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‘Oblivion’ Music Video: A Multi-Sensory Experience in a Surrealistic World

The A.R. Rahman-launched track is elevated with the feel of dystopian fiction packed into a crisp seven-minute clip conceptualized by Santhy Balachandran and director Dominic Arun

Tanushi Bhatnagar Jun 16, 2021

A still from the music video "Oblivion."

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Urban legend says that your brain is active for at least seven minutes after death. Your memories, milestones and the important people in your life make one last trip to your conscience before the flatline appears. To the rather pleasant surprise of the creators of “Oblivion,” which exhibits the key moments of a man’s life right as he breathes his last, the music video unintentionally culminates exactly at seven minutes. 

Directed by Dominic Arun (Tharangam) and conceptualized by Santhy Balachandran (Jallikattu, Tharangam), “Oblivion” is a music video launched by the legendary composer A.R. Rahman on June 11th under the label Manorama Music. It is based on a pre-existing track by composer Ashwin Renju. A product emerging out of the lockdown slump, Oblivion, is shot by a budding filmmaker Nimish Ravi (Luca) and was filmed in September 2020. The surrealistic concept, partially based on Nordic mythology, is deeply layered with a rich background story to not only the track but also the onscreen characters. The visuals are disturbingly and destructively beautiful. They bring out an undertone of slight discomfort as they confront soothing Malayalam vocal melodies by K. S. Harisankar. 

Balachandran — an actor and writer who has helmed executive producer duties for the video —  speaks about the romantic lyrics penned by Manu Manjith and says, “Ashwin likes to experiment quite a bit with music, and he went for an R&B and trap genre which is not something you hear very often in Malayalam. What he wanted was also an unconventional video… It is a song about loss, so we could have gone down the romance route, but it was expansive enough that it created space for an open interpretation.” 

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Stuck between life and death, the one-eyed protagonist (played by Sidharth Varma) is an embodiment of the Nordic All-Father Odin, known for his hunger for knowledge. Balachandran says, “We tend to overvalue the mode of vision; we believe that seeing is believing. The entire video is an interrogation of that idea as well. The images that we see are not really anchored in reality.” She adds, “It also connects to the idea of gaining wisdom through loss. In the case of our protagonist, whatever insights that he is gaining is through the ultimate loss – the loss of life.” 

The cinematography achieves to satisfy all five senses and, at moments, all at once. The video transcends the concept of time and space while exploring the human lifetime and psyche. The movie-like concept ties the whole story back together at the end and is extremely satisfying if you hate cliffhangers.  

A still from “Oblivion”

The video doesn’t shy away from promoting small talent despite having a crew lined with some of the best-known names in the film and music industry. Balachandran takes pride in secretly planting easter eggs in the visuals, costumes and the set, referencing Odin and many pop-culture elements peppered across the video. Collaborating with art student Alendev R. Vishnu from the National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad, she found the perfect opportunity to include The Persistence of Memory by surrealist painter Salvador Dali and Ceci n’est pas une pipe by French surrealist painter Magritte. Excitedly, she explains the references, “In one of the initial shots with the dilapidated buildings… there is a poster… There is a melting clock in the image, but the billboard says, ‘This is not an Ad.’ It’s a little bit of a critique of consumer culture. I had a lot of fun. The inner geek in me could just go to town.” Look out for a series of references from the Marvel Cinematic Universe as well.

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The team went above and beyond to appeal to the Instagram audience by revealing an Instagram filter created by the Hyderabad-based programmer Rishabh Rao, which allowed users to be a part of the mythology of the video. In addition, another exciting, immersive AR filter is on its way to soon be launched and will allow Instagrammers to step into the world of “Oblivion.

With three more films on their way — a sports drama called Ahaa directed by Bibin Paul Samuel and two Siddharth Bharathan films, the larger-than-life fantastical Djinn and a family drama Chathuram — Balachandran’s foray into writing for the music video space is what is creating the most buzz right now. “I am really open to doing more work like this. As a writer, the music video space is really interesting because you don’t have to worry about exposition and logic. There is more space to be creative with imagery and metaphor… I would love to do more. Perhaps collaborate with other people and push myself even more,” Balachandran concludes.

Watch the video for “Oblivion” below.

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