Monday June 6, 2016
Most promising Indian music composers – version 3, 2016
The last time I did this list, it was in 2014 (and in 2008, before that). It’s time there’s another list like this. Except Hindi film music, where multi-composer albums are almost the norm these days, the other 4 major film producing languages that I track consistently (Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Kannada) are, thankfully, sticking with single-composer soundtracks. From my 2014 list, Ghibran, Santhosh Narayanan, Shaan Rahman and Anupam Roy (Hindi debut with Piku) have already made it to the mainstream!
The following list is titled ‘most promising composers’, but it simply is—as always—most promising, in my opinion. That is, the composers, whose work I look forward to the most (besides the A-listers, of course).
Hindi’s A-listers are easy to name – Pritam, Shankar Ehsaan Loy, A.R.Rahman, Vishal-Shekhar, Amit Trivedi, Vishal Bhardwaj and Sachin Jigar. There are a whole lot of T-series led composers who have become as prolific as T-series is – Jeet Ganguli, Ankit Tiwari, Amaal Malik, Meet Bros, Manj Musik, Toshi-Sharib etc. who produce music like it comes out a machine (the T-series movie machine, with many of them sung by Tulsi Kumar).
The Next 5 in Hindi:
01. Ram Sampath
The most promising of the lot, right up to his latest work for Anurag Kashyap’s Raman Raghav 2.0 (and the mighty fresh Bangistan, last year). He’s, in my view, the most inventive and progressive, in trying newer sounds and genres.
Krsna was so, so good in the Tanu Weds Manu series, but even outside that, in little-known, did-it-release-or-not films like Cute Kameena, he does well (though Issaq, Tamanchey and Jolly LLB were more misses than hits). But, for Tanu Weds Manu alone, I have hope!
Mithoon was in my 2008 list too. And he has made some moves that are worth keeping him here, though A-list eludes him severely. He produces the occasional one-great-song in some of the albums he’s in—Keh bhi de (Traffic), Ji huzoori (Ki & Ka), Sanam re (Sanam Re), Kinna sona (Bhaag Johnny)—that I’m willing to overlook his other not-so-interesting and hugely templatized songs in some of his other recent films.
04. Clinton Cerejo
Clinton Cerejo is more known for his Coke Studio work than film music, but he made his debut only recently, with Jugni. He followed it up with an equally great soundtrack in TE3N. Plus, he did Ananthaal, with Bianca Gomes and Vijay Prakash. Here’s expecting tons from Clinton!
05. Sonu Nigam and Bickram Ghosh
The duo, an odd one, at that, had 2 films (Sooper se Ooper – bad; Jal – decent enough), but their pop album The Music Room is reason for them to be here in this list!
Other worth a mention include Raghu Dixit, Ajay-Atul (who are way beyond the ‘promising’ tag if you consider their Marathi output alone, and also, after Sairat, in particular), Gulraj Singh (who showed tremendous promise with Ganaraj Adhiraj and Tutiya Dil, and much later, with a song in Ungli and a pop compilation from Max Life Insurance’s talent show, Shukriya & Malanga), Mikey McCleary, Anupam Roy, Sneha Khanwalkar and Shantanu Moitra.
The Tamil A-listers are fairly well known and well demarcated, regardless of some of their last few works not going places. The list includes, Ilayaraja, A.R.Rahman, D.Imman, Anirudh, G.V.Prakash Kumar, Sean Roldan, Santhosh Narayanan, Harris Jayaraj, Yuvan Shankar Raja and Ghibran. Others like Vijay Antony, Bharadwaj are in the periphery or find acting more useful than composing.
The Next 5 in Tamil:
01. Justin Prabhakaran
5 soundtracks old Justin tops my list, particularly after that show-stopping music in Oru Naal Koothu (that is releasing only now!). In that 5, he even managed to go to Kerala and produce a Kunjiramayanam there! An a-list star’s film still evades him, but he manages great music in relatively low-key films like Raja Mandhiri.
Severely under-rated, and continues to produce good music even in films that seem fairly low-key. That’s a very sad combination. I’ve rarely seen him in public or read his interviews.
03. Leon James
Just 2 films old! Son of veteran music arranger of A R Rahman, Noel James (a familiar name in the era of early Rahman, when many Pyramid cassettes named him in the credits!). Vaaya veera from Kanchana and the entire soundtrack of Ko 2 has me looking forward to his output with anticipation.
One of the most unconventional composers in Tamil films today. K’s music refuses to stick to any formula or template and he manages to head to Malayalam with the occasional Annayum Rasoolum too, and a song in Kammatipaadam! He also has the knack producing mega duds like Onbadhula Guru and 49-0 (did it for friends?).
05. Nivas K Prasanna
3 films old, and a dud even in that (Sethupathi). But Thegidi is reason enough, and Zero is a close 2nd. Here’s hoping he gets bigger, better films (he did, once, with Sethupathi – ok, will stop lamenting about it now!).
Other composers worth noting, in this connection: Gopi Sundar (though I find his Malayalam and Telugu output considerably better), Hiphop Tamizha, Navin, Vivek-Mervin, Achu Rajamani, Dharan Kumar, Ramesh Vinayagam, Sam C.S, Arrol Corelli and Ved Shankar Sugavanam.
The Telugu A-listers list is rather short, with only Mickey J Meyer who made his entry into it recently. This would be M.M.Keeravani, Devi Sri Prasad, Thaman S and Mickey J Meyer. Past A-lister Mani Sharma seems to have lost favor, only occasionally resurfacing in films like Gentleman and Lion.
The Next 5 in Telugu:
01. Gopi Sundar
Along with his prolific output in Malayalam, Gopi has made a solid claim in Telugu, with fantastic music in films like Seethamma Andalu Ramayya Sitralu, Bhale Bhale Magadivoy and Malli Malli Idi Rani Roju. Oopiri, his first ‘big’ film in Telugu (and in Tamil) was bloated, but decent enough.
02. Sunny M.R.
Sunny, erstwhile arranger to Pritam, somehow landed in Telugu-land and has already done 6 films (he was in my 2014 list too, as Sunny Samour!)! Swamy Ra Ra, his debut, was noteworthy, and even besides the dud in his first ‘big’ film (Dohchay, starring Naga Chaitanya no less), his music has a uniquely different stamp!
03. Kalyan Koduri
Kalyan may be the composer with most names, much like his brother M.M.Keeravani, who goes by the name Maragadhamani in Tamil and M.M.Kreen in Hindi. Kalyani Koduri, Kalyan Koduri and Kalyani Malik are some of his names in Telugu itself! From 2003’s Aithe, his music has a definite twang to it that is different from his brother’s music and other composers too.
04. Anup Rubens
Amongst the 5 composers here, Anup has had the most films starring a-list stars (Manam, Soggade Chinni Nayana) and directors (Puri Jagannadh, Heart Attack), but he, for some reason, still hasn’t become that sought-after a composer. His output is consistently good, though a lot templatized.
Shravan is the most low-key composer I’ve witnessed in recent times in Telugu. He had 2 releases this year and both had decent music (Savithri and Meeku Meere Maaku Meeme). He has, in the past too, showcased a good range of sounds that make him deserve the 5th spot here.
Others who missed this list by a whisker include J.B., Achu Rajamani, Bheems Ceciroleo, Sagar Mahati (Mani Sharma’s son) and Manikanth Kadri. A special note to Tamil composers who have done well in Telugu, albeit producing only one album – V.Pradeep Kumar (a knock-out composing debut in Maine Pyar Kiya) and Santhosh Narayanan (fantastic music in Billa Ranga), and Ghibran, who has been fairly consistent even in Telugu, with films like Run Raja Run and Jil (and his new film, Venkatesh starrer Babu Bangaram is just round the corner).
Malayalam film music is the most progressive, in the sense that they seem to have given up on the standard 5-songs per film norm long back. They thankfully stick to single-composer albums, but the money seems pretty bad, if you go by what Gopi Sundar has jovially noted in an interview during Oopiri’s promotion. Still, the A-listers are very visible – Gopi Sundar, Shaan Rahman, Rahul Raj, Bijibal, Prashant Pillai, Deepak Dev, Vidyasagar and Sharreth.
The Next 5 in Malayalam:
01. Roby Abraham
Roby had 2 releases back in 2012 (Friday and Theevram; the former was very good, while the latter was passable). He even had Rasputin, in 2013, with relatively middling music (barring Parayathey). His show-stopper was last year’s You Too Brutus. He also has an impressive range with his band (featuring Madonna Sebastian among others) Everafter, plus his compositions in Kappa TV’s Music Mojo.
02. Job Kurien
Between his debut (Thalam, with Yakzan Gary Pereira and Charan Raj) and his only film, Rasam (Mohanlal starrer no less), Job has composed less and sung a lot more. But whatever he has had a hand in composing, they have been fantastic, including Rasam’s Maayamo! Here’s hoping he gets to compose more!
03. Govind Menon
Thaikkudam Bridge’s Govind Menon has definitely branched out well in film music, with impressive work in films like 100 Days of Love, North 24 Kaatham. He was supposed to debut in Tamil with Jayaram’s son Kalidas’ Tamil debut (Oru Pakka Kadhai), but for some reason, Kalidas’ 2nd film, Meenkuzhambbum Manpaanayum (with music by hit-machine Imman) came first.
04. Neha S. Nair & Yakzan Gary Pereira
Between them, as a duo, they have just one soundtrack—Iyobinte Pusthakam—but, adding that to Yakzan’s earlier effort (Thaalam, along with Job Kurien and Charan Raj), I feel a lot more confident about this duo, if they decide to produce more music together.
05. Sooraj S. Kurup
I’m going out on a limb in naming Sooraj as the 5th in this list, with just one album out (Valleem Thetti Pulleem Thetti). And that’s largely because of the majestic Karaharapriya-infused Pularkaalam pole! Here’s hoping the man lives up to the high standards I expect from him!
Others worth noting here include Rahul Subramanian, Viswajith, Rex Vijayan and the Ramesh Vinayagam os Malayalam, Stephen Devassy.
Kannada’s A-listers list is rather short. It was just V.Harikrishna earlier, but now it includes Arjun Janya.
The Next 4 in Kannada:
01. Ajaneesh Loknath
The most promising among the new lot. An explosive debut in Ulidavaru Kandante and then more recently, Akira and Ishtakamya. I see phenomenal growth for Ajaneesh in Kannada.
02. Charan Raj
The 3rd person in this list connected to the Malayalam pop album Thaalam! After Godhi Banna Sadharna Mykattu, he sure deserves a place in this list!
03. Manikanth Kadri
Manikanth, much like Prashant Pillai, Gopi Sundar and Raghu Dixit has been moving between languages (Kannada, Telugu and Tamil), but his major works have been in Kannada, right up the newly released Run Antony. His consistency is such that it makes it worth following what he does next!
04. Vijay Prakash
I had singer Vijay Prakash in this list the last time (2014) for just one film (Andar Bahar). He hasn’t composed anything since then for films, though he was part of a pop album (Ananthaal) along with Bianca Gomes and Clinton Cerejo. So, here’s hoping the man composes too, besides singing so well, so often.
Others like the fairly prolific Anoop Seelin and now-missing Joshua Sridhar complete the list. I heard that Jassie Gift has recently completed 25 films – not sure if it is his multi-lingual output or 25 just in Kannada, given how often he composes (only) in Kannada.