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In Conversation with 99 Songs’ Vishwesh Krishnamoorthy

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Vishwesh Krishnamoorthy is the director of the upcoming movie 99 Songs. He is a writer, director and musician. He’s a journalist by education, a content creator in Radio (pre Internet) at Win94.6 and subsequently, a 3-year stint in Ogilvy & Mather led to directing promos and ads at MTV. He has also released 3 EP’s and 4 Albums with post-hardcore (heavy metal) band Scribe and has been on the cover of Rolling Stone India in 2014. He is the Founder of Voctronica (India’s first acapella band) and was also awarded Asia’s Directors to watch out for – 2009 AdFest Phuket. 

We got a chance to speak to him about his work with AR Rahman on 99 songs!

Tell us about how your career started?

I was a journalism student that got into the radio business after a few internships as a features writer in a National Daily. Shortly after that, I worked at Ogilvy, then MTV and then began a full-fledged career as a filmmaker with ad films, documentaries, music videos and everything in between. Meanwhile, I was active as part of hardcore (metal) band Scribe that did enough to find ourselves on the cover of Rolling Stone Magazine. I also did quite a bit of theatre and voice acting since it was something I enjoyed. I preferred to stay within close distance of stage and screen and I’ve kept it that way ever since I was a teenager.

Since then I’ve played and toured with over 9 bands, I’ve made 4 albums with the band, been in over a dozen plays, made over 300 ads and been writer-director on two 10 episode high-quality web-series. And now, my first feature film is about to release.

I’m living the dream. 🙂

How did this project happen for you?

After winning a Cannes Lion for a non-fiction documentary series called The Dewarists, I took the opportunity to create a web-series (back in 2012) called ‘Bring on the Night’. That was widely appreciated and I started getting offers for feature film work but nothing that really fit my sensibilities. Shortly after that, I got a call from AR Rahman who appreciated my aesthetic approach to filmmaking and then promptly gave me the offer to helm his first production. He had a story and he wanted to develop it further which I did with him for the following year. After several drafts of the screenplay, we got into production and here we are!

What was the experience of work with AR Rahman?

It was absolutely unpredictable, unforgettable and unmatched. He’s a rare artist with the soul of a curious child. He is relentless with innovation and completely clued-in with technology. He is one of those rare people that has a tremendous grasp on the new school and the old school and often encourages making a blend of the two. It also helps greatly when a film about music is being directed and produced by musicians. He made things very friendly for me. He’s also taught me how to be grounded no matter where success takes you.

Why is the movie called 99 Songs?

There is a deep significance to that title. The explanation I might provide might be too simplistic in nature to avoid spoilers. But the film’s title could’ve been no other than ’99 songs’ for the profound significance it has once the end credits roll. But to provide a simple explanation, ’99 songs’ is more than just a quantitative term. It is the whole lifetime one has lived composing songs.

What are some of the challenges you faced as a filmmaker?

The greatest challenge a filmmaker would face no matter where he is in the world is to protect his vision. That was the toughest part. This film is a bold step towards a new look and feels in commercial cinema. I was lucky to have AR Rahman’s support in bringing that kind of sophistication and finesse in the presentation. We did have our tug of wars, but I think it is so important to have that too. He knows the audience. He’s got a great hold on them and I think for me, accommodating that taught me the most.
We’ve made this film with absolute purity and the deepest sincerity. I’ve toiled for years on it and oftentimes, I was doing it alone. And challenges notwithstanding, I hope it fulfils everyone’s dreams so we can make better cinema. The challenge never really wanes. I guess I’m already on to the next one.

What are your plans after 99 songs?

I’ve signed something but I’m not at liberty to divulge anything about it. It’s an ambitious, prestigious project and I hope to see it through soon. But before anything else, I’m gonna get back to writing some new music. Perhaps a new band too! (wink wink).

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