How are songs composed? How do those different ragas, tunes and beats fall in perfect harmony? Making Of A Song explores the vocals, visuals, lyrics and other features that define a musical creation.
It is hard to believe that Justin Varghese is just one film old. The young composer’s work in Njandukalude Naattil Oridavela (2017), a family drama directed by Althaf Salim, stood out in a year melodies made a grand return to Malayalam cinema. The song ‘Nanavere‘ is a fantastic mood piece – an evocative number that sets the background as a happy family copes with the news of their mother’s cancer diagnosis. “It was tricky,” says Justin. “I had to strike a fine line as the pathos cannot go overboard. Njandukalude Naattil… is about optimism and other good things.”
A trained sound engineer, Justin has been working with composer Bijibal as a programmer for nine years now. “I still think of myself as a programmer. My understanding of classical music and raagas is limited,” he says.
‘Nanavere‘ was first planned as a background score – no lyrics or vocals, just some music and montage. Althaf had even shot the visuals. Later, he decided to use a full-fledged song in the situation. Sheela Chacko (Shanthi Krishna) has been diagnosed with cancer, and one evening, she and her husband disclose the news to their three grown-up children. Althaf wanted a melancholic song to mark the change in the film’s mood.
“First I sat down with lyricist Santhosh Varma. After the lyrics were ready, I got into the composing part. The montage had shots of a clock ticking. The first sound I created for the song was that of a clock’s needles. You hear that in the beginning of the song. The characters’ lives have suddenly slowed down, thanks to the arrival of bad news. They feel as though everything has come to a standstill..”
Vipin Lal, the male voice in the song, was his classmate at the Chennai college where he studied sound engineering. “Vipin and Govind (Vasantha) were the two people with whom I spent most of my time. They are musicians with a strong Carnatic music background. It was my wish to rope in Vipin as a singer in my first album.”
Tessa Chavara, the female vocalist, was recommended by a friend of Justin, a pastor. “He told me about a girl in his church choir who handled Western as well as Carnatic equally well. We had initially planned to bring in Bombay Jayashree, but after I listened to Tessa’s voice, I didn’t want anyone else to sing the song.”
The highlight of the song is a beautiful sarod piece that follows the pallavi. Althaf had been smitten with the background music track of Piku which uses a lot of sarod, and wanted to see if the instrument can be used in this song. “‘Nanavere‘ has tints of Hindustani music, so we could use sarod. I travelled to Delhi to meet Veer Bharadwaj, who played the instrument.”
Had a fantastic time last evening recording the superb Veer Bhardwaj on the sarod for Justin Varghese's debut movie score!
Listen to the song here: