Interview
In this interview with TNM, the man behind Kollywood’s latest earworm from '96', talks about his musical journey.

A few days ago, Tamil cinema fans were eagerly awaiting the release of a song that had created quite a buzz, soon after it featured in the film’s teaser. 'Kaadhala Kaadhale', as the song is called, first played for a few seconds in the teaser of the Vijay Sethupathi-Trisha starrer 96 teaser which was released on July 12. A few weeks later, a one-minute version of the song was released by the makers on July 30 and the lyrical video has garnered over one million views so far.

In this interview with TNM, the man behind this latest craze and the founding member of the popular music band from Kerala - Thaikkudam Bridge - music director Govind Vasantha, gets candid and talks to us about composing Kollywood’s latest earworm, 'Kaadhale Kaadhale', his musical journey, his thoughts on the independent music scene and more.

Were you expecting the kind of hype that the 'Kaadhale Kaadhale' song created?

This particular version of 'Kaadhale Kaadhale', is a part of another song. In fact, this is not the actual song. The original song was supposed to be the film’s promo song. It’s a seven-minute piece and this is a one-minute, slower, ambience version of that song.

I made it because I was in the mood for it and not because the director had asked for it. It is a bonus track. We actually had no plan to include this in the teaser. I had composed this version and I thought it may work with the teaser. And it did.

It has been a long time since a Tamil film song created this kind of expectation before its release. Can you tell us a little more about the story behind this song?

Actually, there is no place for this song in the movie (laughs) and we were not planning on releasing this song before the film. It was going to be a part of the jukebox, like I said. After the huge reception it got from the teaser, we got a lot of messages and calls, we decided to release it.

I worked on this bit after the teaser released. Actually, there are still complaints that it is short (laughs). It is an instrumental ambiance bit and I didn't want it to sound like a song - it has no beginning or an end, it just flows. We did expect a good response because of Trisha and Vijay Sethupathi’s equation that has come out well in the teaser. But we did not expect the song to gain the kind of attention it did!

But surely, people can expect more. Although, now that they are tuned to the sober version, I’m a little worried about the reception the original song will have. (laughs)

You’ve also sung this song along with Chinmayi…

I prefer not to sing, I don't consider myself a vocalist. I can play the violin professionally and other instruments like the guitar, piano, and harmonium but I don't prefer singing.

But sometimes, when I give the directors the scratch version of the song in my voice, they end up liking it and I’m asked to retain my voice for that song. I’ve sung another song in 96 and also one song in Seethakaathi. Even when it comes to band music, I sing only when my band members insist, but not more than one song.

And what about the other songs in 96?

The film has 7 to 8 songs on the whole but not all will feature in the film, they will be a part of jukebox. The film might have only 5.

You’ve also composed for Malayalam films. Tell us about your journey.

I moved to Chennai in 2007 to join a sound engineering course. But I dropped out after four months and began assisting music directors. I mostly worked in Malayalam cinema and did close to 150 films. I’ve worked as music director for seven to eight films and then completely stopped of my own accord. In fact, my last Malayalam film was a major hit and I did get a lot of offers after that. But I turned my attention to my band - Thaikkudam Bridge - that I founded at the same time that my first film released, in 2013.

How did the shift to Tamil take place?

Oru Pakka Kathai was my first Tamil movie. We completed the film three years ago but it is yet to release. The director is a close friend of mine. Right now, I’ve chosen to work only in Tamil films because I have more friends here. Also, I have good freedom to experiment with my music here because I have good friends with whom I work. In Malayalam cinema, I do not have that kind of voice. So I prefer working in Tamil.

I’ve also worked for Seethakaathi with another friend of mine. In fact, I have worked on the background score for Balaji anna’s Naduvulua Konjam Pakkatha Kaanom.

You’re also an indie artist and a music composer for films - two ends of the spectrum. Tell us about your perspectives of the two.

There’s a lot of difference between the two. The term itself explains it - Independent music. There are no restrictions and you don’t have to please anyone. You are the master, you are the slave.

When it comes to music for cinema, you have to consider a lot of parameters - the actor’s age (so you get to select the right kind of voice), situation, song duration, etc. All my indie songs are at least 8 minutes long. But it cannot be the case for film songs - it can’t exceed 4 minutes.

So how does the indie artist in you compose songs for films?

I have to know the film’s crux very well. And in the case of 96, I have heard the story from the director four times. It is a very intense love story. I love the story and whenever the story narration takes place, I go again. I know what exactly the pain and problems of the protagonists are. I just know it like my life. For instance, with 'Kaadhale Kaadhale', you cannot place the song anywhere else in the film, apart from the place where I’ve used it.

I have to know the entire crux of the film to compose. I will have no directions otherwise. I am a rock fan. I'll make 10-minute long rock music if not. (laughs)

Who are your favourite composers from the industry. Is there someone you’d like to collaborate with in the future?

I love Ilaiyarajaa sir and AR Rahman sir songs. I am a great fan of Santhosh Narayanan and I think he is the best in the industry right now. I would love to work with AR Rahman sir and have him sing for my music, he is one of my most favourite singers. 

How are you managing indie music and film music?

I prioritize my indie music, Thaikkudam Bridge always comes first. We’ve got another album coming up - 'Namah' which will be a kind of a tribute to all the masters. We’ve collaborated with 10 global artistes for this album. It’s music will be different from 'Navarasam' - our first album.

Your Facebook Timeline picture is that of the four women who quit AMMA recently over the reinstatement of actor Dileep. Do you feel strongly about the issue?

It is not just about the industry. That happened in the industry, but it happens all over the world - in our house, in the society… Just because it is happening in the entertainment world, people know about it.

But even now people are not accepting it. They are blaming the women who have a voice brave enough to question it. But people are not used to it. I think the picture is a symbol of the new women. It is not just my support for the WCC (Women in Cinema Collective) but for the new-age woman. I have always supported feminism and I am a feminist.