“Karai vandha pirage, pidikkithu kadalai, narai vandha pirage, puriyuthu ulagai…” seems to be playing on a loop in countless phones across the country. The soulful lyrics of this song as well as other songs from the Vijay Sethupathi-Trisha starrer 96 have travelled straight to the hearts of film lovers. The commercial success of a film lies as much in the hands of the actors as it does in its music. 96’s music does not overpower nor does it underplay the subtle, verbal and non-verbal exchanges of the lead pair who are caught in the throes of a love that has transcended time. The music and lyrics in the able hands and voice of Govind Vasantha aid and abet the love story of the lead pair; the emotions they feel, the words left unsaid- all come alive.
Still waters run deep and looking at the deceptively calm, bespectacled Govind, one wonders where those raw and powerful lyrics and emotions emanate from. “The story inspired me so much. The characters and the emotions are so well defined that it was not a difficult task to give music to those feelings or sing them. I have been known director C. Prem Kumar for a long time and I heard the story a long time back. So I know every character’s emotions and every dialogue- their past, their present and the future that is not there in the film. I know their life.”
Does that statement leave you flummoxed? Govind has a secret to reveal. “The story is inspired from real life and a few scenes of the movie are depictions of real incidents. I am so happy that I could play a part in Ram and Janu’s lives. Everybody cannot be a Ram or a Janu, so at least I could play with their emotions!” he says.
Composing music for the film was easy because, he says, he just had to follow the emotions but that subtlety was the key. The BGM added to the nostalgia, deepening the mood with its deep, stirring tones. Govind mentions that the BGM was more challenging because of the risk factor involved. “How much ever good music elevates a story, a bad BGM is like throwing cold water on all the efforts taken. If I were to use even better music at the wrong time, that would be detrimental. So BGM is definitely risky!”
So, why has Menon in his name been replaced with Vasantha? “Vasantha is my mother’s name and I did not want my name to reveal my caste. If I had changed my name before being established, it would not have registered on people’s minds. But doing so after a big project would make a change,” he says.
The backbone of the famous Kerala band Thaikkudam Bridge, vocalist, violinist and music producer Govind is a known face to music buffs. Most of his albums as well as his current works remind one of the old world charm and he agrees. “96 has used Ilaiyaraaja’s old melodies and the film is all about nostalgia. What I like about Ilaiyaraaja’s songs is that they retain the smell of the earth and is rooted in Indian folk culture and I have tried to use that.”
Govind has composed songs for films like North 24 Kaatham, Vegam, and 100 Days of Love. He has worked with the new generation of composers like Gopi Sunder as well as those from the old school like Ousepachan who is his guru. “With Gopi, who is a very experienced musician, one learns the old and new techniques. With Ousepachan it is all about training the personality. Film music is also about business and he taught me a lot about music and life. He is from a very strict school but after getting trained for five years in that school, I became forged in iron musically!” he laughs.
Personally, Govind loves composing rock music and he says that is a genre that is lying vast and unexposed in films which is why he composes it for his band. His upcoming projects include Seethakaathi and Uriyadi 2, a Siddhart film, and a few other projects are under discussion. Before winding up, he says: “My first priority will always be Thaikkudam Bridge.”...