Music

The second song from Kannada film 3Devi, Kandha Padhya, is a lilting yet powerful lullaby from a mother calling her lost daughter(s) home

24th Jun 2022 11:25 PM | Romal Laisram

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We first spoke to stand-up comic-turned-director Ashvin Mathew about his film 3Devi when the film’s first song released in December 2021. The song, A Love Song for Goddesses, featuring Sushant Divgikar aka RaniKoHEnur has now crossed over a million views on YouTube and the responses have mostly been positive. The film now releases its second song, Kandha Padhya — a lullaby for the missing, sung by Madhuri Seshadri, composed by Fidel Asok and Dossmode and penned by Karthik Saragur. We catch up with director Ashvin, ahead of the release of the song, to preview the song and find out more about the composition and the powerful visuals they chose to use in the song instead of montages from the film.

Who composed Kandha Padhya and who wrote the lyrics? Tell us a little bit about the process that led to this powerful song?
The melody of the song was created by Fidel Asok, my composer who is based out of Kerala. He did it in three days flat. We met outside Kochi airport, I gave him the brief and he created the most haunting melody. Dossmode then came in and composed the full song. Dossmode has also created two more versions of the same melody for two different sequences in the film. One being the choir version created for a wedding sequence in a church and the other a tribal version that is used for a forest resort sequence. This particular pathos version is a personal favourite. I am truly proud of it, maybe a little partial to it too. The lyrics are written by Karthik Saragur, based on an English poem that I had penned as a concept for one of the sequences for 3Devi. Karthik has also written all the songs and dialogues for the film. The best part about working with Karthik is that our wavelengths really match. He takes every concept I share with him to another level, altogether. His command over the Kannada language and his knowledge of the homeland allows him insights and nuances that are earthy, regional and yet soulfully universal. While we were discussing this song, he spoke about his childhood, growing up with an NGO in the forest regions and we decided to use a tribal dialect to bring out the pathos of a tribal mother.

Album cover of Kandha Padhya

 

To choose to shoot an absolutely new video for the song, instead of releasing it with promotional montages from the film itself — what led to that decision?
This in fact came about much later owing to my conversations with Anu George Canjanathoppil, a close friend. Anu is a global thought leader with the International Justice Mission, Canada. I have known her for a long time, since she used to work with grassroot-level rescues of people trapped in various forms of atrocities and abuse. We talked about the thousands of girls and young women who are lost to trafficking and abuse, year on year. The sheer numbers and the real magnitude of the problem is bone chilling. We, the educated lot, who live in the thick of over-exposure to information, seemed to be blind to so many startling facts. Like, during the pandemic, the youngest victim rescued from online sex trafficking was a two-month-old baby! My conversations with Anu and a few ideas that I was exploring with my team is what led to the visual narration for the song. Our song that was about a lone tribal mother calling out to her lost child somewhere in a dark forest, lent itself to becoming the lullaby of any and every mother that is calling out to her missing child. The issue of children going missing in such large numbers was more important, so we decided to use the song for this, rather than use it for marketing.

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Still from Kandha Padhya

 

How did you end up shooting this video and who shot it and where?
The creation of the music video itself has been a beautiful collaborative process. We were fortunate enough to rope in some brilliant talent for it. The video is the result of my discussions with Sunny Sawrav, my associate director and editor for the film, about an idea I had initially. We put our heads together and planned the whole video and the edit. Then we got Gokul Pillai on board as our cinematographer. The first time that he heard the song, he was floored. This was important for all of us, the thought that we must rise to the level of the song in our execution of the video. We shot in Bengaluru, Kozhikode, Thrissur and Wayanad. Gokul and the team, including Vishnudas Nandan, B Krishna Karthik and Ahron Abraham, have done an exemplary job of capturing some of the most haunting real-life images of real women in their own settings. The editing of the music video by Sunny truly brings out the intent that we have worked together on for months now. This is our labour of love for every missing child that needs to find their way back home.

How does this song fit into 3Devi as a film?
In the film, this pathos version of the song plays in the background, post the climax scene, when the three female protagonists are done fighting their battles, they are bruised and battered, yet are trying to find their way back home. It’s a tribal woman somewhere in the forest who sings this song, calling out to her child who is lost, much like the girls.

Who sang the song and why did you choose to use a regional dialect of Kannada?
Dossmode introduced us to the singer Madhuri Seshadri. I had asked him to find someone who can perform the song in a theatrical sense and not just sing it. From the first line she sang we knew the song was for her. She cried at the end of the song, and you can hear that in the song. We wanted the song to capture the emotional turmoil of a mother waiting for her children to come home. We decided to use a particular dialect to highlight the problems of people who, also go through the same problems as city folk but, rarely get a voice to carry their plight to the rest of the world. Karthik also ensured that the words and the enunciations stayed true to the forest region where we shot the sequences for the film. The International Justice Mission also liked the idea that we wanted to use the original song and not a translation. This carried the idea of a woman somewhere in a forest crying out for her child. This made the problem, real and immediate. Madhuri is an extremely talented vocalist. She has rendered the song exactly how I had imagined it. It’s very rare that reality lives up to your imagination. Especially in our field, since every artist has their own interpretation of a piece, that may or may not coincide with your own vision. Sometimes, it is better for it and at times it is not. With Madhuri though, it is just what it ought to have been. Here training with theatre helped, and that’s how we connected. On the day of the recording, I was back in the director’s seat, and she was my artiste. That’s why I say Madhuri performed the song. She became that tribal mother wailing for her lost child. She felt every bit of the pain. Madhuri’s rendition of it seems to be striking a chord with people from a completely different part of the world, who never even knew of a language like Kannada. Anyone who has heard the song, especially non-Kannadigas — each time the reaction has been, ‘we don’t get the words, but we feel what she sings.’

Madhuri Seshadri

 

The song is lamentation of a mother, and you beautifully say, ‘everyone’s someone’s child’ — but aren’t you worried that the song will be misconstrued as supporting the idea of women needing to come home, especially at a time when the popular opinion in the country suggests that the only way for women to be safe is to stay home or come home early?
I don’t think so because the message is clear. It’s a mother saying come home, it kills the idea of asking a woman to tolerate oppression or violence. It says leave, come home... safe haven. It reiterates that they can always leave a situation that is not conducive to their well-being. ‘Stay at home’ is different from ‘come home.’ The song is not about laying down restrictions. It is about a mother who wants her lost child back home. It is in fact urging the child to believe that though there might be darkness around, she is still safe. And all the forces of nature are coming together to get her back home, safely. The larger intent of the song though is to spread awareness about the problem of missing children and women, so we as societies can create a safer environment for our women and children. So, they are free to live their lives and dreams, and no mother needs to wait endlessly in fear for her child. The song is about hope — of a better world, where every child is safe and free.

Ashvin Mathew

 

Was the song reflective of personal narratives from within the cast/crew of the film?
The song is a tribute to the women in my family, especially my mother and grandmother. Her strength is a ‘rock that is higher than I’ and I’ve heard her tell people not to put up with sexism and patriarchal violence. ‘Leave him, come home,’ that’s something I’ve heard them say a lot.

What next can we expect from the project and is a release date finalised for 3Devi?
We made a film about heroines in the absence of a hero. Every time we get into a conversation with a potential buyer, they ask, ‘so, who is the hero? No heroes?’ So, we are still in the process of fighting patriarchy in this aspect, as well. But we are hopeful.

Releasing on YouTube on June 26.

romal@newindianexpress.com
@elromal

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