He’s Got The Beat!!
He is perhaps one of the happening names in the music industry of the South. The beginnings were not at all easy for this super talented composer, who ascended from ground up with sheer hard work. His beats trend the smartphones and iPad’s of this generation. From the romantic Mazhaiye Mazhaiye in Eeram to peppy Notanki Notanki in Power, he had come a long way, evolving high with his renditions time and again.
S S Thaman, the name synonymous with trendy beats and musical orchestrations is more than that. The top league music director of Telugu Film Industry shares with KostaLife some of his lesser known facets. His magical Tollywood music is also discussed widely enough, by the way!!
Sharing some of his personal ordeals and sentiments with music, S S Thaman talks to Deepa Balasubramanian about his unparalleled and scintillating journey filled with struggle, optimism, dedication and spirit.
To be one of the leading composers of Tollywood
I always believe in hard work. At the end of the day, the work that you do pays off, either which ways. While everyone keeps telling me that I’m trending charts, the number game was never a fascination for me. I believe in doing my job right, meeting expectations of both directors and the music lovers.
The Emotional Journey with Music
I was eleven when I lost my dad. There was no way I could continue studying, as I had to take care of both my mom and sister. I remember being in the sixth standard when the tragedy struck our family. My father was a drummer. I share some very fond memories accompanying him to musical programs. It is in this journey I have realised that music runs in my veins.
The time was tough for all of us. I happened to meet the legendary S P Balasubramanyam Garu, while struggling to make ends meet with composing. I joined his troop and we did some 400 odd shows. Later, I happened to work with Gangai Amaran, Maestro Ilayaraja’s brother for about two years. I would say that both SP Garu and Amaran Garu are my driving forces.
First Humble Earnings
My first program in Chennai was Saadhaga Paravaigal. This was the first troop where I worked as a drummer. You will not believe it if I said that my first earnings were 30 rupees at eleven years of age in the year 1995.
I share some amazing memories while starting out in Tollywood. The first film I worked was Hello Brother with composer Koti. The next one was followed with M M Keeravani’s Annamayya. The initial days in the industry are the moments to cherish, not only for me but those who were a part of it.
In the year 1997, myself along with DSP, SP Charan, Venkat and Venkat Prabhu formed a band called Next Generation. This band holds a special place in my heart as I ventured out to meet people and make new friends in the industry. We had so many dreams and aspirations to share and work along as band mates.
In the meantime, we all have seen Devi (Devi Sri Prasad) starting out to compose for a feature film. Soon, I was composing in both Telugu and Tamil for musical greats like Vandemaataram Srinivas, Shashi Preetam, RP Patnaik, Deva, Vidya Sagar and Harris Jayaraj.
By the time it was year 2000, I had worked for more than 19 composers as a keyboard programmer. My daily pay was somewhere between 10,000 and 15,000 rupees. That meant a lot to me.
Acting Stint with Shankar’s Boys
Acting was never in my to-do list. However, the experience left me with priceless exposure to the workings of film making. While acting in Boys, I had to stop composing music for a while. I shared great bonding with director Shankar and choreographer Raju Sundaram. We shot non-stop for 270 working days and finished the film. Boys may not have launched me in the foothold of actors, but it gave me due recognition. People started knowing me more than ever.
I joined composer Mani Sharma Garu immediately after shooting for Boys. What I learned here was of a totally different level. I would attribute my growth in Telugu Film Industry to him, working for close to 8 years over 94 films as his assistant into keyboard and rhythm programming. This was the time when Shankar sir offered me another role as an actor. And after 7 months, I got a call from his office one more time looking for a composer. Balaji Shaktivel sir approached me in 2006. I gave few jingles that were highly liked.
First Feature Film
Eeram – my first entry as a music composer. Arivazhagan Venkatachalam, who was an assistant director with Shankar sir back in the day, was planning to make a film. He loved all my jingles and compositions and roped me in.
Eeram is my first signed feature film in Tamil.
Your approach to have a different knack with music and beats
I follow my own experience in life. Composing is like any other job. You are going to a regular full time job.
To be in the commercial space, one has to respect two things – good music and delivering the best. Music that is done on a commercial level largely depends on what the audience and the directors want.
My experience doing more than 4000 stage shows helped me here in a big way. Things are way different while composing for a commercial film as compared to the non-commercial music. Here, the directors bank heavily on their technicians. We have to chalk out their requirements and give them right tunes.
About The Tollywood Music Lovers
Telugu listeners have a great music sense. The music lovers are like blood to a composer’s body. They drive the workings of this industry in a rather big way.
Instant Switch from Fast Beats to Slow Tunes like ‘Aaja Saroja’
This again is attributed to the requirements of a film maker and his film. Aaja Saroja was much needed for the romantic plot in Aagadu. My exposure to different genres helps me switch back and forth to deliver what is latest.
About critics following your music up, close and personally
I would rather call that love. I have been told on few occasions that I tend to copy tunes. But then, for me as a composer, it all boils down to what a film wants. They are all my jingles. The factor here is that I may have similar orchestrating for few songs that are made for different films. Unfortunately last year, three of my films (Rabhasa, Aagadu and Power) released at once in the month of September. This was a major change of plan.
It is very hard to state that one can copy a tune to its entirety. Once I compose, there are a series of reviews done from the director’s end – the whole team listens to the song and reverts. If I’m told that I copy, I would say that I’m not brilliant enough (laughs). Hence, I tend to get caught!
Toughest song ever composed
Vachadu Ra from the film Brindavanam. It took me quite some time as lot of characters had to be covered in the song. It is a situational song full of emotions. This song was a huge task for both myself and the director Vamsi Paidipally.
Tollywood’s Progress with Music
There is a lot changing now in Tollywood. I would say that the change and evolution here in music is towards the best. A lot of new heroes are being launched now in Telugu. The scripts are also taking an interesting turn, demanding an equally relevant music. I can say that there are lot of love stories ahead in store. Expect some great romantic jingles (Smiles)
Music to you is..
Music is like oxygen to me. I cannot survive without music. I love it the most when I’m composing something. Music keeps my emotions under control. It brings in positive energy. Good songs always revive and motivate us. Love it when people get happy listening to my songs.
Your everyday routine
My days are hectic. Everyday work on my hands
Your views on spirituality
Extremely spiritual. Owe all my success to God and my mentors in the industry
Marrying Singer Srivardhini
The most beautiful thing ever happened. She’s the most understanding and compatible person I have never thought would happen to me
Unwinding from busy schedule
Love playing cricket in my free time. If not music, I would have been a cricket player
Best songs heard in the recent times in Telugu
Songs from Seethamma Vakitlo Sirimalle Chettu composed by Mickey J Meyer
Other favourite composers
Mickey J Meyer and Kalyani Malik
Shankar Mahadevan and Shreya Ghoshal
Songs Playing in your list now
Naan Nee from film Madras (Tamil)