The extraordinary background score of Vikram Vedha, which lingered in our ears long after we left the theatre, was composed by music director Sam CS by just reading the film’s bound script. “If somebody gives you a blank sheet and asks you to write, you could write in a straight line, from top to bottom or vice-versa – there is no stopping your creativity. But, when someone gives you a ruled sheet, you will have to write in a particular order. I believe you will be at your creative best while composing the background score for a script; you visualise the scene in your mind,” says Sam.
He has many innovative strategies when it comes to music, evident in the fresh score of Vikram Vedha. The scene just before the interval where Vijay Sethupathi and Madhavan clash on a rainy day was technically a mass scene. But, Sam’s BGM addressed the emotion. “I didn’t compose music for the fight. I composed for, ‘Why are they fighting?’ I felt it was an emotional scene because Madhavan was in pain following his friend’s demise. The film is an emotional thriller, and every scene has an overriding emotion; I composed music for those emotions.” This is why even the introduction scene of Vijay Sethupathi had an emotional score, as he was at the station to track down his brother’s murderer. “It was not just another mass introduction scene,” he says.
VV is not his Sam’s first film, but, may be, his first breakthrough. He’s also composed for Or Iravu, Ambuli, Puriyadha Pudhir and Kadalai. “Creating a tune excites me. I don’t see this as business; being a composer is my passion. Only that passion drove me till VV happened,” says this former IT professional. Excerpts from an interview.
How did you land Vikram Vedha?
I had composed for some TV commercials directed by Pushkar-Gayathri. Once, when they came by my studio, I was working on Puriyadha Pudhir (directed by Ranjith, earlier titled Mellisai). They listened to the background score, liked my work and roped me in. Even while working in IT, I used to do keyboard programming for a lot films. I did the background scores for Or Iravu and Ambuli in 2006. From then, till when I landed VV, I kept at it. The film industry is about getting the right opportunity at the right time; I managed to get it.
Were the background scores of Puriyadha Pudhir and Vikram Vedha composed with a live orchestra?
Yes, both Puriyadha Puthir’s and Vikram Vedha’s scores were performed by a live orchestra, and I will continue working that way. Many of Ilaiyaraaja sir’s background scores are evergreen because he composed those tunes for a live orchestra. Even now, that is how he works. Live orchestration lends life to a musical score. There is a difference between a mother’s soulful lullaby and a recorded one that is played to a child.
Iravu, Ambuli, Puriyadha Pudhir, Vikram Vedha... all of them are thrillers. Do you have any inclination towards this genre?
Well, a music director gets a lot of scope in a thriller. Vikram Vedha has a brilliant story, extraordinary screenplay and splendid performances. In the midst of all these, if critics also appreciated the music, then a thriller is the right genre for music directors to explore and experiment with. Even in VV, I had composed many romantic a romantic BGM for the love scenes , but the ones for the thrilling scenes won most applause. So, I like to work on thrillers as they provide tremendous scope for a music director.
The background score in the Puriyadha Pudhir trailer is intriguing…
Puriyadha Pudhir is my first full-fledged film. It is very close to my heart because it has an extraordinary script. In some films, a person or incident will be used to hint at a forthcoming scene or remind the audience about an earlier one. Here, music moves the screenplay. A theme music will help the audience recall instances. The film is set to hit screens on September 1. When its release kept getting delayed, I was not discouraged as I had confidence in it. Ranjith’s narration is brilliant and I was sure that even if it were to release years later, the story would still be fresh.
How do you create a song? Do you travel to seek inspiration or compose within the four walls of a studio?
I don’t believe in heading to different locations to compose tunes. Soulful tunes are born from within. For instance, the soothing lullabies sung by women in the villages were not composed in foreign locales. When I think about a situation, a tune takes shape in my mind; I sing out the tune, record it and then work to lend it shape.
Do you plan to experiment with something new in your upcoming films?
Here, there exists a standard template for music direction. To prevent the audience from getting bored, there’s a kuthu song; a motivational song when the hero chases his dream; a melody-rich love song, a pathos number for betrayal… I want to re-work these templates. I believe that a snatch of music can be the equivalent of, say, 10 dialogues. Music shouldn’t be used as a filler, but has to be the lifeline of a film. Tamil cinema has to give space for sound effects and sound designers to innovate and enhance the quality of a film. You can no long seek refuge saying your music has an international feel – Hollywood films are dubbed and telecast on television, so the audience is exposed to all genres of music. .
So, what kind of music we can expect from you?
I am not here to take up 20 films a year. I wish to work on a limited number of good films. By good films, I mean good scripts and films that offer scope for music, not big banners or big stars. I want to invest time on my projects. In both Puriyadha Pudhir and VV, I carried out improvisations even at the last minute. This is only possible if you invest time into a project. I don’t want to be part of projects where music is just a filler. In my opinion, composing a song is easy – we have a standard eight situations for which you need to compose. The real challenge lies in coming up with a background score that complements the script.
Puriyadha Pudhir, starring Vijay Sethupathi and Gayathri, directed by Ranjith, is scheduled to release this September 1.