Tell us about your career, turning points and the experience of writing lyrics for this film?
I consider ‘Happy days’ to be a big turning point to my career. As all of you know, songs like ‘Arey re Arey re’, ‘Paadam etu Potundo’, ‘Oh My Friend’, ‘E Cheekati’ and the likes were a huge hit with the audiences and cemented my career in the industry. It was my first work experience with Shekar Kammula garu and he coupled with Micky J.Meyer’s melodious music brought the best out of me. Before that I wasn’t a regular lyric writer as such, and used to write lyrics for a few films here and there. Of those, ‘Siva Putrudu’ gave me lot of recognition, especially, the song ‘Chirugaali Veechele’ sung by RP garu. Even my first film, ‘Time’, music composed by Ilayaraja garu and directed by Geeta Krishna garu, features such wonderful songs like ‘Premenantavaa Premenantava’. Films like ‘Chandamama’ and ‘Note Book’ followed soon. Of the recent films, ‘Oye’ and ‘Kalavara maye Madilo’ got me good recognition. I have even written the song ‘Saradaagaa e Samayaanaa’ from the film ‘Vinayakudu’, sung my Unni krishnan and Chitra, which also happens to be Sai Kiran’s first film. So working for Sai Kiran garu in this film is a wonderful experience and I thank him with all my heart for giving me this opportunity. Also, the rapport I share with music director Manikant Kadri, whom I have worked with in “Avakaya Biryani’, helped me to bring out the best in me. The film has some wonderful melodies, fast pacing songs, and in fact, different types of songs and as a lyric writer, I had total satisfaction in writing for this film.
Where did you get inspiration from to turn into a lyric writer?
There isn’t any inspiration as such. I had a huge liking for singing songs since my childhood days. I used to sing a lot of songs and grew up on them, especially those of Bala Subramanyam garu. I even won a couple of prizes at school. But as far as writing is concerned, I had some experience in writing short stories and drawing some cartoons. After my graduation, I came across the writings of Dr. C. Narayana Reddy garu and was heavily impressed with his works, be it with his poems, translations or poetic collections. After reading all his books, I came to understand the sweetness and beauty of ‘Telugu’ language and this coupled with my interest in songs, the beauty of their meanings, made a big impression on me unknowingly, so much so that, after reading his poems, I decided to write some poems myself. I used to send my poems to magazines and papers and my poems were first published by ‘Andhra Prabha’ and this was followed by all most all other publications. Dooradarshan used telecast a program called ‘Bhaava Vallari’ in those days and they have telecasted two of my songs through that program. So that was my entry into small screen. Later, I went to Chennai to do my M.A, Ph.D, and started my career as a film journalist and it is through that job that I came across Pasupuleti Rama Rao garu. He introduced me as a song writer to Geetha Krishna garu , who then gave me a tune and asked me write lyrics for it. After getting very impressed with my work, he offered me to write five songs in his film, which included ‘Premenantaava’. That’s how my first film happened. I did write songs for a film starring Sarat Babu before that but that film had to be abandoned due to some reasons. After that, I didn’t take films that seriously due to my job constraints and my research in Telugu. It was only after I got transferred to Hyderabad, I happened to write ‘Siva Putrudu’, which got me a lot of recognition. I never took that career seriously and used to write songs for a few films here and there and that too by references through friends and family. I got an opportunity to write songs for ‘Note Book’ and that’s how I came in touch with Micky J. Meyer. ‘Chandamama’ followed and through Micky, I was introduced to Shekar Kammula garu and that led to ‘Happy Days’. After the roaring success of ‘Happy Days’, I was flooded with offers and I just didn’t have the time to concentrate on my job anymore. So, I resigned and became a professional lyricist.
Tell us about Compliments in your career?
I never was on the lookout for any compliments as such in my career. There used to some popular associations in those days like ‘Abyudaya Rachyatala Sangam’, ‘Viplava Rachayatala Sangam’, and the likes and I wasn’t even a member of any of those. I just used to send my poems to the papers for publications and never had any expectations. I used to read a lot, a lot of writers from my ‘Rayalaseema’ region like Pulikanti Krishna Reddy, Madhurantakam Raja Rao, and the likes. I also used to read Raachabanda Viswanatha Sastry, Gopichand, Chalam, Malladi, Yandamoori, Yerramsetti – a mix of both old and new writers. I was just confined to reading and I have never thought, not even once, that I should actually present my poems before them and get their feedback. It was like I don’t even deserve to seek an opinion from such stalwarts. Somehow I felt that my writings would look much inferior compared to their standard. I used to read all their writings from various publications, became my own judge, and used to compare my writings to those written by those stalwarts. The method sort of became a guide to me. This helped me introspect myself and made me think about ways to improve my skills and present my feelings more efficiently. Coming to films, though I was a film journalist and used to write some songs here and there, I haven’t got to know many people in the industry. It is mainly because of my very reserved nature. I am a very sensitive person so much so that when I ask somebody for a something it should happen and if it doesn’t it hurts me a lot. So I never used to disturb anybody. However, my sister and my wife, both lecturers, and my friends used to compliment me by saying that my songs sound really good. As far as writing is concerned, Gudipudi Srihari garu appreciated my work on a feature that I was involved with during my days as a journalist. It basically is a weekly feature on music – music directors, artists and writers. I was introduced to Gudipudi Srihari garu by our cameraman Kumaraswamy on my return to Hyderabad and he was like ‘oh, so you are Mani Gopal (my original name), the man behind those wonderful poems? You are pretty young as I thought you must be around 50 years for the beauty and maturity behind those poems is as such. Why don’t you make a collection and publish them and may be even send them for consideration to the awards?’ it was my first compliment as far as writing is concerned. As far as films are concerned, Sirivennela Seetarama Sastry garu was the first to compliment me. Our friendship dates back to the days I used to work in Chennai. In those days, I used to stay with a friend in a rented room. All the latest Tamil songs used to be played from our adjacent room and I used to write my own lyrics for those songs irrespective of the original Tamil lyrics. It was because my roommate, Srinivasa Raju, used to say to me that ‘hey buddy these tunes are good but the point is that i cannot sing those as I am not fluent in Tamil.’ S
How would you prefer to write your songs? According to the tune or writing the song first and then looking for a matching tune?
I normally, prefer to write my song around the tunes. Back in day, the writers used to write the song first and then it is up to the music director to weave a magical tune around those lyrics. The quality of that song depends a lot on the ability of the music director. Things have changed now and I generally prefer to sync my song with the tune. The point is however great a tune, if it is woven around lyrics that are hard to follow, then the song loses its charm. People should be able to hum the song and as a writer what I look for is words that express all the required feelings and at the same time sync with the tune. It then becomes a truly memorable song. Even the director gets involved as they are in know of the people’s pulse and so it is the responsibility of every writer to satisfy and respect the hard work and vision of the music director. I always say that there are some situations that demand a song and when mere words just won’t do the job. The work of the lyricist would be appreciated if he is able to express the character’s feelings correctly and in way that matches with the tune so that the whole experience is enhanced. The sync is extremely important as it will be counterproductive if the lyrics look like they are forced to grove with the tune. And also, the director has a vision and his presentation will only be enhanced with better lyrics. As a writer I reiterate that it is the responsibility of a lyricist to satisfy both the music director and the director. It is exactly because of all these inter-relationships that lyric writing for a film is much tougher than writing a poem for a publication. This actually might be in complete contrast to what most people think and I tell you that just listening to one or two songs and thinking that just about anybody can write isn’t such a good thing. One should keep in mind the situation that the song demands and then look at the lyrics from that perspective.
How were you able to write songs with such depth and yet look so simple, especially songs like ‘Chinukai Varade?’
let me tell you one thing, a director who was being appreciated for a murder scene shot brilliantly, replies that you don’t have to actually murder a person to have that vision. But as far as lyrics are concerned it is a different ball game. Many incidents in one’s life unknowingly make a lasting impression on a person. More so on the minds of writers and directors. One doesn’t need to experience each and every situation to have a feel for it. At the same time there are emotions like love, which I am sure almost everybody would have experienced the sweetness of it one time or the other in their lives. These create a lasting impression and as writer my job is to present that feeling in an even more delicate manner. During the initial stages of a writer’s career, they tend to use a lot of complex stuff to carry forward their message. But as they mature with each new assignment, their thinking patterns change and they began to think in terms of quality, depth and simplicity at the same time. Same is the case with me.
What is your favorite song of all that you have written for this film?
‘Chinukai Varade’ is the one that I like the most and there is a good reason for it. First of all, the song has a great depth and perfectly matches the situation. The hero here is a fat guy and people normally laugh at such a person. But even fat people have feelings and the heroine after falling for him pumps him up in the song by saying that he isn’t lesser to anybody else and what if he is fat and big, even the sky is big too. This removes his complex of being fat. The sentence ‘ee roopamu leni aakasame nuvvu’ aptly describes her feelings. There is nothing bigger than the sky but at the same time there is nothing grander too. She also follows that by singing ‘naa neeli varnalu ninu veedi polevu’, which means it is impossible to image a sky without its bright color. The same way the girl wants to express that it is beyond thought to imagine their separation. Many such wonderful lines follow and this is the highlight of the song. And the second reason for me liking the song is that I have written the song first and then the music director composed a tune around those lyrics. That is why you will find such depth in the song because I was given such freedom and that I don’t have to respect the constraints of a tune composed beforehand. The singers Haricharan and Swetha Mohan did full justice to the song.
Of all the singers that have sung your songs, whom would you prefer the most?
See, If I were to decide the singer of my songs, it had always been my dream to see Bala Subramanyam garu singing my lyrics. I always used to sing his songs since my childhood and I love them. The sweetness with which he sings in ‘Telugu’ is just awesome. In spite of some pretty ordinary lyrics, he breaths a new life into the song with his voice and fortunately I was blessed with the cherished opportunity in my first film itself. Another of my desires is to hear my lyrics flow from the mouth of the great Jesudas garu. Even that was fulfilled through an art film by Tilak garu. It had always been my dream to see such greats sing songs written by me. In fact, I enjoyed singing during my childhood so much so that, my mother, impressed with my voice, used to tell me that she will send me as an apprentice to the great Mangalampalli Bala Murali Krishna. Later, the great man himself sung a song written by me and I consider it to be the most memorable moment of my life. Of the newer crop, I like Karthik. He has a great grasping power and is such a good singer that even though Telugu isn’t his mother tongue, he spells and pronounces each and every word perfectly. Such is his dedication. As is the case with this film, Karthik has sung at least one of the songs in all my previous films.
Of all the songs that you have written for the film, which took you the shortest time and which the longest?
‘Neelimeghamaa’ was the song that took the shortest time, just about an hour. ‘Chinukai Varade’ took a very long time and due to some reasons it had to be composed after I have written the song.
How was working with Manikant Kadiri?
He is a genius. He is one such wonderful music director that has the capacity to deliver such great tunes when presented with a great storyline. It is in his bloodline, his father, was a great saxophone maestro. He has given wonderful tunes for ‘Avakayi Biryani’. But because the film didn’t do well, the songs too weren’t able to reach out to the audiences. I tell you that if this film makes it up to the mark then I am sure that he will carve out a great name for himself in the industry. He likes me a lot and both of us share a great rapport. He is open to suggestions and is very friendly. He makes me listen to his tunes and takes my feedback without any egoistic attitude. This is his plus point and I hope that he will become a great music director in the days to come.
How did you come across director Sai Kiran?
I knew Sai Kiran right from ‘Happy Days’. When Micky first told Shekar garu about me, I went to meet Shekar garu. It was during the process that I met Sai Kiran garu, he recognized me and took me to Shekar garu. However, we really got to know each other well during the promotion and coordination of ‘Happy days’ and from there ‘Vinayakudu’ happened. I wrote a song in the film and after that this film happened. Again, he gave me and Manikant Kadiri a lot of freedom to the extent that our decision would be the final decision. I mean he never, not even once, interfered with our work and completely entrusted the job to us. All the four songs in the movie were composed and finalized by us. The plus point with him is that he so frank in admitting that the he doesn’t have much knowledge as far as music is concerned, but that he can tell whether a particular song sounds sweet or not after listening to it. So, our job was to just present the song to him and after getting a feel of it we would finalize it. Working with him with such a degree of freedom is a wonderful experience.
Tell us about the producer?
Mahi garu is so friendly that I initially had a hard time believing that he is the producer. I mean he is that friendly. We all used to sit together and crack jokes. I had a great time and a lot of encouragement from him. He frankly admitted that he isn’t that well versed with Telugu. But then he writes poetry in English and when I somewhat translated my songs to make him understand the feelings, he was extremely appreciative. He enjoyed them thoroughly and once told me ‘ the language doesn’t matter, all that matters is weather you as a writer/music director are successful in sending your message across to the audiences’. I then had a feeling that this film should be a roaring success, because any writer would excel working for such a producer/director team and the freedom they give is only going to bring out the best from the writer.
All your songs are a bit classy but are you also ready to write songs that reach out to the masses?
Quite frankly, I feel a bit uneasy if I were to write a full mass masala song. Somehow I feel that my mentality doesn’t suit that kind of songs. I want to give my best to each and every song and be remembered for some brilliant lyrics. It is not like I have a target for this month and write whatever that comes to my mind. I don’t want to write without that depth, that expression even if it means writing a single song in an entire month. Of course, not each and every song of mine is a masterpiece but it gives me satisfaction to write that way. But as a writer, I do have to be prepared to write all types of songs and as far as I can remember, I did give some fast numbers. Take the case of ‘Fitting Master’, in which I wrote all the songs and those included some mass songs. Director EVV garu asked me write some catchy lyrics. I wrote in my usual style and after looking at them he requested me to make some changes. But that was for only one song. The theory behind my writing was like if i come up with something really expressive and if by chance the producer/director finds it good then I will have the satisfaction of giving a beautiful song. Somehow a mass oriented song doesn’t inspire me much to be able to deliver something extraordinary. I need that feel and that is possible, I personally feel, only with heart –touching melodies. Take the case of great writers like Aarudra garu, Aatreya garu and the likes. The moment one remembers them the one thing that comes to mind is their style, the depth and the simplicity of their language. I want to be remembered so. When I look back at my career, I should feel like I have given some brilliant songs and when I listen to each of those songs they should be able to bring me that precious nostalgic feeling. The great ‘Veturi’ garu is in a different league all together. He is one writer who has no known drawbacks – I mean he is equally good at classy numbers and at those that make the masses jump out of their seats. People like him are more of an exception than a rule. It is not possible for everybody to be that ambidextrous. So as far as I am concerned, people don’t expect such type of songs from me and my mentality and my body language somehow don’t match with those songs.
Any message to the unit?
This is the first film from Moon Water pictures and I wish them all the best and hope the film will be a huge hit. My sincere wishes to all the technicians who worked for this film, to Sai Kiran Adavi garu, who really gave his best to the film as a director, to producer Mahi garu for giving us full freedom, to music director Manikant Kadiri for his brilliant music that inspired me to write even more beautifully, to the singers Baba Sehgal, Karthik, Swetha, Haricharan, Guru Priya, Benny Dayal and Suraj for their voices that so perfectly matched with the tunes, to the leads Krishnudu and Telugu debutant Saranya Mohan, to Yandammori Veerendranath garu, who plays a fully fledged character in this film, to Rao Ramesh and to all other artists. I sincerely hope that this film will be a big success and will stand out as an inspiration to similar films.