Ever since its screening at Cannes and the accompanying positive responses, buzz has been slowly building for Ajay Devaloka's experimental Malayalam film WHO. Starring Shine Tom Chacko, Rajeev Pillai, Pearle Maaney, and Shruthy Menon, the film has been described as a time travel story with elements of magical realism.
A promo song from it called "Who Are You?" featuring Pearle Maaney, has garnered more than 100,000 views in less than a day. Singer Dhanusha Gokul and composer Mangal Suvarnan have been praised by many for creating something so unconventional. Suvarnan spoke to Express about the song's creation, its genre, his musical influences and future projects.
The song is currently trending on social media. Did you expect this?
Well, I did know that all the actors, the director and the production team had a huge fan following, so I did expect some buzz for the video. But seeing Prithviraj and Mamtha Mohandas (amongst so many other celebrities) share and support our work was an amazing thing. 100k+ views in less than a day is definitely a new record for me, and it's such a humbling experience, to be honest.
How did you come up with this track? Did Ajay give you a theme?
It was both Ajay and Pearle actually, who spoke to me in depth about the character Dolores, what she goes through, how her emotions and her character evolves over time. That set the tone of the song from the get go. Once I had a melodic idea at hand, I worked on it and polished it as much as I could before the vocal writing process. Pearle had sent me a verse that resonated with her deeply.
I rewrote the verse, added a second verse with Dhanusha Gokul, and then had her come over to start the recording process. And once the production was finished, I laid down the flutes which were recorded and played by me. Luckily, the sound of the bansuri flute fit the mood and the song so well. Sent it over to Pearle and Ajay, and I can never forget how happy and excited both of them were. I'm very grateful to be a part of such a supportive team.
What's the genre?
It's "Progressive House", but I'm sure a lot of the purists would say otherwise! (laughs) I just like to make anything that's very rich in melody, and then let the music do the talking.
Who are your musical influences? Have you had formal training in music?
There's a list of Electronic music producers that has changed my sound for the better: Laidback Luke, Arty, Deadmau5, Mat Zo, Above & Beyond, Eric Prydz, Myon, Audien, BT, Bonobo. Acoustic artists: Fink, Andy Mckee. In Malayalam, it's Rex Vijayan.
The only "training" I could really call training is my second-grade Carnatic vocal lessons that lasted six months. Other than that, I learnt everything on my own. My brother taught me the basics of playing the guitar, and the flute was something I picked up over time. Music production is a constant learning process; in fact, I still learn so many things every time I make a new song.
What are your future projects?
I have so much new music coming out, but the only one I can mention publicly is a song called "Raveguru", featuring a very talented singer Sujith Raj, who also plays the lead in this movie called Kinavalli, directed by Sugeeth.