Music director Ghibran seems to be on a roll. With four films in two months, the young music composer’s discography is of great variety and they have all been received well. With Magalir Mattum, Aramm and the recently released Theeran Adhigaram Ondru earning rave reviews, we catch up with Ghibran to talk about his music and future project Vishwaroopam 2.
Apart from the break after your debut, you have been consistent with the number of films you do. But 2017 looks like a bumper year for you.
The break after Vaagai Sooda Vaa was my own doing. When you are new to cinema, you have people who warn you that you should be careful with projects. They also tell you that you are the next big thing. I got slightly carried away. But after Vathikuchi, I realised that I was in my own world. Since then, I have made sure that it doesn’t happen.
This year, it is mainly due to a few projects that got pushed. Magalir Mattum, Adhey Kangal and Maayavan were actually supposed to release last year. Chennai 2 Singapore was supposed to release the year before that. Similarly, I signed Odi Odi Uzhaikanum and Pulikesi 2 last year and it was supposed to release this year. We can’t do anything when it comes to when they release. I just look at the number of days I need. Thankfully, I have never had a major clash yet. When a movie is nearing release, I go all out. I sleep in my studio etc. So, I have been able to manage.
For Aramm, you have worked with Prague Philharmonic Orchestra. How did the idea of using them occur?
I was called after the film was completed. Nowadays, a lot of music directors are hesitant to accept projects when there are no songs as we won’t get radio play time. Also, it is free advertisement through the music channels for music directors, actors and everyone involved. But the moment I saw the movie, I was sure I had to do it. This was another Vaagai Sooda Vaa for me. The effect of the issue it dealt with is massive and I wanted the score to be grand. It needed the Prague Philharmonic Symphony. Borewells are something very deep and to convey that deepness musically, my mind immediately thought of trombone, double bass and cello. Such instruments need to be used in a cluster for the effect to be conveyed. A single note on multiple double base will make a huge difference. I wasn’t able to find that many players here. That’s the main reason why I chose to collaborate with them. Thank God, people are appreciating the effort.
Are you a part of Aramm 2 as well?
I definitely want to be a part of it. While the project hasn’t officially taken off, talks are going on. Gopi already had a strong line which would be perfect for a sequel. If everything goes off well, it will take off soon.
Somehow you have this tag of an ‘off-beat’ music director. You had mentioned this at a press meet yourself that after Vaagai Sooda Vaa, you used to get a lot of ‘award films’. So how was it to work on a proper commercial film like Theeran Adhigaram Ondru?
I felt ‘Happa! ipo than oru normal Tamil padam panrom’ (I am finally working in a conventional Tamil film). I will be very honest. Sometimes, I feel my albums are heavy. When I feel I need relaxation, I wouldn’t prefer “Sengal soolai kara”. “Iraniyan nadagam” from Uttama Villain is one of toughest compositions that I had to do. I don’t know if I would be able to do that again. As much as I love these songs, I will not go for it when I want a pleasant listen. But Theeran is running on a loop, so I am very happy.
Theeran also saw you pen the lyrics for a song. How did ‘Ghibran the writer’ come into picture?
We usually write dummy lyrics while composing a song. It becomes easier to convince the director if you have few lines in hand. I had an idea in mind when ‘Sevatha pulla’ was composed. With Karthi sir in the picture, you know it is going to be naughty. So, I just wrote a few lines from my college band experience and also from my own old memories. And it worked! Later, we tried re-writing it with another. For some reason, everyone got stuck with these lines. Except for one line where I had written ‘Odhatoda macchathile’ which we later changed to ‘michchathile’. That’s how it happened.
On a general note, are you very interested in writing?
I like reading a lot. I am a huge fan of Abdul Rahman. I was deeply affected by his ‘Pithan’. When I started interacting with him, I got know to about his musical knowledge as well. We traveled a few unforgettable years together. I have worked with a lot of very talented writers who are new to grasping ‘santham’ (meaningless words used to outline a tune). So, when I try to tell them, I also learn a lot. It is a mutual exchange.
In an earlier interview, when someone had asked you if one can classify your career as Before Uttama Villain and After Uttama Villain, you had said it should ‘Before Kamal Haasan and After Kamal Haasan’. How was your first interaction with him?
I was going through a tough phase during Kutti Puli. I even considering quitting films. So, when I got a call from his office, I was scared to get my hopes high as it was too big a dream. It would have been tough to handle the disappointment if it didn’t happen. For two days, until the actual meet happened, I tried to think as little as possible about it. The way he spoke during our first meet, I could see he respected the art and what I knew about it. We composed a song called ‘Naan Agiya’ and it was amazing. I still remember every moment of that day. I was so elated that he was liking what I did. I slowly started to believe that I am Kamal sir’s musician and that it was really happening.
Tell us about Vishwaroopam 2. Despite the delay, it is one of the most awaited projects. As both of you are experimenters, what new can we expect from the album?
I first started composing for Vishwaroopam 2 and then Uttama Villain, Papanasam and Thoonagvanam happened. I personally have a very strong connection with the film. The film changed the perception people had about me. Suddenly, I was the music director for a Kamal film. When I was watching Vishwaroopam 1 while I loved the music, I had an idea of how I would do it differently like every artiste would. I have tried to bring that in Vishwaroopam 2. While I have used Kamal sir’s singing capabilities in Uttama Villain and Thoongavanam, Vishwaroopam 2 would see him explore his classical musician side. There is a song which is raga based. So, I am very kicked about the album. Kamal sir’s films are multilayered. To convey that musically is a challenge. People expect a complete experience these days to watch a movie in the theater as they are paying more. Vishwaroopam 2 would completely satisfy that in all aspects. If Uttama Villain is orchestral, Thoongavanam was electronic, Vishwaroopam 2 is a mix of both.
What do you look for in a script? Scope of music or scope for experimentation?
Everyone has their journey. I have made my share of mistakes but I don’t regret them. I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for those. After a village subject, I thought a city movie would be good and then a rom-com. I was being very calculative. But somehow, they didn’t work at the box-office. In fact, Amarakaviyam is one of my favourite albums. Then I decide to not think too much and rather trust my gut instinct. I started taking my decisions on the spot. I don’t go by budgets as well. Along with the scripts, I look for a rapport with the director and the team. It’s a marriage and the chemistry reflects in the album. It happened for Adhe Kangal, Magalir Mattum, and even Aramm as well, to state a few examples. With Aramm, Nayanthara was fully involved along with Gopi. Imagine an actress constantly in touch with me to get updates. The vibe was so good.
Chennai 2 Singapore has been grabbing the attention for several reasons: catchy music, audio launch on a road trip. This is also your first venture into feature film production.
The idea was to first make it as a short film in Singapore. I suggested that instead, we could make it as a Tamil feature film in Chennai. It started in 2013 and slowly developed as we were all new to production. However, the journey has been amazing. Since the director is a friend, I have been involved right from the beginning. I could take the liberty to say whether a song placement works or not.
You know how a friend calls you to say he has run out of petrol and asks you for help. My venture with production happened in a similar way. As a producer, my responsibilities have increased. I have to worry about promotions, theatre count and reviews etc. And it is a whacky, fun film. We have always been the audience who look for emotional value more than perfection. We have done what we felt worked even if it doesn’t make sense logically. So, I hope people don’t read too much into it.
Another project you’re associated with ‘Idhu Vedhalam Sollum Kadhai’ has received rave reviews for its teaser.
There are people who say I got money from the Illuminati. The director Rathindran and I have produced short films before. Last year, we did a short film called Swayer Corporation which got screened in Cannes. So, he was struggling to get his movie made and decided to produce his own movie. So, then I said I’ll compose the music to support him. But now the project is slowly becoming big. Ashwin was very co-operative. And when Abhay Deol got involved, we got a real boost. Rathindran knew Abhay and one day Abhay had asked what Rathindran was up to. When he saw the footage of the film, he said he would love to be a part of this. And we had a role as well. I am really kicked about it and also yes, we have hidden away the money we got from Illuminati.