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Telugu touch to Thiruppavai goes digital

Composers, singers, producers of the Thiruppavai project; (below) late Mullapudi Venkataramana

Composers, singers, producers of the Thiruppavai project; (below) late Mullapudi Venkataramana  

Mullapudi Venkataramana’s Telugu translation of the Thiruppavai comes alive in the form of a digital music project embellished by Bapu’s illustrations

Lucidity is an aspect one wouldn’t attribute to Andal’s Thiruppavai, the Tamil devotional poem comprising 30 pasurams (stanzas), religiously sung by devotees during the month of Margasira. While several devotees prefer to recite the Thiruppavai in its original form with all its complexity, several efforts have been made by vernacular language writers to convey the essence of the pasurams in a simpler form. Mullapudi Venkataramana’s version of the same bears a style unique to him — devotion with a touch of wit and simplicity enriched by terrific word-play.

The limited-edition book Melupalukula Melukolupu, his translation of the Thiruppavai in Telugu, adorned by Bapu’s illustrations for each of the pasurams was very successful at the markets several years ago. One of the last wishes of the Bapu-Ramana duo had been to adapt the translation in the form of a musical album; that wish however couldn’t materialise during their lifetime due to various reasons. However, their descendants, in an effort spanning 18 months, brought their act together to make the magnum-opus a reality this year, collaborating with a handful of singers, composers and financiers.

Commencing from the 16th of this month and through the month of Margasira, a pasuram has been scheduled to release every day through Bapu-Ramana’s Youtube channel (which has also made its mark in the digital space just this month). From S P Balasubrahmanyam to M M Keeravani to Madhavapeddi Suresh, M M Srilekha, Saluru Vasu Rao and Flute Nagaraju, the project features an impressive mix of young and experienced names from the film, semi-classical and classical space. Some of the other composers in the line-up include Nihal, Parthasaradhi, Sruthi Ranjani (daughter of musician Sudhakar Modumudi) and Meenakshi Bhujang. The singer list is as illustrious with the likes of Sunita, S P Sailaja, Malavika, Srinidhi Tirumala, Nitya Santhoshini, Surekha Murthy and Mohana Bhogaraju among others.

The prime architect behind the project — from governing the choice of composers, singers to handpicking the technicians to coordinating the funding involved in the same — has been Vara Mullapudi, son of writer Mullapudi Venkataramana.

Contemporary touch

“The musical renditions of the pasurams have a bit of everything — emotion, a happy-go-lucky vibe, a folksy touch and a strong melodic hook. It has a playfulness to it. My father had always felt that the devotees have unnecessarily given it a divine status equivalent to the Vedas when the pasurams need to be viewed as a poetic expression of a damsel's wish to marry the Lord,” shares Vara.

Integrating the launch of the project with the Bapu-Ramana Youtube channel was a happy coincidence for the families of the two. “The songs produced through the project couldn’t have a conventional output because CDs are no longer in vogue. That's when many had suggested releasing the songs in the form of a lyrical video,” Vara adds.

Bapu’s son Venugopal took on the onus to revitalise the beauty of his father’s portraits through the project. While they had approached composers Keeravani and SPB first to pick a few of the pasurams they wanted to compose, entrepreneur Varaprasad Reddy took the initiative to fund the budget for 10 pasurams, through his preferred list of music directors. Sai Madhukar, Josyabhatla Rajasekhara Sharma were later picked for their impressive work during the television series Annamayya Paataku Pattabhishekam.

“The blend of young and established composers was necessary for the songs to resonate with all age groups. I was surprised to know that veteran P Suseela’s niece P Sandhya too is a singer (with an uncanny similarity to the veteran’s voice) during this project,” Vara adds. His only request to everyone was to use the flute promienetly as part of their compositions, as the pasurams are dedicated to Lord Krishna) and not opt for western music orchestra.

Contributors and associates

The funding of the entire project remained a challenge for long until the families reached out to the fans of Bapu-Ramana, who contributed generously. A long time associate of the Bapu-Ramana duo, editor Harikrishna coordinated with Venugopal to pick Bapu’s portraits that would be relevant for the lyrical videos.

Discourses by veteran littérateur Ananthalakshmi were aired on the channel to get netizens used to the pasurams before the release of the songs. Contributions and suggestions came in from Bhamidipally Narasimha Murthy (Bnim) and also Mullapudi Sridevi, wife of Mullapudi Venkataramana who provided brief, succinct summaries to each of the pasurams, narrated by noted actress Jhansi. The various names associated with the project were felicitated at a grand event held at Potti Sriramulu University earlier this month.

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Printable version | Feb 20, 2020 6:39:29 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/music/the-hindu-friday-review/article30413239.ece

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