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Sounding off, musically

Rajesh MurugesanPhoto: Shabareesh Varma   | Photo Credit: SHABAREESH VARMA

It’s Rajesh Murugesan’s time once again on the music charts. The rookie music director, who rocked the music scene with Neram, most notably the international phenomenon that is ‘Pistah’, is back with another set of even quirkier numbers for filmmaker Alphonse Putharen’s upcoming ode to romance, Premam, starring Nivin Pauly in the lead.

Rajesh likes to call his signature style, which is retro, fun, and instrumental-heavy, with an accent on wacky lyrics and lots of trippy beats, as ‘parallel’ music. “It’s the same as mainstream music, meaning it has all its elements, but it’s not the same. I’m particular that each of my compositions has their own identity, like they each have been handpicked. When composing I like to think from an audience’s perspective on what they would like to hear and then experiment with musical genres; for example, bringing together styles as different as soul and beat-boxing. I enjoy giving my compositions a dramatic treatment, amping them up with interjections, drum rolls, clangs and the like, as one would do to heighten the narrative in professional dramas. For listeners, the songs would be like watching a drama unfold on stage,” explains the 26-year-old.

He has composed nine tracks for Premam, out of which six have been released online, already winning hundreds of ‘likes’, particularly the quirky numbers ‘Aluva puzha’ (sung by Vineeth Sreenivasan), ‘Scene Contra’ (by the film’s lyricist Shabareesh Varma) and ‘Kalippu’ (by actor Murali Gopy and Shabareesh). Not a surprise, there’s nothing overtly lovey-dovey about the soundtrack. “Romance, in my experience, at least, is rarely like a gentle stream of soulful melody. I believe it was the same for Alphonse ettan too. Love has its ups and downs; it can make you ridiculously euphoric and remarkably despondent. If you are mooning after a girl, for example, you’ll be happy one moment and tense the next. I’ve tried to be empathetic and the soundtrack has been inspired by real life, the characters, the situations and the lyrics,” he says, adding that the next two tracks are of the “free flowing” romantic melody, kinds.

“I can’t do sad songs. I have tried several times and I ended up crying! Neither could Shabareesh for Premam. He was actually singing and crying towards the end of the song ‘Kaalam kettu poyi,”’ says Rajesh, with a laugh.

A native of Nagercoil, Kanyakumari district, Rajesh grew up in Kochi, with a lifelong fascination for music. Following his schooling, he went to study audio engineering at SAE Institute, Chennai, and it is here that he met up with Alphonse, and Shabareesh too.

“Together we learnt the craft of zero budget filmmaking, working on short films, barely subsisting, while Alphonse ettan ran around to get backing for the bilingual Neram,” he recalls. The music director just can’t stop gushing about the young filmmaker, just four years older to him, who seems to be like his friend, philosopher, guide and mentor, all rolled into one. “I still wonder why Alphonse ettan entrusted me with the music of his debut film, when he and I myself knew that I had no idea on how to make tracks for the masses, let alone in two languages [Tamil and Malayalam], for audiences with two different sensibilities! He taught me everything I know,” says Rajesh, adding, a bit poignantly, “I owe everything to him for giving me a chance twice, and also to my elder brother, Sajan Murugesan, who is in the Merchant Navy, for all that faith and all those blank cheques!” It is this friendship, says Rajesh, which makes all the hardship and struggles worthwhile.

“The very beat of our movie industry is friendship. Only when there is friendship does your creativity work at its full potential, otherwise it becomes mere work, mechanical. I am so fortunate that I have people like Alphonse ettan and Shabareesh to help me fill in my many blanks,” he explains.

Is that why he has not yet ventured beyond his comfort (read friendship) zone to work on other projects? Even his debut Hindi project, the eponymous remake of sleeper hit Shutter, is by the same team… “(Laughs) Honestly, I don’t have the confidence to step out on my own. It’s like I am still in a bubble, protected by my friends, particularly Alphonse ettan, who gives me all the time in the world [four years for Neram and one for Premam, in fact] and all the freedom to do what I want. Those are tough acts to follow and maybe when I find someone like him I will step out on my own,” he says. Till then three cheers for friendships, real and reel.


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Printable version | Dec 1, 2021 2:24:10 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/sounding-off-musically/article7089200.ece

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