Sunny Sanour, Nandan Raj and Shravan have turned the tables in their favour with their eclectic compositions

Aspiring composers would vouch how tough it is to make the cut in the Telugu film industry. M.M. Keeravani, Devi Sri Prasad, Thaman and Manisarma are a league unto their own, followed by newer composers that include Anup Rubens and Mickey J. Meyer among others. In between these established names, three new composers made the industry sit up and take note in recent times.

Sunny side up

The music of Swamy Ra Ra came as a surprise, much like the refreshing film itself. The man behind this, Sunny Sanour, followed it up with Uyyala Jampala. A sound engineer at 15, Sunny worked with Keertana Digital Studios in Hyderabad with the help of his friend and lyricist Krishna Chaitanya. “I was working on devotional music, mostly. I didn’t know if I was going in the right direction,” he recalls. But all that learning helped in the years to follow. Sunny moved to Mumbai, worked first with Sandeep Chowta and is now a freelance music arranger for Pritam Chakraborty, Amit Trivedi and Sneha Khanwalkar.

The Swamy Ra Ra offer came out of the blue. “I took a risk; I didn’t know if people would connect to the songs and was pleasantly surprised when the album became a hit,” says Sunny. Predictably, he was flooded with offers. “I’d meet people and listen to stories but I wasn’t going to take on a project unless I could connect with it,” he says.

Sunny learnt music on the job, absorbing all he could while working with composers. Like Sunny, Shravan too is self-taught. An ardent follower of A.R. Rahman and Yuvan Shankar Raja, Shravan learnt to compose through a software programme gifted by his friend. Shravan had an ear for music but composing was not in his scheme of things. He wanted to be a professional basketball player or an IPS officer. “I learnt to identify the ragas by listening to songs,” he says. A hit track in the short film Anukokunda was instrumental in getting to compose for Alias Janaki and later Prema, Ishq, Kadhal. The title track of the latter cemented his place in the industry.

Folk art and music

Nandan Raj roughed it out before getting the elusive break. His father was part of a music troupe that performed folk and film numbers in Warangal. “My learning began at home and by Standard IX, I began writing and composing,” he says. A postgraduate in Telugu literature, Nandan studied folk arts for M.Phil. “My campus helped me connect with those who had a creative bent of mind,” he says. Nandan composed for a television serial and ad jingles and approached filmmakers, requesting them to listen to his tunes. The break came through Kaalicharan. The film tanked but his melodies earned him appreciation.

A self-confessed fan of Ilayaraja, he says he attempted to recreate melodies of the 80s and 90s, to befit the film’s 80s setting. “We hear songs of K.V. Mahadevan and Ilayaraja even today. I wanted these songs to be timeless,” he reasons. Compliments came from filmmakers RGV and Puri Jagannadh. Nandan now has three projects, including a Kannada film.

Sunny, Nandan and Shravan are distinct in their compositions and choice of singers. Shravan banked on those who worked with him in his short films as well as established names. Sunny, meanwhile, roped in Arijit Singh (now famous for the mammoth hit ‘Sun raha hai na tu’ from Aashiqui 2) for three songs in Swamy Ra Ra and one in Uyyala Jampala. “Arijit and I have been friends for long. I like his voice, diction and asked him to sing in Telugu. I even coaxed him to strum the guitars, which he doesn’t do for other composers,” says Sunny. Uyyala Jampala was at the other end of the spectrum, requiring native music for the rural setting of the film.

Next, Sunny will be composing for Krishna Chaitanya’s debut directorial and Sukumar’s production. Composing for Hindi cinema, he says, will happen eventually. “Now I’m enjoying working with Amit Trivedi, Pritam and Sneha Khanwalkar. Pritam keeps telling me to begin composing. Perhaps later…” he trails off.