“Right in the scripting stage, Yudham Sei was decided to be approached musically by the director” – says K, the score composer of Mysskin’s Yudham Sei. That is how Mysskin approaches every film of his. Though Mysskin’s films never had songs that are indispensable, the background score has always played a very vital role in his style of telling of a story. Yudham Sei, a crime thriller left the impact that it did, thanks to K’s strings-heavy orchestral score besides other aspects. I liked Yudham Sei background score for most part, but there were few problems and hence some questions. And I decided to ask those directly to the man himself.
A Cue as a Clue
The cue titled “A tale (Dark)” on the CD is used in the opening scene of the film, in which the key incident in the story unfolds. It recurs again, when for the first time, Dr.Purushoththaman’s family is revealed. And, I felt that recurrence of the cue particularly when the family introduces, could be a spoiler; it is the major clue to the whodunit puzzle. The music in the background clearly tells that the girl we see in the Purush’s family could be the unconscious girl sitting in the Auto rickshaw in the opening scene of the film. The Tale (Dark) theme diligently recurs again when the flashback episode begins. But, K trashes all these extrapolated theories of mine and explains his reasons for using the cue in the above mentioned scenes. “The cue, a tale (dark) was specifically placed in the beginning of the movie to get the viewer prepared for the rest of the story. It gives you a sense of darkness mixed with sadness which essentially is what the movie is about. When the doctor's family is revealed we play the same thing, with a small flute piece on top. So that forms what you can call the family's theme. The flute was placed there for the sympathy aspect.”
Making of Themes
The score has very well defined themes for various recurring situations in the film. The Tale (Dark) Theme, the Purush’s family flute theme – it is played when the family is first revealed in the film and used extensively to evoke sympathy throughout the flashback episode, Thirisangu theme - it is heard for the first time when we come to know that ACP Thirisangu (Selva) is heading the villain gang, Box (Pandora) Theme that plays whenever a box is found in a public place, “Next Lead” theme – it is heard for the first time when JK informs Commissioner that Purushoththaman’s family case has to be reopened and again when JK informs Commissioner about the dirt in the Ashok Nagar Police Station, Revenge theme – the Arabic flavoured strings piece is heard when the Family prepares to take revenge on all those who are responsible for their daughter’s death and it recurs when in the climax Dr.Purush and his wife march to kill the villains, Mysterious Murderers Theme – it is heard for the first time when we see a unknown person climbs the stairs, picks an electric saw and cut the arms of a victim, JK’s Piano Theme – that plays in every scene in which JK is alone thinking about his lost sister. K explains the process by which he could pull off such a detailed thematic score for the film.
“Work on Yudham Sei started roughly some six months before the actual shooting. I was present at almost all the discussion sessions right from the beginning. When the director and the ADs sat down and discussed various scenes and shots, I would note down important ideas that I think would probably work. The next day or a few days later, I would return to the director with some rough ideas and he would either approve of them right away or suggest some changes. This carried on till the end of the shoot. Towards the end we would put the music over the visuals and make changes according to the length or whatever else. This way most of the music was already decided. After we had the complete visuals, we (with director and team) sat and composed the other portions. You could say the spotting/composing sessions happened for a week or so. As far as the instrumentation is concerned, it is but natural to use certain things for certain situations. For JK's theme piano seemed to be the most apt choice. Having done most of the rough tracks, both the director and me decided it would be best to use a live orchestra. Mysskin is a person who loves the sound of a live orchestra and we both knew and decided that Synth sounds just wouldn't do justice to the score. Hence, live orchestra! Recording it was absolutely awesome. The orchestra was conducted by Mr.Yensone. It was 36 piece strong and had most of the usual players of the madras cine musicians group.”
The “Box” Violin theme is a nice idea. The recurring short phrase on Violin instantly builds a sense of curiosity. But, I felt that the way it was mixed with the film could have been better. It appears all of a sudden in the soundtrack in full volume. Maybe a slow and gradual entry of the theme into the soundtrack could have served the purpose even better (for example, the way Chevaliers De Sangreal gradually reveals itself when Robert Langdon traces the path to the location of the real Holy Grail in the climax of “Da Vinci Code”). Also, in general, the volume of the score in the film makes the film sound more melodramatic than it actually is, especially in the final act. It gives an impression that the composer has over-scored the film.
“The box theme was specifically done for the various 'box' scenes (scenes where the cardboard boxes were displayed in various public places). I've not seen Da Vinci code, so I'm not familiar with the scene you're talking about. Anyway, somehow the box theme and some other themes seemed good to us back in the mixing stage. Maybe they would have had some other impact if we'd done it otherwise! As a composer, I was involved with the mix, but to be honest I didn't ask for any major changes to the work the sound engineer did.”
There is music in almost every other scene where there are no dialogues. Sometimes, the music plays for no particular reason or rather reasons that are hard to decipher. When JK and his colleagues inspect Purushoththaman’s sealed house, there is too much build up in music as if something is going to happen, but nothing happens. Also, I couldn’t understand the use of Violins or maybe Cellos, when JK inspects Moorthy’s Auto-rickshaw or the music for the scene in the Tennis Court.
“Right in the scripting stage, Yudham Sei was decided to be approached musically by the director. Hence there's a lot of music. I don't think there was music for no particular reason in any portion. In Dr.Purushoththaman's house scene, the music was set to go with the lighting, the burnt house setting and the general idea that something bad has happened there.” So, there it is. The freaky music played in this scene is for what had happened and not for what is going to happen. “Auto-rickshaw scene, JK senses that something is wrong. Tennis court scene, it's a sort of thing for the two lecherous old men.” Yes, it was quite obvious, what with the camera lingering a little too longer than necessary on those two old men while they sip water and curiously watch the two girls playing Tennis.
There are moments in the film in which the score is the vital reason for the impact they had on us. In that Basement-Car-Parking scene, the deliberate silence maintained in the natural soundtrack is amplified with sustained strings in the score, and when the jump-out-of-the-seat moment happens, you can’t help but jump out of your seat. The effect wouldn’t be the same, if there were some percussions or instruments playing music loud while JK gently drives around the area and inspects.
There is an interesting conversation that happens between Harp and Strings in that bridge action sequence, though both music and the visuals follow the pattern of a similar scene from Anjaathey. K agrees. “Yes the harp aspect makes it similar to Anjaathey”. When Mahesh Muthuswamy moves up in the escalator and disappears in the blinding white light, the Cello that rises is uplifting and leaves us with a sense of hope.
But, that Cello piece in the end credits music, or the Box theme for that matters seem to be heavily inspired by some foreign film scores.
K has not even heard the pieces that Box theme is allegedly inspired from. “Most international films have strings as their basic element. Such a script, I feel, simply cannot have any other kind of music. Can you imagine psycho without the violins! I don't know why some people keep saying that the box theme is a copy of some international piece (I think from some Japanese soundtrack). I can assure you that I've never heard of it before. All the pieces in the film were inspired by the script first of all. No creation I believe can happen without some inspiration. It might be on purpose or otherwise. I believe the music of Yudham Sei is inspired by a lot of western classical music. I don't remember completely, but I think Predator and King Kong were given to me as references and tracks from the same were used as temps.”
A Song Composer Vs A Score Composer
“I was absolutely delighted and slightly worried at the same time because it's my first feature film. To be honest, the fact that there were no songs in the film didn't bother me one bit, I mean that thought didn't cross my mind at all. I'm not sure why though! I don't think I prepared myself in any special way. I listened to a lot of music, watched some movies, that's about it!”
“I don't think any Audio company in India would be ready and willing to release the entire soundtrack on CD. Guess it's the same case with Yudham Sei. As it is no one buys audio CDs anymore. I would love to have the entire thing released. I hope to work on it soon.”
We are waiting K.