Born to Suresh Babu and Livi, Sundar spent a large part of his childhood in Kochi. His early interest in music started from working in his father's recording studio business and listening to the radio with his mother. During school days, Sundar was keener on playing the Tabla and Keyboard than studies. Eventually when he got dropped out of school after failing his SSLC exams, his parents were supportive enough to let him pursue his dreams. Keen to make a career in music, he left for Chennai where he took up classes at Government Music College but discontinued the course feeling disillusioned.
His father Suresh helped him get into the noted Malayalam composer Ouseppachan's music troupe. Ouseppachan, a longtime friend of Sundar's father took him as an assistant and became a mentor to the youngster in the years to come. While in the team, Sundar worked his way up playing Tabla and Keyboard and began getting noticed for his composing skills as well. An association that spans more than a decade, Sundar worked with the National Award winning composer assisting him in several of his works. In the years that he spent in Chennai, he struggled to find a foothold in the music industry. His first exposure to professional music came in the form of composing jingles for TV commercials. In those difficult days his uncle Devan, a noted actor in Malayalam films helped him get a roof over his head. Sridhar Kariat, son of the legendary Malayalam filmmaker Ramu Kariat showed him the ropes of how to stand out in the fast lane of advertising. In the world of the catchy jingle music of advertising, it took him seven years to carve a niche for himself. His ever-growing repertoire consists of almost 5000 jingles, a number of them for noted advertising filmmaker and feature film cinematographer Rajiv Menon. He has also done keyboard programming for Bollywood music director duo Vishal Shekhar for their popular songs like Ek Main Aur Ek Tu Hai (Bluffmaster!), Aankhon mein teri (Om Shanti Om) and Taxi No. 9211 to name a few.
Sundar got his first break as a film score composer with Notebook, after the director Rosshan Andrews happened to notice his programming for the film Udayananu Tharam. The engrossing score of the film was well appreciated. The success catapulted him into mainstream with Sibi Malayil offering him the first contract for soundtrack composition for the Malayalam film Flash starring Mohanlal. The turning point in his career was the film Big B which was the debut feature of not only the director Amal Neerad but also a host of technicians including Sameer Thahir, Vivek Harshan and Unni R. Although, the film which starred Mammooty opened to mixed reviews, it was lauded for its technical finesse and for providing a film experience that was altogether new to the Malayalam Film Industry. Sundar's background Score which blended aptly with the tone of the film was widely acknowledged, escalating his popularity amongst the Malayali film audiences. Big B marked the beginning of the Sunder's long-term association with Amal Neerad.
In 2008, Sundar made his Tamil film industry debut by composing the background Score for the film Poi Solla Porom. He then went on to compose songs for a number of films and the film Sagar Alias Jackie Reloaded (2009) which starred Mohanlal, had him compose both soundtrack and film score. Despite the film being panned by the critics and audiences alike, the songs were an instant hit. The first major award came by his way for the film Anwar in 2010 for which he received the Filmfare Award for Best Music Director.
Casanovva (2012), a Malayalam romantic-thriller film saw him reunite with Rosshan Andrrews. He shared music credits with Alphons Joseph and Gowri Lakshmi for the soundtrack. Although the audio rights were acquired by Satyam Audios at a record price of ₹12 million (US$190,000), the Mohanlal-starrer had a disappointing run at the box office. His next major work that year was for Anwar Rasheed film Ustad Hotel. The film won wide critical acclaim and was a commercial success. The film's five song soundtrack went on to become one of his most favourited soundtrack albums and received rave reviews from critics, audiences and his contemporaries alike. Appangalembadum, a quirky reworking of a popular but traditional Mappilappattu song crooned by Anna Katharina Valayil was an instant hit following its release on FM radio and eventually became one of the biggest hits of the year. It got him the year's Filmfare Award, Asianet Film Awards, SIIMA and Kochi Times Awards for Best Music Direction and a Pearl Award for Best Background Score. National Award winning music director Bijibal, picked the film score of Ustad Hotel as his favourite when asked to pick "the best contemporary Background Score of his choice".
In 2013, he sang a melody "Titli" tuned by Vishal Shekhar along with Chinmayi and Srimathumitha for the Bollywood film Chennai Express. The Rohit Shetty film which had Shah Rukh Khan and Deepika Padukone turned out to be one of the highest grossing Indian films of all time.
Sundar's subsequent films found commercial successes including Dulquer Salmaan starrer ABCD: American Born Confused Desi, Left Right Left, 5 Sundarikal, Vishuddhan, Salala Mobiles to name a few. With Salalah Mobiles, he made his acting debut with a cameo appearance as a qawwali singer in the song "Rasoolallah". He catapulted to further fame with the release of 2014 film 1983, a coming-of-age sports drama film which marked the debut of screenwriter-director Abrid Shine. The film which is a tribute to cricketer Sachin Tendulkar was the first successful film of 2014. The soundtrack of the film was a runaway success and the track "Olanjali Kuruvi" sung by P.Jayachandran and Vani Jayaram, was a chartbuster. "For maintaining the tempo of the film with an in-sync background score", Sundar received the National Award for Best Background Score from the President of India, Pranab Mukherjee at Vigyan Bhavan, New Delhi.
Amongst a string of films he tuned, the classical fusion single "Sadaa Paalaya" sung by Sithara for the film Mr.Fraud, aced the charts. He also made a cameo appearance in the film alongside Mohanlal. The film How Old are You? which marked the comeback of Malayalam film actress Manju Warrier after a 14 year sabbatical, was his next major project. The film went on become a runaway success and the soundtrack equally appreciated by the audience. "Vijanathayil", a lilting melody from the film sung by Shreya Ghoshal was a huge hit which won her the Best Female Playback Singer Award at the 62nd Annual Filmfare Awards.
Bangalore Days, a romantic comedy drama film directed by Anjali Menon featuring an ensemble cast of the top Malayalam actors was his next release. The five song soundtrack was a runaway success and has turned out to be his most liked tracks. He received Filmfare Award for Best Music Director, Asianet Film Awards for Best Music Director, Vanitha Film Awards for Best Music Director for the film. Also, the single 'Ethu Kari Raavilum' from the film bagged Haricharan a Filmfare Award for Best Male Playback Singer.
In September, Sundar did his first live concert at Swapnanagari, Kozhikode. The musical event organised by the Film Employees Federation of Kerala, the Music Directors Union, and the D Cutz Film Company was the first of a series of concerts that saw eight composers coming together for the first time to raise funds for the Cochin Haneefa Foundation, which helps struggling artists in films. The concert series titled Jamgraab was made up of the first letters of the names of the eight music directors involved, viz., Jassie Gift, Alphons Joseph, Mejo Joseph, Gopi Sundar, Rahul Raj, Anil Johnson, Afzal Yusuf and Bijibal. Following a tremendous response from the music fans, they held the second gig on February 2015 at Sharjah Cricket Stadium which will be followed by a world tour across the cities in US, UK and Australia in coming years.
Sundar forayed into Telugu film industry with the film Malli Malli Idi Rani Roju, which fetched him a lot of fans in Andhra Pradesh. He further expanded his reach with his second Telugu film Bale Bale Magadivoy which was declared a large success at box office and the soundtrack amassed equally good reviews. Deepu Joseph of The Times of India gave the soundtrack album 3.5 out of 5 stars and called it an album that "has something in it for everyone and it sure to be a hit". The success earned him a nomination for the Best Music Director Telugu at 2016 SIIMA Awards.
Ennu Ninte Moideen, where he collaborated with M.Jayachandran and Ramesh Narayan in music direction was his next. He did the background score and composed the song "Mukkathe Penne", a poignant melody that served as a paean to the timeless love of Moideen and Kanchanamala portrayed in the film by actors Prithviraj Sukumaran and Parvathy respectively. The lyrics to the 3.48 minute song was penned by Mohammed Maqbool Mansoor, one of his main backing vocalists. The song was written and composed in less than five minutes and they themselves sung it. The song captured the imagination of listeners only as few songs in Malayalam ever had. The film was a runaway success at the box office and was equally appreciated by the critics for adapting a real-life story "without compromising on the aesthetics of the medium". For "creating a haunting melodic composition", his collaborator M. Jayachandran received the National Award for Best Music Direction. His compositions for the film Charlie also went on to become a huge hit and the single "Chundari Penne" crooned by Dulquar Salmaan received wide recognition. He won the Best Music Director Award twice for the film in the form of North American Film Awards and IIFA Awards.
In 2016, Sundar composed the film score and seven-song soundtrack of the Telugu film Oopiri which was simultaneously released in Tamil as Thozha. The film which featured Akkineni Nagarjuna, Karthi, and Tamannaah in the lead roles was a commercial success, grossing over ₹1 billion worldwide. The Times of India gave Oopiri's soundtrack four stars, calling it a "winner on all counts and Gopi Sundar is increasingly becoming a force to be reckon with in Tollywood". Sundar composed the soundtrack and film score for the film Pulimurugan which is currently the highest-grossing film in Malayalam film industry. The Times of India critic Sanjith Surendran praised Sundar's "rousing theme music that made the 161-minute runtime a breeze". He bagged the Best Music Director for the film from Asiavision Awards while K.S Chitra won the Best Female Singer Award for the song "Kaadaniyum Kalchilambe" along with South Indian International Movie Awards for Best Playback Singer Female. Vani Jairam bagged the Best Female Singer award for the song "Manathe Marikurumbe" from the same film. Sundar composed the background score for the Tamil musical comedy horror film Devi which was simultaneously shot and released in Telugu and Hindi as Abhinetri and Tutak Tutak Tutiya respectively. Premam, the Telugu remake of the Malayalam film of the same name had him collaborate with Rajesh Murugesan, the music director of the original Malayalam film. The film received positive reviews upon release in the Telugu region. Behindwoods lauded the soundtrack album for "staying true to the original, yet exploring better nuances of music".
Sundar composed the only two songs for the Mammootty-starrer The Great Father (2017) which got released in as many as 202 screens across Kerala making it the biggest ever release in the Malayalam film industry. Comrade in America (CIA), a Malayalam romantic comedy film saw him reunite with his long-time collaborator Amal Neerad. The three song soundtrack of which two songs sung by the actor Dulquar Salmaan himself, was released under his own record label Gopi Sundar Music Company. The single "Adiga Adiga" from the Telugu film Ninnu Kori which is slated for release in July has become an instant hit. Having finished working on Role Models (2017), his upcoming projects include Prithviraj-Indrajith-starrer Tiyaan, Kammara Sambhavam and Vimaanam.
Sundar has composed the most for films directed by Amal Neerad. He has also frequently associated with Rosshan Andrews, Arun Kumar Aravind, Vysakh and screenwriter duo Bobby-Sanjay and Murali Gopy. Most of the lyrics for the songs composed by him are penned by Rafeeq Ahamed. However, he has also collaborated extensively with lyricists Santhosh Verma and B.K Hari Narayanan.
Sundar launched "Band Big G", his own music band in 2016 in front of a capacity crowd at Al Nasr Leisureland, Dubai. The band is a live performance music band with a revolving quota of vocalists and instrumentalists with him as the only permanent member. Depending on the audience and the event, the types of songs are decided. The first gig consisted of an ensemble of Malayalam singers Afsal, Sithara, Najim Arshad, Haricharan, Divya S. Menon, Ramsi, Kavya Ajit and Sruthi Lakshmi. They played a fusion compilation of Sundar's own compositions along with old Malayalam classics.
Sunsa Digital Workstation is the music recording studio of Sundar. It is a state of the art studio primarily located in Chennai, which is used by Sundar for his recording his compositions. Sundar opened his second studio in Kochi. The recording studio was featured in Discovery Channel's TV Show 'India My Way' in 2017. As a part of the all India tour for their programme, the hosts - model-turned-actor Paloma Monappa and Meeraj visited the place while the song recording for film Comrade in America was in progress. The show also features Amal Neerad, Dulquer Salmaan and Sunder himself giving insights into the new wave of Malayalam cinema.
Sundar launched his own record label named Gopi Sundar Music Company in 2014. The label aims to support aspiring filmmakers and films with promise that reel under tight budget constraints by producing the music while retaining the copyrights of the work. It also looks to provide creative and talented artists a platform for independent music creation and licensing. Soundtrack album of Malayalam film Last Supper was the first to be released under the aegis of the label followed by several films with Comrade in America being the latest.
Gopi Sundar is married with two children.