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What makes Imman’s music click

Looking beyond the composer’s National Award winning song

When news of composer D. Imman winning the National Award for Best Music for Siva’s Viswasam broke, the Tamil film industry and social media erupted with joy. And then, the usual debate followed. ‘Imman has done stellar work. Why this film?’ ‘Is this really Imman’s best?’ Predictable because we are speaking of the composer of albums such as Mynaa, Kumki and Rekka, whose melodies seeped into listener’s hearts.

Music composer D. Imman 

Imman’s fans drew up a playlist — from Rekka’s ‘Kannamma’ and Tik Tik Tik’s ‘Kurumba’ to Nenjil Thunivirunthal’s ‘Rayil Aararo’ and Rummy’s ‘Koodamela’. Others showcased more ‘massy’ numbers such as ‘Dandanaka’ (Romeo Juliet) and ‘Ennama Ippadi’ (Rajinimurugan). A parallel celebration was happening on social media.

“This (comparison to a composer’s earlier work) happens all the time because music appreciation is subjective. People said the same thing when Rahman won the Oscars. They said that of all his songs, he wins for ‘Jai Ho…’ when there are so many other fabulous songs he has composed,” says Karthik Srinivasan, who manages the music review website Milliblog.

“I’m happy for Imman. He turned his career around after Mynaa, despite having done films for Vijay earlier in his career, and has not looked back. He remains one of the top composers in Tamil,” adds Karthik.

Imman began his career with the Vijay-starrer Tamizhan in 2002. It has taken him 21 years to make it big at the national level. While he had a sprinkling of hits in between, he had to wait until 2010 for his breakout album, Mynaa.

Mynaa and Kumki brought him back to the mainstream and he quickly captured the space previously occupied by Deva, Bharadwaj and others. He has mastered the art of creating raga-based, melancholic melodies, reminding many listeners of Ilaiyaraaja of the 1980s,” says Krithikaa Ramkrishnan, a U.S.-based IT consultant, who is passionate about music and cricket. According to her, Imman is comfortable in his soundscape and the melodies “have an emotional and visceral connection that reminds us of specific genres and periods in music”.

But Imman is not without flaws. “His tunes can get repetitive and jaded, and he continues to be known for ‘stand-out’ songs as opposed to ‘stand-out’ albums,” Krithikaa adds. However, he has always reinvented himself.

What stands out about the National Award is that it has come to him at the relatively young age of 38, when he seems to have hit a purple patch.

Researcher Nagarajan Natarajan, who tweets about all things film music, prefers ‘Vaaney Vaaney’ (Viswasam) sung by Shreya Ghoshal. “I’d like to think this award recognises the long-standing Imman-Ghoshal collaboration,” he says. His favourite Imman number is in Kannada — ‘Yaaro Naanu’ sung by Shreya Ghoshal for Puneet Rajkumar-starrer Natasaarvabhowma.

A scene from Viswasam  

What does Imman feel about the award for Viswasam, and ‘Kannana Kanne,’ sung by Sid Sriram, in particular? He dedicates it to all fathers since the film celebrates father-daughter bonding. “The award took me by surprise, because my understanding was that the award is given to artistic films. I did not see this coming my way.”

What gratifies Imman most is that people have given it a new life by colouring it with their own emotions . “This song is just four minutes in a two-and-a-half hour long film. But they’ve made it their song. I see this as a gift,” says Imman.

The writer is

a Mangalore-based freelance journalist.

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