Kannada composer Ajaneesh Loknath speaks of the Indian soul of his music
For some weeks now, the songs of the Kannada film Hero, produced by and starring Rishab Shetty, and directed by newcomer M. Bharath Raj, have been quite the talking point. The film was shot during lockdown, and its heartwarmingly melodious songs and background score that speak of love and loss have been composed by Ajaneesh Loknath, who is currently basking in the success of the film’s music.
Growing up in Bhadravathi, in the rain-drenched Malnad region of Karnataka, music composer Ajaneesh Loknath was surrounded by music from childhood. His influences were many — his grandmother, who was a veena artiste as well as his musician-parents.
The Roja impact
Ajaneesh is a child of the 90s, and predictably A.R. Rahman’s Roja was an album that he instantly connected to. Ironically though, his own BGM tracks and orchestration are often likened by fans with the musical sensibility of maestro Ilaiyaraaja. The 35-year-old Ajaneesh waves that away. “He is a class apart,” he says, “I’m still at the beginning of my journey.”
Though he was trained in classical music, his journey with sound began with Roja. He reels off a series of Rahman’s albums — Kizhakku Seemayile, Rangeela, Taal, Kaadhalan, Boys, Thiruda Thiruda — that were a part of his playlists during his growing-up years in Bhadravathi, the steel town near Shivamogga. He also listened to the compositions of the legendary M.S. Viswanathan, along with songs from films like the Malayalam His Highness Abdullah and the Kannada Sandhya Raga.
“I learnt to play the Carnatic flute and piano. And with all the music that I have listened to, I tried to create a sound of my own,” says Ajaneesh.
In fact, while recording the hit number ‘Nenapina’ from Hero, he was reminded of the late violin maestro Lalgudi Jayaraman. “I wondered how he might have handled the raga. That violin section is an ode to him,” he says.
Ajaneesh, who has been delivering a slew of hit songs, says he never approaches a project with a preconceived idea. “That reduces the ability to be creative. We then tend to work within a template,” he adds.
Not just Karnataka, the young composer has fans in Tamil Nadu and Kerala too. “Classical music is in our DNA,” he says.
The song, ‘Baananchige oduva baara’, from Hero is proof of his inventive use of melody, where he makes the most of the plaintive notes of the violin. “I worked on it after they shot the visuals. Luckily, I’d done something like that for Priyadarshan’s Nimir in Tamil, for the song ‘Eppodhum unmael nyabagam’, so it helped. . The lyrics of ‘Baananchige’ were haunting and helped me get into the mood. The violin is an integral part of the movie.”
He wanted to use the sitar and veena too, and Rajhesh Vaidhya came on board for that. “He recorded and sent it back to me within 20 minutes. He is amazing.”
The trailer of Hero also celebrates the violin, with the tune a beautiful combination of Thodi, Chakravakam and Bhairavi.
Over the years, Ajaneesh has struck a great rapport with many in the industry. He especially speaks of music composer C.R. Bobby, for whom he played the keyboard during his early days.
The composer credits Bobby, also his founding partner at Abbs Studio with being the wind beneath his wings. “At one point, she pushed me to the forefront and stepped back. She knew about my capabilities, which even I was not aware of.”
While his songs might be hits, what Ajaneesh enjoys most is composing the background score. “BGM can enrich or mar a film. It can elevate a scene, and you work with so many emotions.”
“I have experimented with many sounds,” he says. “I use jazz and other influences, but the soul has to be Indian.”
The writer is
a Mangalore-based freelance journalist.
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