Music composer Hesham Abdul Wahab remembers being enamoured with the music of Mani Ratnam's Dil Se, when he was in third grade. A spark was lit that day when he heard the AR Rahman soundtrack on a cassette. "And that spark has never extinguished all of these years. I don't look at composing as work. Apart from the time I am asleep, I am always on. That is the thrill of this, and that's why we are able to work — not just me, but my whole team," Wahab says in a conversation with Vishal Menon.
The hitmaker, whose music will next be heard in Vishnu Sivaprasad's upcoming release Mike (starring Anaswara Rajan), points out that for a composer, it's all about giving their best in the last two weeks before a film's release. "In Mike, there are around 5-6 songs and they were already given for the shoot. But when this comes to me on the editing table, I have to make sure the songs sound exciting from a layman's perspective. That is why while nearing the release date, we get a lot of sound pressure. You need to make sure everything is good — recordings of the singers and recordings of the instruments," he says.
Speaking about his composition process, the Hridayam music director reveals that he always travels with a mobile workstation. "Wherever I go, I take this mobile workstation with me. Back when I was working on Kushi, (upcoming Telugu film that stars Vijay Deverakonda and Samantha Ruth Prabhu), the team used to call me, "mobile musician". My laptop, speakers, soundcard, a small mini keyboard, and a mic — that's my setup. And then the director and I will start — the director will narrate (just like the old times) and I will start working on a few sounds, we'll listen to some songs that they like, post which the lyricist will come on board. This way, we'll try to crack the Pallavi first, and if they like the Pallavi, we'll work on the full scratch," Wahab notes.
The composer also adds that sitting down with a director adds a lot of value to a film's music. "Nowadays, everyone's part of the game. That's why I am insisting that we sit and work with the director. That's why I have taken around 20 flights in the last month. When you sit with the director and work, magic happens. If I am sitting in my studio and sending mail to Hyderabad or the US, there will be miscommunication and delay," Wahab says.
Speaking about the significance of filmmakers who have the tact to extract music out of composers, the musician explains with Hridayam . "The best example is Hridayam, because Vineeth Srinivasan himself is a great musician – he knows how to blend melody, how to make use of lyrics in certain songs, what kind of instrumentation should go, how a song compliments the visual and so on. That's how he inspires me. Vineeth gave me the freedom to dream," Wahab says.
He goes on to explain this with the hit song "Darshana". "In the course of half an hour, I sang Darshana in a single stretch. After listening to that, Vineeth told me 'this is it'. But at that time, the tune hadn't entered my system. But later after listening to it over and over again, it got into my system. When you are composing, you forget yourself. There is an external power or spiritual intervention at play," Wahab observes.