Tamil composer and singer GV Prakash Kumar rose to fame at the age of four. He lent his voice to songs composed by his uncle AR Rahman, including Chikku Bukku Rayile from Gentleman (1993) and Madrasai Suthi from May Madham (1994).
Fourteen years later, Kumar made his debut as a composer with the Tamil film Veyyil (2005). He has since created the soundtracks for over 70 films, including Aadukalam (2011), Kaaka Muttai (2014) and the background score for Gangs of Wasseypur (2012) and Ugly (2014).
Prakash’s talent extends beyond music. He made his acting debut in the hit horror comedy Darling in 2015, and he now has six films to his credit, the most recent of which is by the acclaimed director Bala. In Naachiyaar, which also stars Jyothika as a police officer, Prakash plays a vegetable seller accused of assaulting his girlfriend. The movie will be released on February 16.
“I am lucky to be here,” Kumar told Scroll.in. “I have been learning a lot every day as a composer, as an actor and as a singer.”
Naachiyaar is Bala’s eighth movie, and follows a series of hard-hitting social dramas, including Sethu (1999), Pithamagan (2003) and Paradesi (2013). “The story is a very interesting thriller,” Kumar said. “My character is a very innocent, genuine boy. It is a thriller about a boy from the slums. The way Bala sir narrated the character of Kathuvarayan to me was very interesting. The script has a social responsibility and it deals with a subject that has to be addressed now.”
The main preparation for the role required a drastic physical transformation. “We changed my skin colour and hair colour for the film,” Kumar said. “We had to tan my skin colour three grades down. When you have a good teacher and go to a set, you are mentally prepared. When Bala sir is there, there is no confusion. He will exactly brief you about how to work and what kind of body language you have to adapt. I worked around those lines.”
Bala, who is known for his methodical approach, collaborated with Kumar in his capacity as a music composer for Paradesi. “He [Bala] is very particular about every reaction and expression, and he would tell me how it was to be done,” Kumar said. “He is a very good teacher and he knows how to get his work done. It was very good to work with somebody with so much clarity and planning. His shot divisions are very clear. He is one of the best directors I have ever worked with.”
Kumar reiterated that his acting career was not planned. “Long back [director] AR Murugadoss met me and said that he wanted to produce a film with me as an actor,” Kumar said. “He told me that I had a connect with the audience. I seriously looked into it because he is not somebody who will just tell someone something like that.”
The composer is also a known voice behind many Tamil film songs, including Edhai Ninaithom from Kaaka Muttai and Yathe Yathe from Aadukalam. “A lot of people say that I am good at melodies,” Kumar said. “But basically, I am an emotional person. The emotional songs come out very easily for me. So perhaps I am able to connect to those songs. Ever since I was in my school band in the ninth standard, I used to perform at cultural events. I thought I should pursue my dream.”
Apart from Naachiyaar, Kumar will act in at least seven more films, including Rajiv Menon’s under-production musical Sarvam Thaala Mayam. “After K Vishwanath [renowned Telugu filmmaker Kasinathuni Viswanath], here is a director who has come up with a musical script, so I am very excited to work on Rajiv sir’s film,” he said. Kumar plays a low-caste drummer who participates in a musical talent show in the movie, whose music is by Rahman.
How does he juggle acting and composing? By working every single day. And which one gets preference? “I cannot pick between the two because I only do things that I am really comfortable with,” Kumar said. “I like whatever I am doing now.”