The music men of Telugu reality show ‘Paadutha Teeyaga’

Initiated by the visionary media mogul, the late Ramoji Rao, Paadutha Teeyaga, the iconic music reality show on Eenadu TV, enters a new season. We take a trip down memory lane with the dedicated orchestra crew who have been with the programme since its inception

Updated - June 13, 2024 01:28 pm IST

Published - June 13, 2024 01:27 pm IST

Musicians of the show ‘Padutha Teeyaga’ on ETV Telugu during a rehearsal session

Musicians of the show ‘Padutha Teeyaga’ on ETV Telugu during a rehearsal session | Photo Credit: NAGARA GOPAL

Paadutha Teeyaga hosted by the legendary singer (late) SP Balasubrahmanyam began on ETV Telugu in 1996. Now, with SP Charan (SP Balasubrahmanyam’s son) as the host, the 28-year-old reality show got off to its 24th season to coincide with SPB’s birth anniversary (June 4). Though it evolved over the years, what has remained constant is its live orchestra, an ensemble of musicians who perform with elan. With their cheerful attitude and friendly banter, these artistes are a pillar of support to budding singers, helping them to perform better. During a chat with The Hindu in Hyderabad, the musicians — some of them associated with the show since its launch — reflect on their experiences and cherish memories.

BS Krishna Murthy, congo and pads

BS Krishna Murthy

BS Krishna Murthy | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Considered the team lead of orchestra, 66-year-old Krishna Murthy has been associated with Paadutha Teeyaga (PT) since the first programme in May, 1996. He was introduced to (late) SP Balasubramanyam by his tumba-playing friend T Raja. “He (SPB) used to call me ‘superstar’,” reminisces Krishna Murthy, who gathered three musicians - Maha Nand Kumar (tabla), Neeraj Kumar (guitar) and Manoj Kumar (keyboard) to play along with him for the first show. “Playing music for a legend was the only thing that mattered to us. It was not about the music we knew but what we could learn from him and try to walk in his footsteps.”

file photo (late) SP Balasubrahmanyam with members of the orchestra

file photo (late) SP Balasubrahmanyam with members of the orchestra | Photo Credit: special arrangement

PT was a pioneer in reality shows in music on Telugu television. “Earlier, contestants were novices; ‘Ilakadamma ala padaali’ ani rehearsals appudu cheppevaalamu (During rehearsals, we would tell them how to sing and how not to, not like that ) but the Gen Y budding singers are quite aware of the approach for reality shows.” Among the hundreds of songs that the team has played, his favourites are ‘Ye divi lo virisina parijatamo’ (Kanne Manasu) and ‘Mama chandamama’ (Sambaraala Rambabu) as “Balu garu used to sing these and even songs from Sankarabharanam.

Krishna Murthy believes the show shares an unbeatable team spirit. Calling the channel (ETV Telugu), the backbone of the show, Krishna Murthy says, “SPB garu was the leading light for us to follow. gathered other musicians who joined me on this melodious journey.”

Muktevi Venkata Phaninder, percussion

Muktevi Venkata Phaninder

Muktevi Venkata Phaninder | Photo Credit: special arrangement

Muktevi Venkata Phaninder drums up a storm on his percussion to let the sound reverberate across the room. The 65-year-old Phaninder is a core member, associated with the show since July ’96. “Krishna (Krishna Murthy) and have known Balu garu since the early 80s. “Sky is the limit to cherish the experiences of Paadutha Teeyaga,” he says.

Reflecting on his musical stint, he says, “We are like copycats; Paata vini, paata vayinchaali (We have to listen to the song and play),” he says with a smile. “Adjusting shruti (pitch) in sync with the singer’s voice and checking the tonal quality is what matters,” says this seasoned performer.

Musicians of the show ‘Padutha Teeyaga’ on ETV Telugu during a rehearsal session

Musicians of the show ‘Padutha Teeyaga’ on ETV Telugu during a rehearsal session | Photo Credit: NAGARA GOPAL

PA Swamiji, electronic pads

PA Swamiji

PA Swamiji | Photo Credit: special arrangement

Everyday is an unforgettable experience with music, says the musician whose bond with PT started in ’96. Playing the electronic pads, he fills in for Krishna Murthy. “More than talent, it is my luck to have played with SPB garu,” says Swamiji. “There are hundreds of musicians who are better than me but I got an opportunity to work with a legend.” While the show is a platform for many budding singers to nourish their talent, the musicians too learn many things observes, Swamiji “We don’t feel bored playing the same song. The greatness of the song is that it inspires us to do better each day.”

M Jaipal Raj and Botcha Joga Rao, tabla

M Jaipal Raj 

M Jaipal Raj  | Photo Credit: special arrangement

Playing tabla together for more than 20 years, the duo share an inexplicable bond. “We are like brothers,” says Joga Rao who considers Jaipal as his elder brother. What sets their music apart is the harmonious atmosphere.

Botcha Joga Rao

Botcha Joga Rao | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

“There are times when either of us makes a mistake while playing in sync to the musical notation but we make eye contact, pause for a second and correct the notation without anyone even knowing about it,” says Jaipal cherishing every minute of this musical experience. “Discipline and valuing a person and his time are two lessons for life learnt from Balu garu.”

Challa Prakash and Srinivas Charan, keyboard

Challa Prakash

Challa Prakash | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

The duo strike a chord with their keyboard delights. While Prakash has been playing for 15 years, Charan has a 12-year-stint in crafting melodies. “Playing with such diverse singers and different instruments enhances the musical experiences. Maaku notation pucca ga practice avutundi. (It becomes easy to play with notation.”)

Says Charan, “Rehearsals are my learning sessions; earlier, I would not know If I am playing the song correctly but now, be it tone function, expression or dynamics, the seniors regularly explain how to play and how not to play.”

Chinna Mastanvali

Chinna Mastanvali | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Some of the show’s earlier keyboard players include Chinna Mastanvali, C Praveen, Souji Aravind.

BV Srinivas, Mentor

Handpicked by SPB, Srinivas XXX is the music teacher on the sets, who has been travelling to Hyderabad from Bengaluru for 13 years now. He was a music teacher for Ede Tumbi Haaduvenu show for ETV Kannada. “When I was offered this role, I expressed my fears as I didn’t know even one Telugu alphabet but SPB garu gave me hope . Now I have become permanent,” he says with a smile. Srinivas comes a few days before the shooting, trains the participants from the notation that he has written, and practices with the orchestra. “The contestants got adjusted to my broken Telugu and now they laugh when I use random sentences.”

Srinivas says he has fallen in love with Telugu film songs. “I feel I have done some punya that I am getting to know these Telugu songs; I have to thank SPB garu for this experience.”

Yugender Gattu, flue

Yugender Gattu

Yugender Gattu | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Flautist Yugender Gattu’s prized possession is a western flute from Italy that SPB had gifted him. A native of Bodhan from Nizamabad, Yugender was first a Hindustani classical music student. “Flautists should get the transposition (changing the pitch of a piece of music to make it fit the range) technique while playing light music on a flute,” says the flautist who carries a collection of 12 flutes . “Sometimes a singer’s pitch could be down for some reason, so we have to change the flute quickly to match the pitch.”

Achyutha Rama Raju, co-ordinator

It has been a 15-year journey with the show for 68-year-old Achyutha Rama Raju, who coordinates the orchestra team, participants and judges. “Doing a musical show with none other than the legend SPB is a God-sent gift. If I am working at this age, it only shows how much I enjoy what I am doing; otherwise a co-ordinator’s job is tough at this age.”

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