The X man

Darbuka Siva, the composer of Enai Noki Paayum Thota, says that the popularity of the Mr. X campaign means it has actually backfired

Any other composer would be mad with delight at all the fame resulting from the Mr. X campaign of Gautham Menon’s upcoming Enai Noki Paayum Thota. The film’s single, Maruvaarthai, has been watched a whopping 25 million times on YouTube so far. All the speculation over the identity of the composer — Dhanush? STR? Gautham himself? — was cleared last week, when Gautham Menon announced Darbuka Siva as the composer. But the latter, being the fiercely private person he is, expresses awkwardness about all this popularity. “I’m not at all sure how to react when the spotlight is trained on me. In fact, we came up with the idea of Mr. X only to take the focus away from me,” he says. His discomfort with drawing attention to self was amplified partly by the scale of the project and the prominence of its cast and crew. “I even wondered if Gautham was taking a big gamble by choosing me as the composer.”

The reputation and the past work of composers often end up dictating how we consume their music, and this was also a reason for the conception of the Mr. X campaign. The efficacy of the campaign, however, was mildly undone by some sources leaking Darbuka Siva’s name. He naturally had to contend with a lot of friends asking him about it. “I didn’t tell them, of course, and on some level, I wish we’d never gone ahead and announced my name. Imagine if people, about 50 years later, still didn’t know who composed the music for this film. That would have been quite cool, no?” he asks. Fame has never been a temptation for him. “In fact, when I agreed to act in Rajathandhiram, I wished I could do it without having to show my face,” he laughs.

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A still from Rajathandhiram

For such an intensely private individual, it’s been rather new — all the attention, all the e-mails he gets from strangers. “I don’t know how they managed to get my e-mail address. Some mail to tell me that they already knew I was Mr. X. Some others just give me compliments.” He is just grateful that his friends haven’t taken to calling him Mr. X. “They treat me exactly as they did when I was in school.” Amid all this uncertainty, there’s been one gratifying offshoot of the campaign for Siva. “People are discovering my old music, and realising that I’m not a composer of the traditional mould.”

I tell him that his brand of fusion music feels like a really good fit for the contemporary, urban films Gautham Menon is known for. “I think both of us are, in a way, alike as artists. He too makes his art about things he loves,” he says. There were some differences too, of course. “After I heard his narration for Maruvarthai’s sequence, I asked to go home, so I could work in the privacy of my bedroom and give him the track,” he says. “He was taken by surprise at my style, but agreed. By about three in the following morning, I had completed recording the scratch in my rather poor voice.” After a few hours, Gautham conveyed his appreciation for the track, Maruvarthai. “It was as simple as that! He later told me that he has never rejected a song that a composer has come up with. It was both astonishing and frightening for me to hear that. I’m just glad I wasn’t the first composer to break that record,” he laughs.

The song, Maruvarthai, is about a couple in an intense, destructive relationship. “You should hear Gautham’s narration of their relationship. Its sheer intensity got me inspired to compose the song. The lyrics reveal a lot,” he says. “The idea was to make a lullaby, but not the usual, slow kind. We wanted a forceful lullaby that would break the usual rules governing sad and happy songs.” Much like Gautham Menon did in his last film with the hugely popular Thalli Pogathey. “Yes, we sought to create a contradiction between what we were saying and the sounds we were using to say that.”

He expresses gratitude that millions have taken to this song. “And it means so much to me, especially because I was so invested in creating this song. I’ve had strangers, moved by the song, open up to me about their relationships,” he says. “Artists dream of creating this sort of emotional connection.”

More composing offers look set to come his way, but Siva, who’s always been vocal about his distaste for routine, doesn’t know what the future holds for him. “I’m just glad all the work that’s come my way so far has interested me. But let’s see how long I can deny my wandering spirit,” he smiles.

This interview was written for The New Indian Express. All copyrights belong to the organisation. Do link to its page if you’d like to share it.

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