If he weren’t a composer, Mr X aka Darbuka Siva would be managing football teams. The freshly-anointed music composer of Enai Noki Paayum Thotta, who was the subject of much intrigue not so long ago, is perhaps best described in his Twitter bio: ‘Part-time entertainer; full time gypsy’
That Darbuka Siva is very much the free spirit is quite obvious. To restrain him from doing something must be a very tough task. And yet, that is exactly what director Gautham Menon had done for the past few months. Siva had signed on as the music composer of Menon’s Enai Nokki Paayum Thotta quite some time back. The single from the movie – ‘Maruvaarthai’ (a soulful melody by Sid Sriram) – released in February this year, is extremely popular and has over 20 million views on YouTube. But, for a good six months, Darbuka Siva was not at liberty to fully soak up the adulation.
Menon’s strategy to promote the single as the work of a Mr X may or may not have paid off, but he certainly pulled off the herculean task of keeping Darbuka Siva restrained.
At a promotional event for Kidaari almost a year ago, Siva confessed to being unable to conform to normative patterns expected from people. “I’m different. I have always been, and once I embraced that aspect of my character, I could live and breathe better.”
Siva’s tryst with music was incidental, as most things in his life have been. He was on his way to try his hand at managing football teams when producer Ajai Prasath asked him if he’d like to compose for a film.
“I am not a formally-trained musician, in the way the others in the industry are. Most of my experiences with music are a mix of intuition and inspiration. That’s how I picked it up. In fact, I just announced to my friends that I will become a musician. And somehow, life made me one.”
It took a good six months for Siva to be chosen as the music composer of Kidaari. “Prasath was most insistent that I do a scratch of songs to show (actor) Sasikumar. It felt like an audition, and was something new for me at the time. I had great fun working on the album, and would have cherished the memory of those six months even if I had not got the opportunity to work on the film. But, thankfully, I got both.”
Darbuka Siva’s work for Kidaari draws heavily on the music he made as part of La Pongal. His version of the popular ‘Vandiyile Nellu Varum’ song featuring Anthony Dassan finds a place in the final album line-up.
There’s also the very interesting ‘Thalakaalu Puriyalaye’ – a rich fusion of rural music and new age pop. His songs received a lot of appreciation at the time of release – a fact that energised the young musician.
“Thing is, we tried to experiment every way we can with Kidaari. There are a lot of things that I tried to include in the album so that it does not feel redundant. The one thing an artiste hates is comparison, and in my first work itself, I did not want that tag. So, I pulled in the usual mix of singers and made them do unique things. So we had Haricharan, Anitha, Anthony Daasan singing pieces that are not their oeuvre, so to speak. When I heard the positive reviews, I was gratified, mostly.”
The one person Siva would most like to be compared with is Ilaiyaraaja. “Though I doubt that can happen. Ilaiyaraaja’s music is like amma saapadu to me. I grew up on his songs, and it was just an intense experience. I would say that his music shaped my life and provided the soundtrack to some of my biggest moments. To reach his heights would be a mammoth task, and I think it is wise not to try.”
Siva’s work on Kidaari prompted Sasikumar to sign him up for Bale Vellaiyathevaa. The marginal success of the film meant that the composer did not get his due. “But, I wasn’t too bothered about that,” he says.
Seven days after the release of Bale.., the teaser for ‘Maruvaarthai’ went up on YouTube. A short two months later, fame would come calling for Mr X.
While role-playing as the anonymous music composer for Enai Nokki Payum Thotta (even actor Dhanush – the male lead of the film – reportedly did not know who composed the insanely addictive song), Siva was bombarded with calls from eager reporters and producers who wanted to know if he was Menon’s latest protege.
“It was quite hard to fend them off. Most of the time, I hit ignore,” Siva laughs. A Twitter handle bearing the name ‘Mr X’ cropped up shortly, with keen fans noting the similarities between Siva and the mysterious composer. “We both liked football. That’s when things started to unravel,” Siva says.
At present, Siva has been signed on to compose music for the Pellichoopulu remake – Pon Ondru Kanden. He also has acting duties to look forward to. Siva comes back as Austin D’Costa in Rajathandhiram 2, and the second time around is very special for him. “Ilaiyaraaja is the music composer for the film. Can you imagine a better dream-come-true experience?” Siva asks.
For now, composing is what that interests him. “I’m in this for now,” he says, “But, I’m not sure where I’m headed next.”
The Darbuka Siva interview is a Silverscreen exclusive.