If Aruvi is the talk of the town for its bold script, impeccable acting by the cast and crisp direction, the music is no less. The raw and fresh feel which has been woven into the narrative of the movie through the score has also earned the film praise.
Very seldom do you see movies where the music is as important as any protagonist. The brain and voice behind these compositions in Aruvi are classical singers and musicians, Bindhumalini and Vedanth Bharadwaj who have created a niche in the world of Kabir compositions with their album--Suno Bhai, Songs of Kabir.
They share the experience of their first collaboration for a feature film.
Excerpts from the interview:
How do you feel about the rave reviews that your music has received ? Did you expect to receive such feedback?
Vedanth: It feels awesome! On top of the world. Itâ€™s nice to see this overwhelming response not just from people who have watched the film and critics, but also fellow musicians. That felt amazing!
Bindhumalini: The way the people have taken the effort to connect with us to share the impact of our music on them has been overwhelming. There have been many happy moments like when director Arunâ€™s parents appreciated our music after the first screening. Another one was when, out of the blue, after the movie got over, a relative announced in the theatre that one of the music directors is present here and the audience applauded.
After a series of radio interviews, Kutti Revathi, Arun, Vedanth and I did a group hug in the middle of the road as we felt content about the way the music had been received.
What made you both accept this project, and how was it to work with director Arun?
Bindhumalini: When we met Arun for the brief, we were really impressed with the homework he had done on us even before approaching us. He had told us that the music is an integral part of the movie.
In the places where he knew what he was looking for, his clarity helped us compose quickly and in places where he was unsure, he was honest about it and this helped us as there was no beating around the bush.
For those parts we brainstormed to discover what we want. We also liked the synopsis of the story a lot. The best part was our music was not just an add on to the movie.
Vedanth: In fact the story itself was inspired by the music that he used to listen to. Thatâ€™s what drew us to accepting the project.
Both of you have been performing together in various Kabir and Amir Khusrau festivals. How was it to collaborate with each other for a feature film?
Vedanth: It was quite different from Kabir and Khusrau. When it comes to composing music for a film you canâ€™t over do or underplay the music. It has to be exactly what the scene demands.
Arun set the tone for every scene from the beginning and saw to it that he got what he wanted from us.
Bindhumalini: Our first big collaboration Suno Bhai was all done in a studio setup. Aruvi felt like we picked up that journey from where we had left it. Being all three--a singer, a performer and composer created a deeper understanding of the songs to be composed.
There were 33 tracks composed. Considering that you both reside in different cities, how did you manage composing so many and meet the deadlines?
Vedanth: Since we were in different cities, Bindhu would record a tune on her phone and send it to me and Iâ€™d do the same. We leveraged technology to work with each other via whatsapp and on email especially when we were not in the same city.
For all the important meetings and the final recordings Bindhu made sure sheâ€™s was here in Chennai as all our musicians were also from here.
Bindhumalini: We started composing in 2014 and we finished last year. We never overshot our deadlines and delivered them on time. It has been an ongoing process. The first song to go officially online with lyrics was Anbin Kodi in September this year and this helped in gaining popularity of the song.
Unlike your usual method you had to come up with the melody and structure of the songs and then lyrics were written. How challenging was it to come up with the music before the lyrics?
Bindhumalini: It was challenging at the start but Arun gave us an in depth explanation of every scene and shot. Very soon we had a lot of fun composing for the songs. We had mimicked the instrument in many parts when we were composing.
The director had liked the rawness in that and hence we kept it that style consistent across the whole film.
Vedanth: When we composed the tune, we didnâ€™t compromise on the emotion we needed even one bit. This helped Kutti Revathi and Arun come up with the lyrics for the songs.
The script and theme of the movie is very moving and sensitive towards social issues. How emotionally involved were you while composing the songs?
Bindhumalini: It did stir a lot of our emotions, especially the song Vegude. Considering we composed the songs from the scratch, I emotionally got connected with every bit, even if it were few lines. The Cement Kadu song , which is all about the urban life in the concrete jungle made me accept my reality as a city dweller and I could relate with it too. I know of a person who has seen the movie thrice as he was so moved due to the impact of the music and lyrics of the movie.
Your music encompasses many musical genres and instruments. Tell us a particular scene and why you chose that style of music?
Bindhumalini: Yes, we have incorporated jazz, carnatic, country. We had multiple discussions on the kind of music we were composing with Arun. For instance, choosing Carnatic opening was an obvious choice for a track wherein the script needed it showing her in a dance class.
Using Simhendra Madhayamam was also a conscious choice because that allowed us to move into a hardcore European folk music feel. It had to have both a classical and a street music Jam flavour to move with the scene.
Vedanth: This song was easy to naturally flow to the experimental improvisation that later followed. It starts with Simhendra Madhyamam and it goes into the jazz scatting part-- where we have improvised melodies and rhythms using the voice as an instrument. The song then shifts to Hemavati. Merku Karayil also flowed into raag Mishra Piloo. It was the tune that just flowed and we followed it.
Arun liked our Maya song from our Suno Bhai album. The spirit was from the space that of Kabir and mystic music.
As music directors, how was it working with several musicians for the first time and especially veteran accordion artiste Patrick?
Vedanth: It was a blessing to have Mr. Patrick, the veteran accordionist working with us. His knowledge of music is so vast that it spans many genres. We gave him an idea of what we wanted but a lot of it came out of improvising.
The other amazing musicians we worked with were our strings conductor Yensone Bhagyanathan, Cello Sekar, violinist Kalyan, Trumpet Babu. These were the other veterans we worked with. The younger musicians that we worked with were Georaj Stanly, Napierpeter Naveen Kumar, Krishna Kishor, Nerunjan, who brought in their own fresh approaches and improvised with our compositions.
Bindhumalini: I was present for all the recording sessions and they were fun. At many moments we were the facilitators, but we as performers too loved it when other musicians brought in their own originality.
Napierpeter Naveen Kumar was such a brilliant bass guitarist he too gave his suggestions in few portions and sarangi artiste Mamonmani in brought her beauty into it. Yensone beautifully translated all our compositions to the string section. It was very generous of him to add his bit for us. It was a learning process right for us.
Share some interesting anecdotes while composing the music.
Bindhumalini: For many spaces, we moved out of music and incorporated sounds. One of the key music piece that recurs in the second half of the film is mostly layered with various sounds of us hitting different surfaces, starting from a simple mic box to rubbing some textured papers to the creaking sounds of the studio door opened and closed.
And we also had to be unmusical in certain parts to bring out the feel, so, we ourselves deliberately played certain instruments like the flute, Erhu (a chinese violin), Ocarina to keep it raw and even used off key notes. But the effect finally seems to have worked perfectly for the film.
It built the right amount of tension for those particular scenes. This was so much fun and we were so badly offkey that it was difficult to stay still and not laugh while the recording was going on. The more weird the sounds became the more excited we got.
Any film projects lined up in the near future?
Vedanth: I have composed music for a film called His Fatherâ€™s Voice. The entire production took place in 2017 and ISBN is going to be released in 2018 through festival circuits. Bindhu has sung most of the songs. I am also working on a German documentary film by Michael Kramz.
Bindhumalini: I have already done music for a Kannada film by Ananya Kasaravalli called Harikatha Prasanga and have done a few documentaries. There are talks are on with a filmmaker in Karnataka for his next film.