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Some film songs that were once irresistibly spellbinding get edged out of public memory with the passage of time. But when composers of those songs or their latest works get recognition anew, those old numbers gush back into memory — like in the case of M M Keeravani.
In the wake of the song ‘Nattu Nattu’ composed by music director Keeravani getting an Oscar for the film RRR directed by SS Rajamouli, the composer, along with lyricist Chandrabose, playback singers Rahul Sipligunj and Kalabhairava and choreographer Prem Rakshit are now enjoying the spotlight, and the buried treasure that are their past works are being unearthed and appreciated.
Particularly, Maragadhamani Keeravani’s past compositions in Tamil are now finding great demand. There has been a spike in look-ups of the songs from Tamil and Telugu films scored by him. As far as Kollywood is concerned, the composer who has so far been thought of as just a footnote in the annals of film music has climbed up the popularity chart.
Songs that shine
Keeravani, who made his debut in Telugu in 1990 with ‘Manasu Mamatha’, entered into the Tamil film industry the following year through Azhagan directed by K Balachander.
Owing to some conflict with Ilayaraja in Pudhupputhu Arthangal, Balachander was keen to work with other music composers. At the time, there were two films in the making under his Kavithalaya banner — Sigaram and Nee Pathi Naan Pathi.
The music and songs in Azhagan and Nee Pathi Naan Pathi were so refreshing that film enthusiasts were carried away by the new magical music. All this at a time when Ilaiyaraja’s music was considered the core to a film’s success
SP Balasubrahmanyam wore the mantle of music director and composed tunes for the film Sigaram, while Nee Pathi Naan Pathi went to Keeravani who went by the name Maragadha Mani. Balachander had been impressed by the soundtrack of the film Azhagan, and therefore entrusted Keeravani again with composing for the film directed by his disciple Vasanth.
The music and songs in Azhagan and Nee Pathi Naan Pathi were so refreshing that film enthusiasts were carried away by the new magical music. All this at a time when Ilaiyaraja’s music was considered the core to a film’s success.
The songs in the film Azhagan — Tathiththom, Sathimalli Poocharame, Nenjamadi Nenjam, Thudikkirathe Nenjam Themmangu Padi, and Kozhi Koovum Neramachu — took the audience along a diverse musical path.
Similarly, the songs in the film Nee Pathi Naan Pathi — Kaalam ullavarai nee pathi, Yaarai kettu eera katru poovai killum, Puthiya pookalai parthu, and Devan theerpendrum puthithanathu — were brimming with different melodies. Particularly, the comic song-and-dance number featuring Janakaraj and ‘Disco’ Santhi is worth being listened to and celebrated even now. All these songs scored by Keeravani are now being revisited thanks to the Academy award.
Nee Pathi Naan Pathi however had been a box-office dud despite Keeravani’s musical excellence, Ganesh’s attractive camera angles, art director Mahi’s sincere work and Kala’s charming choreography. Probably the screenplay was not well crafted.
During that time Keeravani composed music for three films — Paattrondu Ketten, Sivantha Malar and Sevakan.
The song Yaar Enthan Ragam Arindhavan from the movie Paattrondu Ketten directed by V C Guhanathan had a mesmerising tune. The interlude music was in tandem with the twists and turns in the screenplay, making the audience easily guess that it was the precursor to the climax song. The soundtrack for the song Pachathanniyil Kulikkathe in the film was one that struck a chord with the audience.
The song Ethuvarai Pogum Aakaayam from the movie Sivantha Malar directed by Sasi Mohan was as moving as Eriyuthe Idhu Nilavu Idhu Nilavae was equally exciting.
Similarly Arjun-starrers Sevakan and Prathap also featured Keeravani’s melodious songs — Nantri Solli Paduvaen and En Kannanukku Kadhal Vanthathum.
K Balachander’s directorial venture Vaaname Ellai had catchy feet-tapping songs. The song Kambangadu is still doing the rounds on social media even after over three decades.
Similarly, the song Kamban Engu Ponan in the film Jaathi Malli directed by KB was impressive. The song Vizhamale Irukka Mudiyuma from the film Kondattam and the song Unnoduthaan Kanavile from the movie Student No 1 are still alive and kicking on radio and television.
These are the best contributions from Keeravani known as Maragadhamani in Tamil tinseltown.
The musician was known as M M Kreem in Bollywood. He had his own circle of fans thanks to Mahesh Bhatt’s directorial venture Criminal, which was dubbed as ‘Ellame En Kadhali’ in Tamil. The song Uyire Uyire Idhu Deiveega Sambandhamo is an evergreen song that strikes a chord with lovers
When Keeravani made his debut as a music director in the 90s, there was the big league of K V Mahadevan, Rajan Nagendra, J V Raghavulu, Ramesh Naidu, Chakravarthy and Raj-Koti. Along with them, Ilaiyaraaja and Bappi Lahiri were holding sway over film music, coming up with hit after hit. Most of them belonged to the 1960s. Therefore, there was a need for new blood to be infused into film music. Keeravani’s entry coincided with filmdom’s craving for a new musician.
Maragadhamani was greatly celebrated as M M Keeravani with back-to-back musical hits in the Telugu film industry. The musician was known as M M Kreem in Bollywood. He had his own circle of fans thanks to Mahesh Bhatt’s directorial venture Criminal, which was dubbed as ‘Ellame En Kadhali’ in Tamil. The song Uyire Uyire Idhu Deiveega Sambandhamo is an evergreen song that strikes a chord with lovers.
At that time, many Tamil and Telugu films composed by A R Rahman were dubbed in Hindi and turned into mega hits. The success achieved by Keeravani then was worth examining for his music was a mix of the patterns set by Ilayaraja and Rahman in Tamil. Keeravani’s style of scoring pre-song notes had echoes from Ilayaraja’s signature.
Keeravani had the acumen and ability to compose music according to the demands of the visuals that directors crafted. That was how he could come up with melodies that come off as a blissful blend of technology and musical forms, including classical and folkloristic.
The film Devaragam, directed by Bharathan, is one of the most valued treasures of Keeravani’s repertoire. The songs composed by Keeravani in the film — Chinna Chinna Megham Enna Kavithai Padumo, Ya Ya Yaayaa Yadava, Thaazhampoo Thalaimudithu, Azhagiya Karthigai Deepangal Aadum and Karuvanna Vandugal — felt so soothing, calming down troubled minds.
One could not feel that kind of pleasing experience in the films Magadheera and Baahubali in Tamil, however, although it was Rajamouli’s films that lifted Keeravani out of relative obscurity and gave him a shot in the arm..
After the advent of the millennium, many talented musicians such as Mani Sharma, Devi Sri Prasad, Thaman, Anoop Rubens, Mickey J Meyer and so on appeared on the horizon in Tollywood. They have just been travelling along the path paved by Keeravani’s melodious notes.
The international honour in the form of the Academy award for Keeravani’s Naattu Naattu is a testament to and recognition of his hard work spanning over 34 years – one that has been long overdue.
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