We used to have jamming sessions on the sets of 'Hridayam': Aravind Venugopal

Aravind Venugopal
Jayaraj film 'The Train’ starring Mammootty is Aravind Venugopal's first film as a singer.

After the release of ‘Hridayam’, all those who were obsessing over ‘Darshana’ and ‘Onakkamunthiri’ were gravitating towards the keerthana composed in abheri rag, ‘Nagumo.’ It was Aravind Venugopal’s mellifluous voice that prompted listeners to go in search of the song after exiting the theatre. Aravind’s voice and the song had a special allure that urged listeners to keep going back to it. With ‘Nagumo’ becoming popular as caller tunes and Whassup statuses, Aravind, who is the son of veteran playback singer G Venugopal cannot hide his glee. When he joined ‘Hridayam’ as an Assistant director he never thought he would also get an opportunity to sing such a beautiful melody. Aravind opens to Manorama online about his Hridayam experience and his career dreams.

10 years in cinema

It’s been 10 years since I started my career in cinema. It was in 2011 that I first got an opportunity to sing in a film—'The Train’ directed by Jayaraj headlining Mammootty. I later joined as an Assistant Director in Anjali Menon’s ‘Koode’. In the last 10 years, I have crooned for various films. I always make sure I give my 100% to whatever I do. Some might click and some might fizzle out. I knew ‘Hridayam’ would work in theatres. But this was beyond what we expected. When this project clicked, all the projects I have done so far also got noticed. It feels great to hear people talk about it.

The song which made that connect

It was ‘Mazha Padum’ which I sang for ‘Sunday Holiday’ that first got me noticed. Since I wasn’t active on social media during that time, I wasn’t really aware of the reactions. For the last two years, I have been active on social media, and these days I get tags from various people on a daily basis. I have seen ‘Nagumo’ featured on many people’s statuses. But purists of Carnatic music might not enjoy the song as Hisham has composed a lighter version in ‘Nagumo.’ Those who saw the film are feeling an emotional connection to the song. The picturizations compliment the song and vice versa. Therefore this song has really helped the film.

As an AD in ‘Hridayam’

During the first week of December 2019, Vineeth had posted a note about ‘Hridayam’ on Instagram. Though I tried calling Vineethettan, I couldn’t get through to him. And then I messaged him. Later I met Noble who was one of the co-producers of the film who told me that they are still in the process of deciding the crew. They hadn’t yet finalized the assistant directors. When I met Vineethettan he okayed my inclusion. It was my previous experience as an AD for ‘Koode’ that clinched the deal in my favour.

Nagumo’ was a surprise

The shooting of ‘Hridayam’ started in January 2020. We were planning to finish a schedule but covid and lockdown wrecked our plans. The shooting was restarted exactly a year later in 2021 January. During that time 6 more songs were added to the film. Till then ‘Hridayam’ had only 9 songs. Vineethettan felt if we treated some of the conversations as songs, the narrative would flow more smoothly. That’s how ‘Nagumo’ came into the picture. It was after listening to some of my cover songs that they decided to use my voice for the song. So many such coincidences happened in the film.

Song on the sets

‘Hridayam’ set was filled with singers and those who played instrumental music. Pranav plays the guitar. There were also others who played guitar and they would all play on the sets. Darshana who is a good singer would also sing on the sets. So would Kalesh who played Selva. Pranav mostly sings English songs. He has a bass tone. Even while shooting music will always be played over the Bluetooth speakers. We would shoot with music. I think that technique has really helped a lot of actors in their performance. The results are evident on the screen. It helped to create a mood for actors to perform. During leisure hours we would have jamming sessions. The average age of the cast and crew on the sets was between 27-28 years. So that helped in making friends easily.

Towards a dream

I love direction and music and it will be difficult to say which I like better. All I can say is that I give my 100% to both. An Assistant director is required to make things easier and hassle-free for the director to get his perfect shot. When I am working as an AD I forget the fact that I am a singer. Like every assistant director, my dream is also to make a film and I am already working towards fulfilling it.

With Anjali Menon’s ‘Koode’

I wanted to work with Anjali Menon and Vineeth Sreenivasan before making my first film. Direction is not an easy job; they go through immense stress and pressure during the making of a film. There are more chances of things getting out of hand. I have always felt that Anjali and Vineeth were two directors who were able to handle such situations calmly. That’s why I wanted to work with them. I had just finished my studies during the release of Vineethettan’s ‘Jacobinte Swargarajyam.’ I knew that he won't make a film soon. During that time I send a few emails to Anjali Menon. Tried calling her and also through other people but she remained unreachable. But eventually, it happened, and I was able to work as an AD in ‘Koode.’ I am more inclined towards her kind of films.

My dad is my pride

My father has never forced me to do anything in life. But there is one thing he has said which I have always followed in life. He told me I should always give my 100% to anything and not be bothered about its results. He said everything has its destiny. I am not planning to join another film as an AD soon. I want to start writing my script. Some of my songs are awaiting release. I have sung a song in the Tamil film ‘Kural’ starring Naren, directed by Sugeeth. This is my first song in Tamil. It’s composed by Shaswath and Mangal who composed for Sugeeth’s film ‘Kinavallikal.’ I have also sung a song in Shane Nigam’s ‘Kurbani.’ These are my immediate releases. 

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