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Chakravarthy - King of Melody

He ruled the Telugu film music scene like a colossus for almost two decades between 1971 and 1989, with a record 959 movies for which he had composed music. In fact, almost every popular music director of today was his disciple.

A multi-faceted personality, Chakravarthy was not only a music director but also a lyricist, writer, actor and a dubbing artiste. He has lent his voice for over 600 films dubbed into Telugu from other languages. And there were many other records too in his chequered career, which came to an abrupt end with his sudden demise on February 3, after a brief illness. He was 65.

Born in Poonnekallu as Kommineni Apparao, Chakravarthy had learnt classical vocal from Mahavadi Venkatappaih. During his college days, ha had formed a music troupe, vinod orchestra in Guntur and gave light music concerts. And he was also the main singer. During this phase, Mangapati of HMV spotted him and invited him to Madras. He later gave two private records for HMV, which include "Kanna Nenoka Kala". Here he met Rajen-Nagendra who gave him a singing assignment in the Kannada movie, "Mangala Yoga," his first brush with film music. But that film was not of much help to him.

To feed a large family back home, I had to take up dubbing assignments. Except for Sivaji Ganesan, I have lent voice to every major actor including Kamal Hassan and Rajnikanth, " the maestro once told this writer. During this period, he even joined as an assistant director for a Viswanati production under C.S. Rao. As part of his job, his frequent visits to music legend K.V. Mahadevan's house rekindled his interest in music. He wrote lyrics for seven songs for Mahadevan, of which "Jeevitham Entho Thiyyandi" from "Malli Pelli" was considered the best.

Soon the D-day for Chakravarthy to become a music director came, from out of the blue in 1969, when his friend K. Chatterjee offered him a chance to compose music for "Mooga Prema," a remake of K. Balachander's "Tamarai Nenjam". It was Chatterjee who had given him the screen name, Chakravarthy, little knowing that his friend would soon ride the Telugu film music scene like an emperor.

The film was release two years later, followed by big musical hits like "Sarada", "Ida Lokam", "Mallepoovu", "Balipeetham", "Vetagadu", "Yamagola", "Premabhishekam", "Jebu Donga" and "Pasivadi Pranam" to name a few.

As far as possible, he had refrained from using the original tunes while dealing with remakes. A case in point is "Malle Poovu", a remake of Guru Dutt's classic, "Pyaasa", where he had not used a single tune from the original version and came up trumps with one of his best melodious scores.

Between 1971 and 1991, his success story as a music composer spread to 959 films, which include 60 in Kannada, four in Tamil, one in Malayalam, and the rest in Telugu. A personal calamity stopped him from taking further assignments in 1989. He had the unique record of composing music for 66 films in one calendar year and in 20 days, he had done live recording of 79 songs during 1978-79.

And he had composed background score for 57 Hindi films, made in the South at the request of the respective music directors. Away from the glare of publicity, Chakravarthy, more than these records and awards, enjoyed the patronage of Telugu film viewers and music-lovers.

He had introduced many talented instrumetalists, some of them top ranking music directors of today. One ofhis most successful successor, Koti says a music director he owes his career to his mentor. "I was first a guitarist with him and then became his assistant working for many films during my eight-year stint under him. He always treated me like a son and a brother more than an assistant. Be it me, Keeravani, 'Vandemataram' Srinivas, Vasu Rao, G. Anand, Sri or Eswar, we all owe our existence in this field to him".

Veteran singer P. Suseela agrees with him. "Apart from his versatility as a music director, he treated me and S. Janaki like sisters. On every Deepavali day, he used to come along with his wife to our homes to present us with a saree. I have sung some memorable numbers under his baton".

S.P. Balasubrahmanyam evokes similar sentiments. "He was there when I renered my first song in 1966 and encouraged me in a big way. He was a great humane and I lost a dear friend".

Madhavapeddi Suresh Chandra, who had assisted him for a couple of movies, is more eloquent while saying that Chakravarthy had brought a distinct style to Telugu film music by popularizing the fast beat. "He had the uncanny knack of attracting both class and mass audience with his music. He not only has the maximum number of films to his credit but also holds the record for introducing many musicians to the Telugu field".

Veteran musicologist V.A.K. Ranga Rao says he knew Chakravarthy since the days he was recording comedy plays for Saraswati Stores and considers "Ida Lokam" and "Kanchukota" as his best works. Chakravarthy took up acting assignments occasionally, after K. Raghavendra Rao persuade him to don the grease paint in "Raja". He had acted in about 70 movies apart from a few tele-seriasl. The films include - "Gopala Rao Gari Ammayi", "Pakkainti Ammayi", "Theneteega", "Gootolo Ramachiluka", while "Lahiri, lahiri, Lahiri" is due for release. His role as the patriarch of a joint family in the mega serial, "Kalisundam Raa" won much appreciation.

As a music director, Chakravarthy had always believed in combining modernity with tradition and felt that it is the melody in the music that lasts forever.

Says Koti, "He remained a Chakravarthy (emperor) of the Telugu music field and will always remain one through thousands of his songs and his place in Telugu film music is irreplaceable".

This article is written by MLN
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