Interviews ...

“I believe making catchy melodies is my strength” – Akshay Menon

In a career spanning more than a decade, Akshay Menon has worked on several popular songs across different languages as a music producer. At the moment, Akshay is focussed on building a career as a music composer. ‘Tujhse Pyaar Hai’, a romantic ballad composed by him for the Hindi film ‘Main Ladega’ released a couple of weeks back.

In this interview, Akshay talks about the process of creating ‘Tujhse Pyaar Hai’, journey in the film and music industry, love for piano, collaborating with Amaal Mallik,

The first Hindi film you worked as a music composer was ‘Dil Hai Gray’. The film, which has been directed by Susi Ganesan, features Vineet Kumar Singh, Akshay Oberoi and Urvashi Rautela in principal roles. ‘Main Ladega’, however, turned out to be your first released Hindi film as a composer.

Yes, that’s right! ‘Main Ladega’ is my first release as a composer in Hindi cinema. I worked on ‘Dil Hai Gray’ earlier but it has not released yet. Before getting into Hindi films as a composer, I worked on a few regional films. I did the background score for a Marathi film and a Gujarati film.

You have worked as a music producer for several years. How do you look back at this new journey as a composer?

A lot of people, who are into music, eventually want to compose for films. I had the same goal. While music remains my biggest passion, I have also been a huge film buff. I always wanted to compose music for films. Films inspire me to write original music. I have been working as a music producer for more than ten years now. All these years of working as a music producer helped me familiarize myself with the industry and the way it works. I have a good knowledge of production, mixing, mastering and recording techniques. All this helps me in my work as a composer. I believe making catchy melodies is my strength. 

How did ‘Tujhse Pyaar Hai’ happen?

Aakash Pratap Singh, who is the lead actor of the film, got in touch with me through a common friend who happens to be a filmmaker. When I met Aakash, he told me he wanted a romantic power ballad. I told him that I don’t mind giving something from my bank of songs but I would prefer creating a fresh song which is designed specifically for the film. Aakash briefed me about the story, characters and the situation. Based on that, I created the song. Working with Aakash on this film was a wonderful experience. He is an extremely talented actor and writer. Apart from playing the lead in ‘Main Ladega’, he had written the script for the film as well. He is a very dear friend now and we often play cricket together.

How long did it take for you to put together the song?

It took me 4-5 days to come up with the tune. I am a pianist. I composed the melody on my piano. Anwesshaa and I understand each other’s musical sensibilities well. Once she heard the tune, she came up with the lyrics in very little time. In 45 minutes, the mukhda of the song was ready.

The album of ‘Main Ladega’ has been put together by different composers. How do you look at this trend of getting multiple composers to create the soundscape for a film?

I think it’s fine. It leads to more number of people getting opportunities. I just have one suggestion for producers and directors here. Whenever they reach out to a music director for a song, they should brief them about the story and situation in the film and ask them to make a fresh song for them. If a song is tailor-made for a film, it works better.

You have a Malayali surname. Are you from Kerala?

I am a Malayali and my origins are from Kerala. However, I was born in Mumbai and grew up in the Gulf in Bahrain. I came back to Mumbai to do my college.

What kind of musical training have you had?

I started playing the keyboard and piano when I was in school. I used to learn from Savio sir, a music teacher based in Bahrain. After I came back to Mumbai, I met Mr. Chitti Pillai. He is a legendary pianist and has worked with all the great composers right from R.D. Burman to Shankar Mahadevan. He is the one who got me into music and encouraged me to pursue music professionally.

Two years back, you composed a Malayalam single titled ‘Thaniye’. The video featured Nithya Menon who also co-sung the track with Siddharth Menon.

‘Thaniye’ happened during lockdown. Siddharth and I have friends for a while. We also live in the same locality. I was making cover versions of popular songs during the lockdown as there was not much to do. During that time, Siddharth suggested that I should make an original song. He said that he would try and get a video made out of it as well. I composed a tune and he liked it. We got Malayali lyrics written by Dhanya Suresh. Nithya was kind enough to come on board for this song. She featured in the video and sang the female portions beautifully.

Do you listen to a lot of Malayalam music?

I haven’t explored a lot of Malayalam music but I have loved whatever I have heard.

Are you comfortable making songs in different languages?

Absolutely! Music is a universal language. I have done two Arabic songs for an artist named Ahmado who is based in Dubai. Working across different industries and languages has been a beautiful experience. I love exploring the folk music of different states.

You have collaborated with Amaal Mallik in the past.

Yes, I had produced his song ‘Sab Tera’ from ‘Baaghi’. Amaal and I have had a great working relationship. He is a very gifted composer. 

You have worked extensively in the advertising industry. How has been that experience like?

Time is a very important factor in advertising. Every second matters. We have to cater to the audience using unique sounds and melodies. You also have to deliver on time. Working in the advertising industry makes you disciplined. You face a lot of rejections also and that toughens you up as a professional.

You have a very strong connection with the keyboard or piano. How did you get drawn to this particular instrument?

My parents got me a keyboard and it all started with a pursuit of keeping a hobby. Being from a South Indian family, learning music comes naturally. Even my mother learned to play a veena, and I guess I got my musicality from her. When I met my music teacher Chitti sir in Mumbai, he encouraged me to make a career in music. My parents supported me wholeheartedly. My uncle, Mr. Prakash Menon, is really passionate about music. Back in the day, he got me good equipment and the latest keyboards of that time. Around 2010-11, I became sure of the fact that I will pursue a full-time career in music.

Given the fact that nobody in your family is from the industry, was it difficult to get the first few opportunities?

It was a long process. Initially it all started with college festivals and youth festival events. Musical sessions, jamming with friends were all stepping stones. I was planning to make some covers with friends when my mother suggested that I should ask Akriti Kakkar, whom I call didi, to sing for me. I approached her for the cover of Aaj Jaane Ki Zidd Na Karo and she said a yes. The song went viral back then. I worked with so many musicians and creative artists. That slowly helped me get some opportunities in the industry. Once you meet somebody who likes your work, they recommend your name to others and things start happening.

What are you doing next?

I am working on a jingle for a water park. Anwesshaa is writing it. I am also doing 2-3 songs for Jio Creative Labs. They are making a web show which will have Neil Nitin Mukesh in the lead role. It will come out later this year on Jio Cinema.

Disclaimer: This story is auto-aggregated by a computer program and has not been created or edited by filmibee.
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