Mervin Solomon and Vivek Siva are two different individuals, but they both identify a special chemistry between them. As with any other successful duo in cinema, they agree to disagree, with the focus mainly being on creating music. Gulaebaghavali, starring Prabhudheva in the lead, is getting released this week; it’s a project that Vivek-Mervin, as the duo are called, hold very dearly. “We’ve grown up watching Dheva sir’s films, and it’s indeed a dream come true to collaborate with him,” Mervin says.
The composers’ collaboration began with Vadacurry (2014), after the film’s original composer, Yuvan Shankar Raja, walked out of the project. “We don’t like to say we replaced him, but it was an honour nevertheless. Whatever we are today, we owe to Anirudh. He got the offer initially, but referred our names instead,” adds Vivek.
The success of Vadacurry, and later, Dora, has opened up the industry for them. “Rarely does a debutant duo get as much support from the fans, and we are glad to have earned it. Vadacurry was a big break, even if fortunate,” Mervin adds.
The duo was approached by Kotapadi J Rajesh, producer of Gulaebaghavali, who had produced Aramm. “As it’s a Prabhudheva film, we’ve given a lot of importance to dance elements.” For Gulaebaghavali, they have composed four songs. “Prabhudheva sir gave us a freehand. We were constantly surprised by his energy levels,” says Vivek.
Their favourite song of the album is the opening number, Guleba. “Mostly, in Tamil cinema, the first song will be of the folk genre. But here, we’ve tried a fun Spanish track as it provides much scope for dance movements. We’ve used bass and flamenco guitars, besides Spanish percussion instruments. Dheva sir liked it too.”
Tamil cinema, as opposed to Bollywood, hasn’t really had a rich history of composer duos — especially in recent times. “That’s why we wanted to work together,” says Mervin. “We know our respective strengths and weaknesses. Many feel that we complement each other well. Vivek is good at lndian Classical, while my forte is Western. We focus on bringing out variety in music. The idea is always to create something fresh.”
They have arrived at a clear division of work—Mervin is in charge of the technical aspects, while Vivek is tasked with the musical side. “The secret of our success lies in the blend. Also, we never feel too comfortable taking credit for the success of a song. Both of us realise the importance of lyricists’ contribution. We consider ourselves fortunate to have been able to work with such wonderful technicians,” says Vivek.
Mervin admits that they don’t yet have a sound that they can call their own. “It’s something music directors achieve over a period of time. Anirudh has done it now, and that’s why he’s a big deal in cinema,” he says. Prodded enough, he suggests that their sound has been mostly ‘Indian’ so far. “That’s what keeps our music rooted. It allows us to try and bring together other elements,” he says. “Ultimately, we strive to keep our tunes simple, and that isn’t easy at all. But we are happy to make things complex, should the script demand it.”
But one thing is clear. “We can give our best only when there’s complete creative freedom. Before finalising a project, we make sure we have a good rapport with the director. The more like-minded we all are, the better the output turns out to be,” he adds. Among the duo’s upcoming projects is Trisha’s Mohini, whose trailer has secured more than two million views on YouTube so far.
They’ve attempted something novel for this film, Vivek says, while expressing that he’s not at liberty to divulge more. “It’s not your regular film. Like Nayanthara’s Dora, Trisha’s Mohini is unique in its one way. So, our music has to be too.”