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Keeravani on Sri Ramadasu
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MM Keeravani’s music for Annamayya film brought him a national award. Incidentally, Keeravani is the 2nd music director from Telugu to receive National Award. In addition to plethora of awards, Annamayya stands as the highest ever sold Telugu music album till date. After a gap of 10 years, MM Keeravani scored music to Sri Ramadasu that is coming from Nagarjuna, K Raghavendra Rao and JK Bharavi (the men behind the success of Annamayya). met with MM Keeravani for an exclusive chat over his work of Sri Ramadasu. Here are the excerpts -

30th January 2006

Sri Ramadasu links
Press Meet 2
Audio function
Photo Gallery

Tell us about Annamayya album, which became the highest sold Telugu music album till date?
Before committing Annamayya film, I did not know anything about Annamacharya except for ‘Adigo Alladigo’ keerthana. JK Bharavi briefed me about the history of Annamayya. Ananda Bhattacharya - brother of JK Bharavi - works as music composer in Annamayya project, Tirupati. Ananda Bhattacharya helped me a lot for composing Annamayya album.

We heard that it was you who was behind the happening of Sri Ramadasu film?
I went to Bhadrachalam in the last year to visit the temple. The priests over there asked me if a film could be made on Sri Ramadasu on the lines of Annamayya. I informed K Raghavendra Rao about the request of the priests. I was just a messenger. It was K Raghavendra Rao who took the decision to make a film on Sri Ramadasu.

Did you do any homework while composing Sri Ramadasu?
I did not know anything about Sri Ramadasu except that he was put in jail and Lord Rama released him. I listened to the story after committing this project.

Did you take any precautions while scoring music for Sri Ramadasu?
While everybody in the unit - right from the light boy to the director K Raghavandra Rao - made sure that they stayed away from worldly pleasures and luxuries while making the film, I did not follow any of it. I neither started writing Ramakoti nor stopped eating non-veg. I feel that your should keep your professional life and personal life separate. I did not even go to temple while composing Sri Ramadasu songs. I treat every film in a professional way. I don’t have to become a devotee because I score music for a devotional film. For that matter, I don’t mind even composing music for a porn flick. I do compose music for even porn flick with the same commitment I have for a devotional film.

There are 19 songs in Sri Ramadasu album. Which are the songs you scored on your own and which are the songs you adapted from Sri Ramadasu keerthanas?

Own Compositions
1. Sri Raghavan
2. Adigadigo Bhadradri
3. Hylessa
4. Anta Ramamayam
5. Ishvakulaku
6. Alla
7. Idigidigo
8. Chalu Chalu
9. Sudda Brahma
10. Dasarathi
11. Tandri Maatanu
Adapted from Ramadasu Keerthanas
1. Charanamulane
2. Nannu brovamani
3. Sri Rama Rama Rameti
4. Yento Ruchira
5. Paluke Bangaramayena
6. Bhadra Seela
7. Ye Teeruga Ninu
8. Mangalam

Did Sri Ramadasu compose tunes to his keerthanas. Or he just wrote keerthanas?
I know Purna Chandra Rao who is considered as the right hand of Sri Mangalampally Bala Murali Krishna. He told me that Sri Ramadasu composed raagas as well along with keerthanas.

I observed that raaga ‘Tandri maatanu’ song closely resembles the Kasturi Bhangu rendition that precedes ’Cheema Cheema’ lyric in Simhadri film?
Both these songs are derived from Ananda Bhairavi Ragam. Let me elucidate a fact about Ananda Bhairavi ragam. Some ragams are very restricted and they depend on other ragams. If you take English alphabets, Q is one letter that depends on U in order to form words. Likewise, Ananda Bhairavi ragam too is a restricted one.

For which album you worked hard? Annamayya or Sri Ramadasu?
I worked hard for Allari Bullodu (Nitin - K Raghavendra Rao’s film). If you work very hard, you end up giving disappointing results. It was an easy task to score music for Annamayya and Sri Ramadasu.

Where did you conceive the tunes of Sri Ramadasu?

S. No Location Tunes conceived
1 Bhadrachalam 1. Anta Ramamayam
2. Nanu Brovamani
3. Paluke Bangaramayena
2 Manipal 1. Adigadigo Bhadradi
2. Yentho Ruchira
3. Bhadra Seela
3 Thorredu
(near Rajahmundry)
1. Hylessa
2. Ye Teeruga Nanu
4 Ramoji Film City
(Sitara Hotel)
1. Ishvakulaku
2. Chalu Chalu
3. Suddha Brahma
4. Tandri Matanu
5. Dasarathi
5 K Raghavendra Rao's office 1. Idigidigo
2. Charanamulane
3. Allah
6 Prasad Labs
(on opening day)
Sri Raghavam
7 Mahati Studio 1. Sri Rama Rameti
2. Mangalam

How do you document the tunes when you are outdoor?
I take harmony and tabla with me. I pen down the notes and record the tunes in a walkman.

What is the reason behind the good quality work of Sri Ramadasu?

1. I was given complete freedom. I was myself while composing music.
2. I have a great deal of understanding with K Raghavendra Rao
3. I have got considerable knowledge in Karnatic music.

Devi Sri Prasad sung Hailessa song. Any reason for using a modern singer like Devi Sri Prasad for devotional album?
My association with Devi Sri Prasad goes back to a long time. Devi Sri Prasad first sang for me for Akasa Veedhilo album in 1999. Since then he has been singing in my albums on and off. He has got semi-folk touch in his voice. When I asked Devi Sri Prasad to sing for Sri Ramadasu, he was shell-shocked. This songs comes a duet that takes place in a boat on Godavari river. I shared a few lines in this song. K Raghavendra Rao wanted me to act as boatman in this film. I escaped it by saying that I have hydrophobia (fear of water).

Tell us about your favorites in Sri Ramadasu album?

1. Ishvakulaku: The situation is about Sri Ramadasu confronting Lord Rama in an insulting way. I broke the traditional tune and used a new one for this song. It was a risk which i took and got succeeded. Powerful rendition by Shankar Mahadevan helped the song a lot. This new tune reverts back to the original tune in the last line of the song.

2. Paluke Bangaramayena: This song denotes unity in diversity. I used gotu vadyam for the last two lines of the song. I feel that the gotu vadyam used in this song is the best music of the entire album. After listening to the album, one person called me and opined that gotu vadyam in this song is the best music of the album. That person is none but lyricist Chandrabose. I feel that Chandrabose has got excellent music sense.

3. Ye Teeruga Nanu: This song is sung by Sri Ramadasu in jail. Vijay Yesudas rendered this song. K Raghavendra Rao improvised the situation and changed the situation for this song. This song comes in the film when Sri Ramadasu loses his son. He keeps the dead body of his son in the steps of Sri Rama temple and sings this song. I liked the way K Raghavendra Rao dramatized this song.

4. Antha Ramamayam: Certain lines in this songs were taken from Bhagavatam written by Sri Pothana. I liked the way Bhagavatam lines were used for a song based on Lord Rama. It is a haunting melody of Sri Ramadasu.

The lyric book that is given with audiocassette does not have full lyrics and most of the lyrics were printed with mistakes?
I do agree and they should have verified it before publishing lyrics book. In addition to it, they forgot to print the names of Gemini Rao (rhythm player) and Vadali Venkata Subramanyam (Veena player) in the credits section. Without these two people, Sri Ramadasu album would not have come out. Even the name of Chitra was not included in in-lay card for Dasaradhi song.

Tell us about your future films?

1. Amma Cheppindi: This film is going to be directed by Gangaraju Gunnam. I scored 2 songs for this so far. All the songs of this film are going to be completely different.

2. Ravi Teja’s film in the direction of Rajamouli: All the songs in this film are going to be in commercial pattern. I scored 2 songs for this film so far.

Tell us about the rerecording of Sri Ramadasu?
I am taking one month to do rerecording of Sri Ramadasu. One week’s work is over and work of 3 more weeks is left.

We heard that you skip rerecording if you sense that film has not come out well. Is it true?
If you give good rerecording for a good or average film, it would help the film. If you give good rerecording for a dull scene in a bad film, it becomes a mockery. I can’t put my heart and soul into rerecording if the film is bad. Maestro Ilayaraja gives excellent rerecording both for good and bad films. But I cant do it for bad films.

Which is the difficult job? Composing songs or doing rerecording?
Doing rerecording is 100 times painful job than composing songs.

How come you are not doing any films in Hindi at present?
I am not the kind of guy who asks for offers. Even in Telugu, I score music for the producers who approach me. My last Hindi film was Paheli and it was a flop.

You said that you don’t mind doing music for even porno flicks and x-rated films. Why did you arrive at that decision?
During the vijaya yatra (success tour) times of Pelli Sandadi film, Deepti Bhatnagar traveled with me. She said that her friend was doing a film on gays in Hindi and she wanted to know if I were interested in scoring music. I hate gays and I rejected it immediately. Later on I realized that my personal preferences were reflecting on my career options. That is when I decided that I should do all kinds of films. If we keep on doing same kind of films, we get stuck after few films. If we do difference films, our creativity keeps flowing. I did many faction films in the past and I decided that I should stop scoring faction music with Seetayya film.

Will you score music for another devotional film after Sri Ramadasu if you get an offer?
I would say no. It took almost 10 years after Annamayya to score for Sri Ramadasu. I would wait for many years before scoring for another devotional film.

Special thanks to Bala Tirumalasetty for his help in interview

MM Keeravani's exclusive on his albums
Anukokunda Oka Roju


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