A lot has changed, feels Ghibran, as I catch up with him after a year. He has lost weight and sleeps on time. “Battling depression and coping with obesity weren’t easy. The initial years post my debut venture, Vaagai Sooda Vaa, were quite turbulent. I had back-to-back failures, and it took some time for me to reach this state of zen without losing myself. Music opened me up as a person,” he smiles.
In a freewheeling chat, Vishwaroopam 2 composer opens up about his love for Ilaiyaraaja songs, being Kamal Haasan’s favourite, and so on:
From composing ad jingles to full-length songs, how has the journey been to you?
I never dreamt I’d become a music director. In fact, it’s a miracle. I still remember the thrill of meeting Kamal Haasan for the first time. I got an opportunity to work with him when I had almost considering quitting cinema. You can classify my career ‘before Kamal Haasan and after Kamal Haasan’.
Vishwaroopam 2, Uttama Villain, Papanasam, Thoongavanam and now – this untitled film starring Vikram produced by Kamal Haasan. How did you manage to gain his trust in a short span of time?
Kamal Haasan doesn’t expect anything but quality work. And, he is an encyclopedia himself. To be honest, I found it difficult to understand his thought process. He discusses both Peter Robinson and Papanasam Sivan. I had doubts whether I’d do justice to those beautifully-written songs in the beginning. But I was soon able to win his confidence. He’s instrumental in my growth and I owe everything to him.
Kutti Puli, Naiyaandi, Thirumanam Ennum Nikkah and Amara Kaaviyam were not successful at the box office. How did you keep yourself motivated then?
Failures happen to even the legends. At some level, I got immune to failure. Of course, it did affect me. But, that was a huge learning curve. When a film doesn’t do well, you are being shown the reality of the mistakes you have made.2011-2014 was a bad phase of life. I locked myself at home for three days post-Naiyaandi release. I slipped into depression, which resulted in weight gain. I was on medication for some time. Then, I realised I should stop taking both success and failure to my heart. Kamal Haasan taught me the importance of leading a disciplined life. He believes in sleeping early and waking up early.
I used to stay up all night and finish the songs before I hit the bed. That was the case during Uttama Villain days. That’s the toughest film of my career.
How did Kamal Haasan help as a mentor?
I have also learned the art of taking risks from him. You see, he’s never shied away from experimenting. That shows the amount of courage he has within. Kamal Haasan always insists that we try irrespective of the results.
Define brand Ghibran.
I’d like to keep my tunes happy and simple. Music can affect you in many ways. The music I make is music I like to listen to.
What was your approach towards the Vishwaroopam 2 album?
Shankar–Ehsaan–Loy had composed music for part 1, and thankfully, the gap of five years made people perceive the sequel as a separate film. I don’t think the audience is comparing both the films. Anga, Unnai Kaanadhu… Inga, Naanagiya Nadhimoolame… I have high hopes for this one.
Let’s talk about the influence of other musicians in your work.
I grew up listening to MS Viswanathan and Ilaiyaraaja. Whatever ‘genre’ you choose to experiment, they’ve done it. Kamal Haasan often talks about the timelessness of Raja sir’s music and how he has a refined mind and sensitivity to bring out ideas that have an aesthetic sense. Kekave romba poramaiya irukum. (smiles)
Is that why your music sounds softer and soothing though you’re partially inclined towards EDM?
Absolutely. As an industry, we’ve continued to develop musically. The attempt is to ensure it reaches everybody.
You turned a producer last year with Chennai 2 Singapore. Are you looking to produce more films?
Again, that’s something I hadn’t planned. I liked the script and signed up to produce it. Up next, I’m producing a fantasy thriller, directed by Amid of Rajathanthiram-fame. People think production is risky, but it’s not. If you gain the expertise and knowledge, you can produce an average film. Also, taking up a new responsibility gives me a high.
A good tune occurs to me when I am in the loo, or in the middle of a traffic jam.
I don’t revisit my songs. Some of them embarrass me.
I can’t remember tunes and scales. I rely on my phone.
Live shows are simply magical. After performing on the Bigg BossTamil 2 along with Shruti, I realised I need to do more of it
I’d like to recreate the background score of AR Rahman/ Ilaiyaraaja songs.
Rajesh Selva and I have plans to make Vikram and Kamal Haasan collaborate for a song.
Films in the pipeline
Aan Devathai, Raatchasan, Imsai Arasan 24th Pulikecei.