Under Keeravani’s baton, music flows mellifluously with no language barriers

Keeravani’s steady collaboration with director Rajamouli resulted in chartbuster albums for several films

January 11, 2023 10:04 pm | Updated January 12, 2023 10:50 am IST

This image released by NBC shows M. M. Keeravani accepting the Best Original Song award for “Naatu Naatu” from “RRR” during the 80th Annual Golden Globe Awards at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 10, 2023 in Beverly Hills, California.

This image released by NBC shows M. M. Keeravani accepting the Best Original Song award for “Naatu Naatu” from “RRR” during the 80th Annual Golden Globe Awards at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 10, 2023 in Beverly Hills, California. | Photo Credit: AP

The world has been listening to and dancing to ‘Naatu Naatu’ song from RRR movie in the last few months and the win for Best Original Song at the Golden Globes 2023 has put the spotlight on music composer M.M. Keeravani. Known to Hindi film music lovers as M.M. Kreem and Maragathamani to Tamil listeners, Keeravani’s strongest collaboration has been with his cousin brother and director S.S. Rajamouli.

Their partnership for Telugu cinema began with Rajamouli’s debut feature film Student No.1 (2001), which starred NTR Jr. Keeravani’s steady collaboration with Rajamouli resulted in chartbuster albums for several films such as Magadheera, Eega and Baahubali and RRR. Much before this collaboration, it was Ram Gopal Varma’s 1991 film Kshana Kshanam. which made Keeravani a popular name in Telugu cinema.

Keeravani’s biggest asset was the ability to understand and compose to suit the requirements of film music in different languages. ‘Tu mile, dil khiley’ was a haunting song with which Keeravani introduced his music to the Hindi audience through the Mahesh Bhat-directed film Criminal (1994). All the songs from the film were instant hits and Keeravani went on to compose for Is Raat ko Subah Nahin, Sur - the melody of life, Zakhm, Saaya, Jism, Special 26, Rog and Paheli in Hindi.

These compositions were markedly different from his discography for Telugu cinema blockbusters. His classically-rooted compositions for Annamayya, the Telugu film inspired by the life of saint poet Annamayya, fetched him a National Award for Best Music Director.

NTR and Ram Charan in the ‘Naatu Naatu’ song from ‘RRR’

NTR and Ram Charan in the ‘Naatu Naatu’ song from ‘RRR’

In the 1990s, Tamil cinema got familiar with Keeravani as Maragathamani. ‘Sangeetha swarangal’ from K. Balachander’s Azhagan became an earworm for Tamil listeners. The composer then worked with Balachander for his directorial project Vaaname Ellai as well as his production Nee Paathi Naan Paathi directed by Vasanth. Keeravani also composed for a few films in Malayalam and Kannada. 

Role of families

The immediate families of Keeravani and Rajamouli have an important role to play in their success. In the post- Eega era of Telugu cinema, the film circles in Hyderabad are replete with heartwarming and awe-inducing stories of how Rajamouli, Keeravani and their families banded together to take on the mammoth task of executing Baahubali - the Beginning and Baahubali - the Conclusion

While Rama Rajamouli took on the responsibility of coordinating the costumes along with associate Prashanti Tipirneni for the massive cast, Keeravani’s wife Srivalli turned line producer. She and Rama were a force to reckon with on the sets, managing thousands of junior artistes and production crew members. Srivalli is fondly referred to as ‘amma’ in film circles. When Keeravani opened his Golden Globe Awards acceptance speech by thanking his wife, it was a befitting moment. 

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