Interview With

Govind Vasantha

He is easily the toast of the town now. Yes, we are talking about music composer Govind Vasantha, who has brought out the music lover in every one to the fore through his score in the Trisha-Vijay Sethupathi starrer 96. Jyothsna Bhavanishankar manages to catch the busy musician for a quick chat.

Govind Vasantha - Who is Vasantha in your name?

My mom is Vasantha. Earlier I had Menon in my name. But I did not want caste in my name. I don't have problems with others using caste in their names. I don't judge. But I did not want.

Every music lover is talking about you now. Tell us about yourself. Where it all started?

I am from Kerala and I wanted to do music from my very young years. Thankfully I got all the support from my family. My dad and mom are good singers. My brother is a dancer. My sister is a singer/writer/actor. I came to Chennai to study sound engineering in SIE College, which I did not complete. There I assisted music directors in music programs. In that period I had worked in lot of films in Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Hindi, Marathi and Malayalam. I worked for around 6 - 7 years. I have done a couple of Malayalam movies as a music director. Now I am again in Chennai.

How did you join 96 crew?

Most of the crew members from 96 are my friends. My first film as a music composer in Tamil was Balaji Tharaneetharan's Oru Pakka Kadhai which is yet to be released. Balaji is my Godfather in Tamil film industry. I always see him as my mentor. Prem anna was the cameraman of Oru Pakka Kadhai and he is the director of 96. So, we are friends from those days. Prem anna narrated me the script two years back and I simply loved it. From then on whenever script narration used to happen, I was there just to listen to it. I was all into the movie. I always prefer that. I want to be so involved in the story so as to get the complete structure of the characters.

How did Kaadhalae Kaadhalae come into being?

There was no Kaadhalae Kaadhalae song till two months ago; it was only andhadhi which was a promo song. Kaadhalae Kaadhalae was a small portion coming in andhadhi. One day I decided to make an unplugged soothing version. I told the director, "I am not doing it to be featured in the movie. I am doing it for my satisfaction". He said, "Fine, go ahead!" And I did it. When the idea of teaser cutting came, I told him, "Why don't we use this for the teaser? It may click". And it looks like it HAS clicked!

In the Andhadhi song, the music effortlessly traverses through different phases and culminates into a musical crescendo. How was the song conceived and recorded?

As I mentioned earlier, andhadhi was meant to be a promo song. The idea that the director gave me on this was to convey the emotion called love. There are various forms of love. He wanted me to explore the different aspects of this emotion musically. I did not want it to sound like a regular song. That was the only thing I had in mind. It is not about the movie or its characters but it's about love and I wanted it to be on larger than life scale. That's why I decided to record it with 16 singers as chorus. That's why it is entirely different from other tracks in the movie.

Your music has added on a lot of expectation to the film. How do you see it?

We actually wanted to make this movie as a musical as music has a lot of things to do in 96. You will realize this when you watch the film. It is in the script itself. We wanted to bring this in a very organic manner. We properly planned and worked it out. I am glad that it has added to the expectations to the film.

Chinmayee has brought in a magic in the songs. Tell us how it was to work with her?

Chinmayee is a sweetheart. We decided to try Chinmayee because we wanted to use the singer's voice for dubbing also. She has dubbed for Trisha earlier. We felt it would be a perfect choice. Then we recorded Vasantha Kaalangal first and the moment she sang the first line, we felt safe. Chinmayee was the best thing to have happened for 96.

Singer Pradeep

Pradeep is one of the best singers I have ever seen in Indian film industry. He has a great voice and he is well trained and dedicated. Recording with him was a crazy experience. He did 'Life of Ram' at around 4 or 5 in the morning after singing 'Iravingu Theevaai' and he did in a single flow. He doesn't sing line by line but sings the whole song. He is a well organized singer. I love his voice and have a lot of respect for that man.

You have also sung. But I read that you don't like to sing. Why?

Yes, I have sung but I do not like to sing. When I compose, I sing for the rough version but I don't like it because I get to hear it every day. But Prem anna and Balaji anna like my voice and want to retain it.

You have worked in Seethakaadhi. Can you tell us about your friendship with Balaji Tharaneetharan?

Balaji anna is like my brother and he is also my mentor. He is the root from where I started my journey in cinema. We are done with Seethakaadhi; just a little work is left. It is a very different film and is entirely different from 96. It has mystery, comedy and much more. Musically also it will be very emotional and very Indian.

You have composed in Malayalam. How was it working for Tamil film?

Working in Tamil industry as a music composer is very different from the Malayalam industry, in my experience. I am not a major music director in Malayalam or in Tamil. But from the very minimal experience that I have had in the Tamil industry, I can say, it is far more satisfying here than in Malayalam. I personally got enough freedom in the few films that I worked here. Be it 96 or Seethakaadhi, I can say, "This is not working out, let's try something else". That much freedom was there. To me it is a great thing. I have not got that chance much in Malayalam.

Working in Bejoy Nambiar's solo

Bejoy is my close friend and I know him for a while. I was part of one segment in Solo; I did the background score and acted too. Bejoy has an incredible knowledge about music; he loves music, explores the subject and listens to all types of music. He knows very well how music production is done. You can't cheat him. I felt very happy working with him. I believe Solo is one of my best albums in Malayalam.

Indie music as against film music. What are the pluses and minuses, as you see? Which would be your pick and why?

I would pick Indie music any day as it is unlimited and you can do whatever you want. You can experiment with it. Indie music is far more advanced than film music. Film music has its own structure and limitations. You have to choose the right voice for hero or heroine. It is also time bound. But cinema is a team work. There is an involvement of lot of people. However, you have the maximum exposure in film music which you don't get in Indie music. As of now, there is not much awareness about Indie music but it is getting better now. I hope someday both the kinds of music will go hand in hand because there is a lot of great music happening in the international scene which people don't know. If they get to hear it, I am sure they would love it.

Your Thaikudam Bridge is a popular band. What is happening on that front now?

Thaikudam Bridge is preparing our second album. It is called Nama, it is all ready and there are 10 songs and it would be released in a couple of months from now. It is going to be an international collaborating album. Thaikudam is only my first priority.

All the best, Govind!

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