Exclusive: I prefer films sans item songs : Prashanth R Vihari

Y.Sunita Chowdhary
Prashanth R Vihari is in a happy space. This year, he is working on diverse projects and all of them have something unique to offer in terms of content and music. The first is Masooda and the film is about what happens when a 17-year-old girl starts acting mysteriously and her single mother seeks the help of their cowardly neighbour. It explores a mother-daughter relationship. There is Sehari, an urban rom com whose teaser was released yesterday. Then there is Satya Dev-Nitya Menen starrer Skylab, a period film and a game changer that Prashanth calls it his best bet this year. He says, “I am also working on a project that has Karthikeya as the hero and there is Panchatantram, an anthology releasing in theatres. There is an ensemble cast, Samuthirakani and Brahmanandam and the latter is not into comedy this time.” Ask Prashanth if it affects him when he works so hard on his music and the film fails to click at the box office, he says, “There is a disappointment that the content has not connected with the audience and I feel sorry for the producers too. Fortunately, I got good feedback for some of the films that didn’t work commercially. It leaves me with a satisfaction that I attempted such genres. Be it Dorasani or Antariksham, I was complimented for my decent work and not because the film was a hit or a flop. This year I have five plus films, usually I don’t put so much on my plate but due to the lockdown, there has been a carry over from the previous year. Bomma Blockbuster is also an addition.”  Prashanth R Vihari
He further says, “These days it has become imperative that one has at least one song that becomes a hit with the people even before the film reaches the theatre. It indicates the success of a film and yes, the definition of a ‘hit’ has changed. A hit is now directly proportional to Youtube views. Art is a personal thing and one might like a particular song or not like it at all but as we said, digital success has become a parameter for good marketing.” Music is timeless and in rural areas, people actually listen to music but that isn’t counted. Some talk about the songs that haven’t reached even three lakh views but Prashanth had people calling him and appreciating that particular number. He quips, “It matters to me that someone who is a stranger took his time to appreciate my work. For an artist, that is all that is important. Unfortunately people are counting the number of views and taking pride in it. matters. What is in our control is the understanding of the script. Be it a singer or a music director, both are integral for the film’s success.”
Prashanth says something about the film has to move you to give that 100 percent. He doesn’t bracket himself as being a specialist of one kind of music. He is experimenting in films, doing heavy duty songs but not the crassy type. He adds, “My funda is that one should not go cheap on lyrics. Heavy duty doesn’t mean item or introductory songs. I am working on a promotion song called Love All The Haters. It is a heavy duty song but not an item number. The directors have immense hold on their films. I also prefer films that have no item songs. I wish the lyrics could be aesthetic. When someone comes to me, I decline politely by telling them that they should go to someone who can do a better job. I also say I can’t give my best here.” On folk numbers, he says he had done it before. Dorasanni has folk songs that include two numbers from Goreti Venkanna. Such songs flow naturally and are not repetitive and it gives importance to lyrics. There is quality in it. Folk songs have limited melodies, the lyrics come from society. In a short conversation with Klapboardpost.com, Prashanth R Vihari lists out seven films that are close to his heart and tells us why.
“I am an early 90s kid and the first album I remember hearing is from AR Rehman’s Roja. The song was released around the time I was two or three years old. It was that moment I started picking up music, the sound of it ..was from this album. It has a great background score, great musical scope, path breaking music and it gave a new dimension of music to India. The music scene changed. Sound wise, Rehman got digital. Till then analogue tapes were used. He put in so many efforts to record, he used so many instruments and sound became rich. You can notice the difference in music in 89 and 90.”  The next film he cites is Mounaragam and describes the background score as haunting and the approach by Ilayaraja as quite different. Earlier, when the mood was happy, music would sound lively and if it was sad, a veena would be played in the background. The first half score was different from the second half. Kala Paani had a haunting  score while the prison was shown.
Prashanth doesn’t do only songs, he accepts both songs with background score. He is peeved with the way a film’s music is scored by five different composers and someone else doing a background score for that; Doesn’t  believe in the mix. He cites the lack of uniformity. He says, “In two plus hours of a film, the background score shouldn’t distract the audience. I prefer silence rather than filling up with music. I see background score and songs as one entity. My next favourite is Bombay theme music. All my songs are background score oriented, I take lessons from these films. The riots scene in Bombay, has been properly utilised. There is an amazing soundtrack. Sankarabharanam and Sakshi are in the same zone. There is insecurity in K Vishwanath films. He has no background score. It is fine, if the film requires. For a thriller, it is okay but for dramas, we aren’t giving the actors a scope to perform. He has fantastic music and for every important place, he leaves it silent and there is thematic music. I love the uplifting and melodic quality of Rang De Basanti. The film those days was like a slap on the political situation prevailing at that time. Revolutionary Road too taught me many things. It has an amazing background score.”
Finally ask Prashanth why popular music directors are usually trolled for lifting tunes from other films and he says it could be due to the pressure of the producer or the director. “No one does it intentionally. Also usually, directors write and music is played in the background for getting a high. They get too emotionally connected or involved and it reflects in their films. They are given references and told to do that way. These days if you score original music, people comment that we have taken it from here and there; imagine if we actually lift, what would be the situation. The audience is smart and is always connected to Youtube.”

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