Sid Sriram, Kollywood’s current singing sensation, began his career with the breathtaking Adiye, composed by AR Rahman for Mani Ratnam’s Kadal (2013). And now, six years later, the young musician is all set to make his composer debut with a Mani Ratnam production, Vaanam Kottatum. It seems Sid’s career has come full circle.
“A small circle,” he says, with a quiet laugh. “At the start, I was just excited to be working on this project and about interacting with Mani sir in the capacity that I am now. I later realised the significance of my first song and it really feels like it has all come full circle,” Sid says.
Composing isn’t new for him. The first song from his album, It Isn’t True, came out last year. How’s composing for a film different? “I don’t like to constrain my creativity into specific boxes. The team, especially Mani sir, said that they wanted something that sounded different from anything people have heard before. Those words have guided me throughout my process.”
Each song he creates, he says, is an intention that is communicated through melody, lyrics, and production. “The intention is collaborative. It is a discussion between the members of the team and me. Finding that common intention and communicating it is powerful and poignant. Getting to work with Mani sir or just getting advice from him is incredible.”
In some of his earlier interviews, Sid Sriram has mentioned wanting to record for Ilaiyaraaja, and that dream has come true for him (he has sung in the yet-to-be-released Psycho). The recording session with Ilaiyaraaja, Sid says, added a new dimension to how he perceived music, especially regarding singing and composing melodies.
“When he was guiding me, with his harmonium, he had this fire in his eyes. It was inspiring to be in the presence of such an evolved musician who also has youthfulness to him.” It’s the sort of balance Sid hopes to achieve with his music. “I’m simply a vessel in the process of creating music,” he says, recalling his mother’s idea of composing music. “That notion has formed the bedrock of my music.”
To hear Sid describe his relation to music is almost the stuff of poetry. “It is about losing yourself in that moment, channeling whatever that sense of inspiration is giving you. It is about feeling it with a sense of boldness, with a heady sense of delicacy. It is about giving that moment the respect and significance it deserves.” A spiritual person, Sid believes his philosophy brings a certain rootedness to his music. He brings up what his mentor Aruna Sairam, a popular Carnatic singer, once told him.
“She told me that when you reach that place of surrender as you perform, it is then that you transcend and the room starts to fill up with a certain energy. The idea of surrendering to something greater than you but also being confident in your skills and abilities, while being humble in the face of something far greater than you… I think that makes for a powerful combination.”
Sid is among the most sought-after voices right now, but he admits it wasn’t always easy. After Adiye, which was received very well, he wasn’t getting calls for work. Just out of college, Sid says he was aimless, almost drifting.
And then Thalli Pogathey that happened in 2016, and changed his life. The time he had spent waiting around ensured he would never get too comfortable with success. There is a sense of dichotomy to his ambition—‘of evolving and progressing in a peaceful but rapid pace.’ “I have so much music that I want to share with the world. There's no time to get complacent. When I do get comfortable, my parents and sister, who are integral parts of what I do creatively, remind me to get the fire burning again.”
Almost every recent viral melody seems to have sung by him. He laughs, and notes that there was a week where as many as five songs that he had sung had come out. “In my defense, I recorded them months apart from each other. I have recorded ten songs this year and maybe a couple of more, and that's not a whole lot.”
He finds it a blessing that some of these songs -- Maruvaarthai and Visiri(Enai Nokki Paayum Thotta), Pularaadha (Dear Comrade), Kannana Kanne (Viswasam), Inaye (Thadam) and so many others -- have gone to become chartbusters. But he won’t take responsibility for the same. “I try to zero in on songs that I can really give my heart to.
Any piece of music that you give your heart and dedicate yourself to has the potential to do magical things.” And he will keep going on as long as the audience like it. “When people stop enjoying it, I will take a step back. But I don't think I have oversaturated the market so far.”
When there is success, criticism can’t be far behind. Sid who enjoys quite a loyal fan base, has also received some hate for his stylised pronunciation and rather nasal tone. “I try to avoid feedback that’s left on the web. Half the time, even if they have a good thought, they express it badly.” He is quick to clarify that he doesn’t mean to be defensive. “Everybody has a perspective and some of them are valid. Often you can tell whether someone is saying things from a constructive place or because they are envious of your success.”
Some of the constructive criticism he has received over the years has taught him the importance of mental discipline. Our conversation turns philosophical again. “The things that you think upon and meditate on daily, come back to make your reality.
Mental discipline is about being intentional and careful, without your thoughts. It took me a lot of time to internalise what that meant. At the end of the day, every human being is susceptible to an array of crests and troughs.” A creative person’s career depends on how well they tap into their emotional bank, says Sid. “I want to continue living a life where I am happy with a sense of calmness. This has allowed me to stay grounded.”