Book Review Music

C Narayana Reddi: Changing contours of Telugu film lyrics

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An evaluation of a compendium of film lyrics by C Narayana Reddi

What brought public recognition to the Telugu film song as literature, week after week? The column ‘Saragamala’ (so named by Malladi Ramakrishna Sastri) carried by Andhra Patrika weekly edited by S Radhakrishna, almost 55 years ago. Till then there was no such column in any language in India evaluating the literary content of the film song. Reviews of films in magazines praised songs now and then, but cursorily.

The early Telugu talkies — Bhaktha Prahlada (1932) onwards — relied mostly on popular stage dramas and used their song-verse-tune-dialogue for ready popularity. When contractual stipulations came in the way, the tune was retained (it was then thought to be free from copyright) and lyrics, slightly modified. A famous author, Chilakamarthi Lakshminarasimham, changed the song from the drama Sakkubai, Ataladukora by Daita Gopalam, into Pata pada rara. The tune carried the day.

By mid-30s, new music was being created for Telugu films by a stalwart, BNR (Bhimavarapu Narasimha Rao) and public appreciation for his tunes in Malapilla (1938) and Raithubidda (1939) was a catalyst. The lyrics were by contemporary writers and the most popular, by late Basavaraju Apparao. The full-fledged Telugu film song was born. Gollavade nallapillavade and Venumanohara ganamu from Malapilla, with simple words lingered on a million tongues. Many gifted writers like Balijepalli Lakshmikantham, Samudrala Senior, Arudra, Malladi Ramakrishna Sastri, Samudrala Junior, Anisetty and Athreya came on to the scene and lit up the songs on screen with choice words and thoughts.

The Telugu film lyric took on new contours with the entry of Dasarathi and C Narayana Reddi. As the book under consideration for evaluation — the first of five volumes released — is about the latter, all further remarks will be about his prolific output.

At a time when different writers were asked to write songs for one film, .C.Na.Re was particular that his debut would be by writing all the songs in a film. N T Rama Rao obliged him by entrusting him with Gulebakavali Katha (1962) and C.Na.Re repaid him by illuminating every situation with a lyric that fused meaning, sound and easy accessibility into a delightful package. Joseph and (Velury) Krishnamurthy experienced in being a part of film song orchestra, made music-directors, did a superlative job. The tunes, orchestral arrangement, and the vocal colouring they got from Ghantasala, P Susheela, S Janaki, P Leela and Pithapuram, were flawless.

Kalala Alalapai Telenu Manasu Mallepoovai had everyone wafting on jasmined breeze. My favourite, the dance song Madana sundara na dora reminded me of a verse from Nandi Timmana’s Parijathapaharanam by following the prosody of magameela nagajalu tegageelukonu valu with giligintha lidayintha pulakintha ledemi.

I must mention three for their exquisite integration into the warp and weft of the screenplay. Nee peru talachina chalu (Ekaveera, 1962) integrates devotion to god Krishna and the love for the hero. Na peru selayeru (Anubandhalu, 63) the song that gave double entendre a silver lining. And Ennallo vechina udayam . . . inka telavarademi, ee cheekati vidipodemi (Manchi Mitrulu, 1969) sung by two childhood friends, about to meet after many years of separation.

Now for the short-comings of the book (not the lyrics).

1.The two songs from Anubandhalu, Ee reyi and Na peru selayeru were sung by L R Eswari and not by Jamuna Rani as given.

2.The male voice in Oho cheliya’ from Anuragam (63) was B Gopalam’s and not Ghantasala’s.

3.The verse Bhupati jampithin used in Bhama Vijayam (’67) was written before C.Na.Re was born, for the Kasi Majili Kathalu series by Madhira Subbanna Dikshitulu (1868-1928)

4.Verses are haphazardly displayed. The proper way is to divide the lines as per prosody, which should be identified. Utpalamala, Seesam. Ataveladi etc.

5.The songs also should be displayed by the prosody, when the writer incorporated ‘dwiteeyakshara prasa’, the second letter consonance.

7.A song from Kalisochina Adrushtam (’68) has bits in Tamil, Marathi and Bengali. Did C.Na.Re write them? If not, the individuals should have been named.

DR. C. Narayana Reddi Cinegeethasarvasvam

Eds. C Ganga, J Chennayya

Pub. Vangmayi Prachuranalu

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Printable version | Jan 29, 2020 1:51:02 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/music/the-hindu-friday-review-telangana/article30535419.ece

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