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Velugu Needalu


Here is the the series that focuses on the many greats who lurk in the shadows behind the silver screen bringing out the best in them, to radiate and redirect their brilliance onto the silver medium. We hope that these articles would focus our attention and applause to these true "stars" to whom limelight and spot lights do not usually beckon upon.

Part 1

The purpose - is as meaningless as it pointless. After all, why would two normal characters obeying all other natural laws (even if in the celluloid world) interrupt the natural flow of the story and break into a song, explaining the situation with a 3 minute poetic interpretation (like using it as a "^" (hamsapaadu) to qualify it better)? Song is not entirely a commentary on the current state (except in the case of background songs), nor is it a total celebration of the moment. The purpose of it probably falls somewhere in between. The hero and heroine lock their eyes in a playful manner, and as the expression goes, CUT TO DUET. What would otherwise have taken few more scenes and few more dialogues to establish the relationship, now, a few fancy costumes, a couple of picturesque locales, some irrelevant dance moves, and importantly, a song, would more than drive home the point that the couple in question is in deep love. Song is the cinematic short hand. But here is the tricky part. Given that a duet (one song) is used to the further the plot and get to the crux of the story, just what purpose does the second, third or the nth duet serve in the same movie, beyond what was already established that the couple is in love? And the reply comes back, nothing, beside acting as time fillers. In the olden times (of movies), even the duets had to cater to specific situations, including the establishing duet, and did not fall back on the current escapist cliche for the existence of the song - celebration of the moment. That remains the defining difference between the songs of the two eras - yester and current - that situation dictated the need for the song, whether a duet or background in the bygone age, and in the current setup, situational songs became synonymous with commentary tracks that remain completely removed from the punch-kick-pull duets. In short, the purpose of the song should remain loyal to the situation... in ideal conditions, that is.

The parameters - have existed since the birth of the lyrical form, even for poems, from the days of the stage plays. The lyrical presentation itself poses a great contradiction. Leaving aside poetic characters, whose expressions can be laced with poetry, what of the other regular characters in every day life forced to spout serious poetry (in a song) with great lyrical flourishes? In this very paradox lies the talent and the capability of the writer. If the lyricist can keep in view the linguistic and literary limitations (challenges/handicaps) of the character, make it sound as though the expression is as natural as colloquy, and yet be able to express what needs to be communicated in that moment without any loss of information, all the while remaining aesthetic and ethereal, the song elevates to the level of poetry, one that can exist independently on its own in its own world, without the accompaniments of tune, orchestra, singers, and situations. The word 'situation' is the most misunderstood word in the context of songs. Situation does not mean the moment alone. It includes the disposition of the character, his views, his ideas, and importantly, his expression (language). A 'Bobbili Raja' character can only croon along the lines of 'chemma chekka malle mogga', while a 'Rudra Veena' character can stretch the boundaries further for a 'lalita priya kamalam virisinadi', while expressing the same idea of intimacy in a relationship. The situation that becomes the purpose of the song also defines the boundaries of the expression.

The challenge - lies in having to string words around the same ideas, employing the finite tools of the trade. Repetition of tasks (love song, separation song, college song, sentiment song...) is only one side of the challenge. Consistency (in quality) remains the other. A budding lyricist is bound to come up the fresh ideas and new expressions. But once he is accepted and becomes established, the task of infusing freshness with the same set of words in the face of same situations, same requests and same demands day in and day out over and over again, stretches the limits of creativity to its fullest. And there is that other issue of dealing with the dark side, the trading of one's soul for quick cash. A song is called for a vamp character trying to lure the hero. The odds are already stacked against the poetry, as the moment warrants preying on the weakness of the hero's base instincts. The situation thereby grants the poetic license for being lewd, clearing the way for a cheap lyric. History has shown just how many famed poets fell into that trap, in the name of laziness and convenience (even great ones like Aarudra, Aatreya and even Veturi). The epidemic of repetition and indecency that threaten the quality of the lyric often presents an interesting opportunity for lyricist, if only he is up for it, in terms of how to get across the cheap situation without getting drawn into the mire/muddle. It is a fact that the earlier lyricists certainly had it easier. There neither were such situations that tempted the poets to compromise with their words, nor the rules of the trade (art as pure business) imposed stringent demands on the standards of the same. But in this age of cut throat commercialism, where the accusation of lack of creativity is constantly volleyed back and forth between the viewers and the makers, one has to really sympathize with the plight of the poet, deprived of worthy contexts to comment on, and robbed off the his natural elements - aesthetics, imagination and importantly, expression.

The victors - though only a couple in number in the contemporary era, stand proudly in the battleground, with their heads held high, amid the ruins of the other failed creative crafts in film-making that have succumbed to the onslaught of mediocrity and commercialism. Yet these two people stand their ground, refuse to budge an inch, when it comes to maintaining the dignity of the word and taking up the cause of poetry. To turn the dire and desperate situations in their favor and come up with meaningful lyrics speak highly of not just their talent, but their unwavering commitment of upliftment of the lyrical word from the pedestrian standards, to where it could be put on a pedestal and accorded its richly deserving respect. That remains the duty of the lyricist, to not just serve the situation at hand, but to reflect in his words some unknown facet of human condition, some unseen aspect of the finely tuned natural balance, together making up the rich tapestry of human emotions. As said, these two lyricists rose above the form, making the situation a springboard from where their idea(l)s could propel to greater heights exploring new vistas, uncovering hidden facts of the human experience. One is C.Narayana Reddy and the other, Seetaarama Sastry.

prAgdiSa veeNiya paina dinakara mayookha tantrulapaina
jaagRta vihamga tatulae vineela gaganapu vaedikapaina
palikina kila kila dhwnamula swarajati jagatiki SreekAramukAgA
viSwakAvyamunakidi bhaashyamugA virinchinayi virachinchitini ee kavanam

On the strings of the shimmering light of the early dawn
On the tweets of the winged angels on the azure stage far beyond
The world awakens to the sweet sounds of the eternal note
lyrically annotating the universe that I, as a creator, wrote about

This work of art cannot just be about a situation in some simply cannot. There is much more to it...

click here for part 2

Tell Srinivas Kanchibhotla how you liked the article.

Also read Velugu Needalu of
Ramoji Rao
K Balachandar
SP Bala Subramanyam
K Viswanath
Bapu Ramana

More series of articles by Srinivas Kanchibhotla
Some Ramblings on recently released films
Aani Muthyalu - Good films, but box office failures

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