavum

‘Enthe nee Kanna…’: Sasneham Sumitra

‘Pranaya sandhyayoru…’: Ore Kadal

‘Azhalinte aazhangalil…’: Ayaalum Njaanum Thammil

‘Ottaykkupaadunna poonkuyile…’: Nadan

‘Uppinupona vazhiyethu…’: Utopiayile Rajavu

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Printable version | Jul 29, 2020 9:22:22 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/composer-ouseppachan-on-his-threedecadelong-journey-in-mollywood/article8528482.ece

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