Tamil Features

Music to My Ears: Sai Madhukar on Manasu

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How are songs composed? How do those different ragas, tunes and beats fall in perfect lyrical harmony? Every month, Music to My Ears explores the making of a song, the vocals and visuals, along with its composer.

Thavarana Paathai’s director Arun Kumar wanted a love song with a difference for the film. Having refrained from composing for films for a long time, Madhukar too was in the mood to experiment a little. “When Arun told me the situation for the song, I was inspired. Sometime later, I gave him the tune for what became Manasu Adhil. It’s my favourite in the album.”

Sai Madhukar didn’t want anything to mar the effect of the song. It had to flow like a river, undisturbed by beats and such. “I was very clear that I didn’t want any rhythms in this song. The melody needed to be prominent in a song like this. The singer’s vocals needed to shine through to the audience. For that, I kept away from percussion and stuck to the basics. We used very minimal orchestration – some guitar strumming is all you hear.”

Sai Madhukar and Deepthi Suresh
Sai Madhukar and Deepthi Suresh

It was a bilingual film, and Madhukar was handed the lyrics for the Telugu version as well. “I composed for Telugu first. After that, we brought in Thaayanban to write the Tamil lyrics for the tune.” The song is a medley of various ragas, with a charanam heavy on Carnatic music elements and chromatics. “I used elements of the raaga Reethigowlai in the charanam and pallavi. The rest is just a combination of chords! I kept it simple.” As such, it needed an experienced singer to pull it off and the team was trying to bring in a singer from Hyderabad. But, Madhukar was surprised that a relative newcomer could pull it off with ease. “Deepti Suresh came highly recommended. Even a singer with loads of experience would’ve found it difficult to render the song, but Deepti completed the recording in 45 minutes. The way she rendered the chromatics in particular, pleasantly surprised me.”

Though his work on Thavarana Paathai has been widely appreciated, Madhukar is in no hurry to abandon his devotional albums just yet. “I find it far more satisfying to compose for the latter. That being said, I’m always open to new offers, wherever they come from!”

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