Will Bollywood open its arms to the Golden Globe winner M. M. Keeravani?
Now that the North-South divide has effectually dissolved, why not dig into the talent out there in the musical South like Devi Sri Prasad, Harris Jayaraj and of course M M Keeravani, who had a winning streak in Bollywood in the 1990s.
There is a distinct musical aridity in Hindi cinema. The other day, a very close filmmaker friend of mine hummed a song from his forthcoming multistarrer over the phone, asking my opinion on the tune.
“Are you making this tune up just to test me?” I asked. He assured me it was a song from his film. I told him it sucked.
The super-successful filmmaker was helpless.
“Where are the actual composers today? I am not fortunate enough to be a composer myself like Sanjay Leela Bhansali. I have to depend on whatever is available. And there aren’t too many choices for us in Bollywood, unlike the South where there are so many choices,” said the filmmaker.
Now that the North-South divide has effectually dissolved, why not dig into the talent out there in the musical South like Devi Sri Prasad, Harris Jayaraj and of course M M Keeravani who had winning streak in Bollywood in the 1990s. But it didn’t last long and it only worked with Mahesh Bhatt, and that to on a limited scale.
Keeravani did score music for a Shah Rukh Khan starrer Paheli. Ironically, it was SRK’s most experimental film to date. The film flopped and so did Keeravani’s gorgeous music score, one of the finest during that era.
For a soundtrack to do well, it has to come in a film starring an A-lister in a massy project. Newcomers singing a seasoned composer’s tracks, never work. In the 1960s, the great Hindi composer Roshan did one of his best soundtracks for a film called Nayi Umar Ki Nayi Fasal which didn’t work because the film starred newcomers.
Keeravani is no stranger to success. And yet in spite of his massive popularity in Telugu cinema, he has rarely stepped into Bollywood in recent times. A major issue is the language problem. Keeravani cannot speak Hindi. So what? Neither can Rahman. And Rahul Dev Burman’s Hindi was not quite what nationalists would look for to qualify him as a true Indian.
Music is liberated from linguistic barriers. Keeravani’s Naatu Naatu from RRR has the universe jiving, and who cares whether the song is in Telugu, Hindi or Swahili? It’s time we stopped drawing these artificial barriers and focused on creating content that is catchy and original. Second-hand and third-hand reproductions of the classic melodies or even the trashy tunes of the 1980s and 90s, won’t do.
The other far larger problem faced by Keeramani in Bollywood is interference. Nowadays producers who know zilch about music step into the range of a composer’s creativity suggesting changes if not entire restructuring of songs. If such suggestions were to come from Raj Kapoor, Raj Khosla, Manoj Kumar or Sanjay Bhansali Keeravani and his ilk would gladly comply. But why would he listen to the philistines in the recording room masquerading as musicologists?
Subhash K Jha is a Patna-based journalist. He has been writing about Bollywood for long enough to know the industry inside out.
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