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'Gangster films give me wild independence to experimennt': Santhosh Narayanan on composing music for Jagame Thandhiram

·6 min read

Santhosh Narayanan has slowly but steadily carved a name for himself although he places his films above his brand. "I only agree to a film based on the script and do not look into external factors like the budget and stars. I'm only working for the art form and not for my brand, this is my working style. I don't care even if my brand vanishes off because of this policy of mine. I generally work towards the betterment of the content, my songs and background score depend on the script. I'm not keen on building my brand. All I want to do is to compose music for good films, maybe in fifteen to twenty years, those films and its music would fetch a name for me ", said Santhosh Narayanan, the man behind the new age music behind the content-driven films like Pizza, Attakathi, Soodhu Kavvum, Jigarthanda, Kaala, Vada Chennai and the upcoming Dhanush's film Jagame Thandhiram.

When Santhosh started his film music career, he only worked with debutant directors and stars but after a point, he started composing for big stars like Rajini, Vijay, and Dhanush. When asked about his thought process while composing for star-driven films, the composer said: "No one can predict what audiences would like. If someone has the formula for success, everyone would follow it. Nowadays, I predict the mass moments and things that fans would like while reading the script. For example, in Jagame Thandhiram, 'Rakita Rakita' is the opening number of Dhanush. While composing the track, I only wanted to justify the character and made sure that the lyrics should not advise others but at the same time, the words must be self-motivational".

In his career, Santhosh Narayanan has also composed music for several gangster films like Jigarthanda, Kaala, Kabali, Vada Chennai, and Jagame Thandhiram. "Gangster films give me wild independence that as a composer, I can experiment and it takes me back to my independent music creation days. Also, being a movie buff, I try to give the high that I got while watching the films of Tarantino, Scorcese, and Clint Eastwood to our audiences in my style. I get inspired by the emotions of their films and passes through our rooted music", he said.

Talking about Jagame Thandhiram, Santhosh said that there are two different worlds €" Europe and Madurai. "I love these extreme differences in films, it allows us to do something fresh. I have used our folk music a lot in the film but with a different sound. The biggest challenge for me is to create a piece of folk music that is different from my previous film Karnan".

Santhosh also feels that the relationship between a director and music composer plays a major role in the world of film music. "For example, I still vividly remember how I met Karthik Subbaraj. He told me that story narration is not his cup of tea and gave me his script copy. For Pizza, the script was only eighteen pages because the film doesn't have many lines in the second half. He was afraid of ghosts yet made a riveting horror thriller. With limited time, he built his resources. Karthik made Petta with Rajini sir and now with Jagame Thandhiram, he is branching out. I'm sure, he will soon make an international film. I value our combination on par with any other top director and music composer in the world. Also, directors help me in various ways. Karnan's director Mari Selvaraj is the one who pushed me to appear in music videos. I was hesitant in the beginning and used to shy away from interviews. But Mari explained to me how western artists connect with fans through music videos. Only then, I appeared in the Kanda Vara Sollunga track in Karnan. Another reason for the music video is we didn't want it to be a normal lyric video. The song doesn't have any face value till the end so, with a unique video, we created an expectation".

In his career, Santhosh Narayanan has also introduced and collaborated with native artists like Gana Bala, Kidakuzzhi Mariyammal, and others. "I love such collaborations but you can't say that I introduced them. They only allowed me to use their voice in music. Gana Bala might be a new singer for film music but he is a superstar of the Gana genre. Kidakuzzhi Mariyammal also has a strong fanbase. I think Grammy will soon honor our folk artists and then, the entire economic structure of the Tamil folk music scene will change. With the success of my recent independent single Enjoy Enjaami, we are planning to explore more in this avenue".

Santhosh also shared a few insights on how he picks singers. "I consider how well the singer can emotionally contribute to the song and not rate them based on the nuances and notations. Everyone's voice is unique, it's all about how well they perform and add value to the particular song. For example, I only sang the rough track of Karuppi from Pariyerum Perumal and thought of recording it with some other singer. But later, we all felt that there is a strong emotion with the voice and fixed it".

We also talked about Santhosh's daughter Dhee who has become a phenomenon with the Enjoy Enjaami, she has also sung many incredible soulful numbers in Tamil. "I would like to experiment with the low bass voice of female singers. In the past singers like LR Easwari and Jikki were different from others. In the same way, I thought of using Dhee's voice for emotional tracks and it clicked. When you started driving a car the first time, you would be very cautious but after some time, you would be effortlessly driving even by speaking to someone over the phone yet there wouldn't any problem in reaching the destination. Even music creation is like that ".

Talking about his world music tour/concert, Santhosh said: "I started my career as a stage performer. Now we have the archive with a good set of songs and it's the right time for a world tour. But just when we were planning, the pandemic happened. Once the people return to normalcy, should work on a few concerts. Currently, I found a new interest in creating music videos, especially after the success of Enjoy Enjaami. Planning to work with new artists and create music videos on par with international music videos".

In a television show, Santhosh recalled that when AR Rahman asked him whether he knows to write music, he said no. "Yes, I can't write music at that time but it's like how you started speaking before writing down the letters. Slowly, you learn things but what you create matters a lot. Even if write the music, if the output is not good, no one is going to appreciate it", he signed off.

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