Music composer D. Imman is on a roll. Despite monopolising prime time radio shows, Imman has his feet firmly on the ground. “I am not doing anything that others have not done,” says the composer whose recent hit was ‘Oodha colouru ribbon’ from Varuthapadadha Valibar Sangam . This modesty could seem like an oddity for someone who is churning out hits. But, the bumpy road he has walked on has shaped him.
What does he have to say about the changes in his career? “Nothing much has changed. Only the content of the films I have done has changed.” His immediate release is Suseenthiran’s Pandianadu , which, he confidently says, will continue his winning streak. “Suseenthiran is a filmmaker I have always admired. The way he has placed and conceived the songs in this film impressed me,” he says.
“I didn’t have anyone to guide me in this industry,” he says of his formative years as a musician. He started learning music at the insistence of his parents. With his Christian background, music came naturally to him.
Twelve years ago, producer G. Venkateswaran roped in a youngster to score music for Thamizhan , featuring Vijay, who was already a big star. “I was barely out of school,” he recollects and adds, “I knew I was doing a big project but the fact was I was asked to do the entire background score just by listening to the first reel.”
While the film’s audio was as a moderate success, the film tanked. “Those were the days when the success of technicians depended on the success of the film. Today, YouTube and Twitter have changed the scene,” he says.
Subsequently, he succumbed to the temptation of choosing quantity over quality. While he did a lot of ‘masala’ films, which required him to consistently deliver catchy tunes, it straightjacketed him. Having agreed to adhere to the laws of the commercial format, Imman drew a small circle and decided to work within it. “I didn’t have anyone to guide me. I was young and did films simply because they came my way. Soon, I was depressed with the kind of work I was doing,” he recalls.
But it was Prabhu Solomon’s Mynaa that made everyone sit up and take notice of Imman. “Prabhu Solomon was so passionate about the film that I didn’t feel like asking for a salary,” he says. How did he reinvent himself? “First, I decided to change the nature of films I was doing. With Mynaa , I got a good script to work with in addition to a good team. Second, I wanted to focus on creating songs which are true to the soil. I felt that there was a vacuum that needed to be filled when it comes to culture-specific songs.” This meant that he had to get rid of the typical ‘heavy beat’ while continuing to keep his music simple and catchy. “I feel it is important to keep it that way,” he says.
Some of his popular songs — ‘Sollitaaley Ava Kaadhala’, ‘Mynaa Mynaa’ and ‘Ayyayo Ananthamey’ — are the result of his simple strategy — be true to the roots. Trying to put things in context, he offers, “If you take the songs ‘Jingu Chikka’ and ‘Soi Soi’, both have a simple structure: three pallavis interspersed with 'Soi Soi' and 'Jingu Chikka', but they struck a chord because they were instantly catchy.”
These days, Imman prefers to compose songs in the presence of the director and the lyricist. “It helps me understand the director’s vision and the depth of the situation. It makes a huge difference,” he affirms.
Today, Imman is a busy composer. With more than eight projects in hand, including Prabhu Solomon’s Kayal , the composer hopes to continue in the same vein. What does he want to achieve? “When I eventually retire, I want to look back on a solid body of work. ‘Oodha colouru ribbon’ might be popular for the next three months, but ‘Sollitaley Ava Kaadhalaey’, because of its strong musical content, will have a longer shelf life. That’s the kind of music I want to be known for,” he smiles.
Realising the potential of social media, Imman has outsourced content strategy to a private company which makes sure his content reaches his fans. “Many of those who are on my sound cloud page are non-Tamil speakers. While good music knows no barriers, the Internet makes it possible to reach more people.”
Recent Chart Busters
‘Oodha Colouru Ribbon’ - Varuthapadadha Valibar Sangam
‘Onnum Puriyala’ - Kumki
‘Vada Vada Paiya’ - Kacheri Aarambam
‘Sollitaaley Ava Kaadhaley’ - Kumki
‘Soi Soi’ - Kumki
‘Mynaa Mynaa’ - Mynaa
‘Jingu Chikka’ - Mynaa