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Interview with RP Patnaik by Jeevi

Date: 20th September 2001 Venue: Avid Editing Room, Rama Naidu Studios, Hyderabad
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Sri (Music Director)
Gudipoodi Srihari(Film Critic)
SJ Surya(Director)
AM Ratnam(Producer)
Tammareddy Bharadwaja(Producer n Director)
Jayant C Paranji(Director)
Kodi Rama Krishna(Director)
Chakri (JD Chakravarthy)(Hero)
Ramana Gogula(Music Director)
Naga Babu(Producer n Actor)


If you listen to 'Kukka Kavali' and 'Gajuwaka Pilla' songs, you would surely wonder who the music director is! He is RP Patnaik, the talented Andhra University graduate, who struggled many years to reach the position of what he is today. met RP Patnaik, the amicable and unassuming simpleton, to take his interview. Here are the excerpts.

Andhra University

I completed my M.Sc in Space Engineering from Andhra University in 1993. I used to participate in cultural festivals during my stay at AU. We went to Goa and Calicut to represent our university. I gave more importance to extracurricular activities and least priority to studies though I managed to pass out from AU with good academic track record. When we participated in inter-university festivals, we used to have no inkling about what we were going to perform. We used to do tunes impromptu over the train journey. We used to make collage of tunes to perform.

Goa made me feel more like composer

My first experience of an inter-university festival held in Goa. We are around 30 people from AU participating there. As it was a cultural meet, we want to do something that represents our culture and gives preference to national integrity. Hence we have picked up few lyrics from the four corners of the India. We could get hold of Telugu, Hindi and Orissa to represent South, North and East India. None of us knew any language from Western India. Once we reached Goa, we got hold of a cook who is an amateur poet in Konkani language. The organizing committee informed us to perform our events on the second day after reaching Goa. I composed the tune and packaged the entire song. Whwn we performed that song, everybody liked it and a professor from Delhi University has commended us by saying that this song is the best item he has ever listened to. Chandu Subba Rao, our professor from AU has written a prayer on Andhra University. He wanted me to compose that prayer so that it can be used as an AU anthem. I composed that one too and performed at Goa festival. Everyone appreciated my work. Earlier, I used to feel that I was a good singer. After the Goa festival, I started realizing that I can become a good composer too.

Nandan - my lyricist friend

I have friend called Nandan (Potluri Siva Nandan Kumar) in the campus. He used to write lyrics secretly. One day we caught him redhanded. We liked his lyrics and I asked him if I could use his lyrics to tune songs. It has become an exercise for me to take his lyrics and compose tunes. We used to have a very good circle of friends who admire music. I used to perform for them. I used to have another singer in my batch. He used to feel that he too could compose tunes. He asked Nandan to lend him a song so that he could compose a tune. He tried for months and took advice of music teachers, but in vain. He returned the lyrics to Nandan saying that the lyrics are not written in music grammar and nobody can compose tunes for those lyrics. When Nandan approached me if the grammar (Chandassu) is all right, I have composed a tune for his lyrics on the spot. That incident has boosted my confidence level, as I could compose tune to a lyrics that are considered non-tunable by other composers. Whenever there is a function, people used to force to participate in them as they feel the function is incomplete without my contribution.

Futile attempts for civil examinations

I completed my PG. I have my own plans of turning into the profession of music composer. But my parents wanted me to apply for civil service examinations. As I was also genuinely interested in becoming something, I came to Hyderabad and prepared for examinations. I appeared twice and could not get selected in preliminaries. I am good at descriptive paper and not so good at objective paper. There is one condition in examinations that you will qualify in the preliminaries only if you do objective type exceptionally well. There is no consideration for the people who fared badly in objective type and are exceptionally good at descriptive type. I think, that's major flaw in the examinations system. I have put all my heart and soul into preparation and I could not make it.

Lure of Telugu film Industry

Then I realized that I was staying near to the Telugu film industry. I joined an institute named 'Brain Tree'. I used to entertain my fellow-students out there. Out teacher would hate me for that as I was spoiling the studious environment. There I met a person called Dileep. He introduced me to his friends who are trying for films. They used to meet in an Irani café called 'Try Luck'. Dileep introduced me to all his friends as a 'music director wannabe'. Chandu is one of the friends I met there, whom I consider as my Godfather. Chandu has lots of confidence in work and talent. He was planning a movie. We used to go to lots of movie related functions. We attended a function for the launch of Sashi Preetham's private album 'Nonsense'. A photographer called anji babu got inspired by that function and wanted to launch another private album. After meeting me, Anji Babu asked me how much I would charge to compose a private album. I told him that I would do it for free as it gives me a break. Then we did a private album titled 'Anandam'. The sales of that album were encouraging. But the producers have shot a controversial visual on 'Vathapi Ganapati' for the album, which I have objected. The music album 'Anandam' has given me an identity as music director.

After that, Chandu has started a film called 'Avunantu … Kaadantu …'. The songs were recorded for that film and everybody liked them. Due to the difference with the other people in the production, Chandu had to come out and I also walked out along with Chandu. Hence, that film was never released.

Later on I got an offer for the film 'Nee Kosam'. It was supposed to be produced by another producer with Devi Sri Prasad as the music director. That producer walked out, as he could not mobilize money for production. Vallabhaneni Janadhan has taken the reins of production. They could not continue with Devi Sri Prasad, as they need to go to Chennai to record the songs. They want to do the film in minimum budget. They need a local lad who can do the music at a cheapest budget. They got hold of me. I have done all the songs and background music for 'Nee Kosam', which is my first feature film.

Chitram happened

During that time, the brother of Chandu introduced me to Teja. Teja initially wanted to direct a film with Raja Sekhar, which was cancelled. Then he approached Ramoji Rao and told him to give a budget of 40 lakhs and he would produce a hit film with in that budget. Ramoji Rao was surprised with the 40 lakhs figure. After getting convinced, Ramoji Rao gave a go ahead and unlimited freedom to Teja to direct 'Chitram'. You can guess what the budget for the audio section of a movie that is produced on a budget of 40 lakhs. Luckily, the film was a hit. I have got more than 44 offers after the film Chitram. After tasting the fruits of success with Chitram, I wanted only to score for good films. None of these films were challenging for me.

Then I did a film called Subhavela, which was another Teja's proxy film in the direction of Ramana. I did score for Teja's second film 'Family Circus'. Meanwhile, Tammareddy Bharadwaja asked me to do background score for 'Suri'. As he is an important person in the industry and a very good-at-heart friend to me, I scored background music for Suri. Again, he asked me to do music for his film 'Ramma Chilakamma'.

I have done 'Family Circus' as an obligation to Teja. We knew that Family Circus has no scope for music, as it's an artist-based film. At that time, work was going on parallel for Nuvvu Nenu too. I was happy that Nuvvu-Nenu has lot of scope for good music. I concentrated more on 'Nuvvu - Nenu'. When somebody asked me about which films I was doing, I used to tell the name of 'Nuvvu Nenu'. I felt guilty that I was not proud to tell about 'Family Circus'. Then I decided that unless there is a demand of great music for a film, I would not do it.

3-point formulae for success

I consider three aspects before signing a film.

  1. The producer needs to have good production values.
  2. The director should have very good taste
  3. The subject should have a demand for great music.

After the release of 'Nuvvu-Nenu', I have become more selective. I was not even responding to those producers whose stories did not have scope for good music. They might feel that I have become strong-headed. It's a matter of my career. What matters for me is the number of good films I am doing, not the number of producers and directors I am pleasing. It's very important to please myself by doing good films.

Beware of 'time-pass' producers

During the making of 'Nee Kosam', I got another offer for a film to be directed by Aditya (who is directing Manasanta Nuvve at present). We recorded a couple of good songs for that film. Later on we realized that the producer had no money. That producer owed my Rs 5,000/-. I had to go to his place innumerable number of times to collect that money. After five months he paid that amount. I spent more than 5000 on autos to catch hold of him during the 5-month recovery process.

That incident has taught me a lesson that there are lots of 'time pass producers' in the industry. They waste the time of technicians by inviting music director for music sittings and director for story sittings. They don't have money. They bank on the future and announce films. These time-pass producers do not only waste the time, but also spoils the career of the technicians.

All my first three films were either not released or released after changing the hands of producer. If I had not got the offer of Chitram, people would have branded me as 'iron-leg'. That is the reason why I give maximum respect to Teja garu. I have lots of friends who entered film industry along with me. These time-pass producers are exploiting my friends.

I can confidently say that no other music director can give music of this quality with minimum budget. I think of the producer's pocket when I am doing music. I like to save as much money as possible for the producer by doing music in a low budget. I believe in the adage of 'Money saved is Money earned'. If the film flops later, the money saved by me would come to the rescue. That's the reason why I believe that I have a very long career ahead of me, as maintain the producer-orientation. I feel that producer is like a father and director is like mother for the film industry.

Future films

After Nuvvu-Nenu, I am doing music for another love story called 'Manasantha Nuvve'. It is being produced by MS Raju and directed by Aditya. MS Raju is very much pleased with my work. 'Nuvvu Nenu' is the best work done by me so far. Now, I can claim that 'Manasantha Nuvve' will become more successful audio than 'Nuvvu Nenu'. The audio is releasing on 28th of September 2001. It would become one of the best audio albums of this year. I am also doing another film with Suresh Producion with Tarun as hero in the direction of Kaasi Vishwanath. I can assure you that all my future films will have a great music value.

Span of a music director

Every music director has a span. Even Ilaya Raja, the maestro of great caliber, was forced to walk out of the industry. He gave so many big hits and has become the heartthrob of millions of music lovers. Even, he is not offered any films now. The old talent in music industry would eventually give the way to new talent. I am also thinking from this practical point of view. If I commit more films, I will be thrown out of industry in no time. If I do selective films with good quality, I can stay here for many more years.

There is a span for creativity too. After a few films, the music directors tend to repeat the same music again and again. As the number films and the time taken to do them are inversely proportional, I am doing very few films in a year so that I can survive more number of years. Lets see!

Are you preferring Telugu singers to other 'other-language' singers?

My opinion is that all the singers in my films must of Telugu origin. But there is obligation from the director and producers to put 'non-telugu singers' as they command good price in the audio rights sale. Producers feel that 'non-telugu film singers' increase the range of audio sales. But I feel that, if the songs were good, everybody would like them. Teja too shares the same sentiment. I am trying to use only Telugu singers for my albums.

Did you use all Telugu singers for 'Nuvve-Nenu'?

Except for KK, all other singers are Telugu people. Actually I tried singing the song 'Neekosame ...'. Everybody liked my voice for that song. But I was not convinced. That song needs a voice that has lot of tragedy-oriented emotion. And KK has it in abundance. My voice is soft and soothing. But there is no panic in my voice. I sing the first track for all the songs in my films. After singing, according to the mood of the song, I decide upon the singer. If I were convinced that I had done 100% justice to any songs, I would retain that particular song, as getting other singers to sing the same means spending more money.

Why are you not trying senior singers like Babu and Nagur Babu?

I used Balu in Akhila teleserial and the unreleased film called 'Avunantu - Kaadantu'. All the films I am doing at present are teenage-oriented films. His voice does not suit those songs. That's why I am having his son SP Charan sing in my films. Nagur Babu sang for my album Anandam. I am encouraging Ravi Varma, the singer who can sing songs that need Nagur Babu. We can encourage new talent.

At the same time, I want to work with all singers like Hariharan, Asha Bhonsle, Shankar Mahadevan etc. But I don't want to use Udit Narayan.

Why not Udit Narayan?

I think Udit Narayan's voice is over exposed. I do make sure that all my songs are 100% Telugu. I exhibit lot of patience to get what I want from the singers. KK took five and half-hour to sing the song 'Neekosame Anweshana' in Nuvvu Nenu. He too has lot of patience. He is such a good singer that if he knows Telugu, he can sing that song in a run-through. Nobody can point out any 'wrong-pronunciation' in 'Nee Kosame Anveshana' song though a non-Telugu singer sings it. Other busy 'non-Telugu' singers' like Udit Narayan don't have so much time to concentrate on Telugu pronunciation.

I don't mind spending lot of time in retaking the song as long as the output is perfect. I need the cooperation from the singer side too. I tried Shaan for a song in 'Manasantha Nuvve'. There is one word 'Vellaavani' (gone) for which he repeatedly sung 'Vellavani' (not going). I tried many times to correct the mistake. But he is not seeing any difference between these two words. I have replaced him with another singer. Lyrics are an important aspect in any song's success. Lots of music directors feel that if the music is good, the songs would become hit. When a music lover hums a song, he would be humming the lyrics, not the music. Hence pronouncing the lyrics correctly help in popularizing the song.

Who is your favorite lyric writer?

I feel that Seetarama Sastry is the best lyricist in the current generation. The film Sirivennela made me get interested in the department of lyrics. I used to sing songs as it is. But I was never cared to understand the internal feelings of the song. From Sirivennela film onwards, I am giving equal importance to the lyrics. Though, I have made a few films, I used Kulasekhar as our 'ashtana kavi' for all the films. But for 'Manasantha Nuvve', the producer felt that Sirivennela is the only choice. I too agreed with him. Sirivennela is writing all the lyrics in that film.

Sirivennela likes my composition a lot. Both of us stay in the same building in different floors. He used to call me in the mid of the night and request me to sing a song for him saying that he gets relieved of all his tensions by listening to my voice. I met him for the first time, when we were doing 'Avunantu - Kaadantu'. One song needed the lyrics of Sirivennela caliber. We met Sirivennela in Green Park hotel. Sirivennela gives more importance to the people with philosophical outlook. That aspect jelled well with us. When I asked him to write a song, he told that he was very busy. Then I made him hear the music. After listening to the music, he felt so happy that he gave me the biggest compliment. He told that by writing lyrics to my composition would give him some relaxation. Sirivennela has given wonderful lyrics for 'Manasanthe Nuvve'. He has given his best for this film. 50% of the credit for album's success would go to lyrics department.

Does Bohemian Rhapsody inspire you for ballet song in Chitram and ghost song in Family circus?

Director Teja liked the Rhapsody and wants me to use it for a ballet in Chitram. I have just taken a small bit from Rhapsody and composed Chitram song. The family circus song is my own work.

Don't you want to do films with big heroes?

I want to do a film with Pawan Kalyan. Pawan Kalyan also likes my music. I was supposed to be scoring music to the film 'Tammudu'. Pawan Kalyan tested me and found me good. But when he asked the producer Burugapally Siva Rama Krishna to take me as the music director, Burugapally replied that he has committed to Ramana Gogula about the same. After that Pawan did a film each with Ramana Gogula and Mani Sharma. I am eager to make a film with Pawan Kalyan.

I worked for Anji for a song. But the budget of that film is 30 crores. A music director of my stature would not be sufficient as it is being made in three languages (Telugu, Hindi and Tamil). I want Anji to become a blockbuster. The success of the film is more important than me doing a song for that film. Hence I voluntarily opted out of 'Anji'. I also want to work with other big stars.

Are you getting any offers for Hindi films?

I am getting lots of offers. But I am not accepting any of them, as I want to do something like Ashiqui. Nadeem Shravan and Anand Milind were introduced in Hindi with a big bang for their films 'Ashiqui' and 'QSQT'. I am looking forward for that kind of story so that I can make my debut in Hindi. The Hindi films, which I am offered, do not have great scope for music. All love subjects should be fresh and tender. Then music does jell well. I have done a Hindi private album with Rajesh as singer. I have to go to Bombay and market that album. I am contemplating to title that album as 'Tum Se'. It will become one of the good Hindi albums in the market, once it is released!

Who is your favorite music director?

They are RD Burman, Ilayaraja and AR Rehman. I like RD Burman for his freak out kind of music and extraordinary feel in the songs. I like Rehman for his instrumentation. And, last but not the least, Ilayaraja for everything!

Tell us about your favorite heroes and heroine?

My all time favorite heroes are Amitab Bachchan and Kamal Hassan. I like Hamal Hassan a lot as long as he does not do over-action in some scenes. I like Amitab Bachchan as there is naturalness and genuineness in his action. Though I do not have favorite heroines, I like Sridevi, Madhuri Dixit and Kajol.

In Telugu, since my childhood, I never missed any NTR film. Later on I never missed any film of Chiranjeevi.

How do you feel about the tremendous response Nuvvu-Nenu audio received?

I thank God for giving me such a big gift. I am happy that I could entertain these many people and make them dance in the theater.

Are you married?

I got married in February of this year. It is an arranged marriage!

Can interested lyricists and singers approach you for a break?

All the lyric writers can excuse me. I have no say in lyrics department. It would be purely on the discretion of the director and producer. If you are a singer and very confidant about your talent that you can do extraordinary work, then you can approach me. But, it's my experience that most of the people fail to impress me with their singing.

Do you have any suggestions for the aspiring music directors?

I don't think I am qualified enough to give any suggestions. The aspiring music directors can give me suggestions about how I can improve. All I suggest them is to give more importance to the feel of the film than experimenting with the music that has no connection with the soul of the movie.

Can you sing the title song of your forthcoming film 'Manasantha Nuvve'?

Yeah! Here it is.

RP Patnaik's filmography:

  1. Nee Kosam
  2. Chitram
  3. Subhavela
  4. Family Circus
  5. Ramma Chikalamma
  6. Nuvvu-Nenu
  7. Mansantha Nuvve (audio release on 28th sep)
  8. Suresh Productions film with Tarun & Aarti Agrawal (coming soon!)

Click here to listen to the songs of Nuvvu Nenu

Interviewed by Jeevi
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