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Keeping a song's spirit intact

Lyricists open up on the challenges of getting the essence of a track right for bilingual films.

April 07, 2016 03:24 pm | Updated 03:24 pm IST - Hyderabad:

Anantha Sriram.

Anantha Sriram.

HYDERABAD: Both the Telugu and Tamil film industries are abuzz with a series of bilinguals and filmmakers are consciously treating them as individual films. Among the key aspects in both the versions are invariably the music and the lyrics in different languages. Lyricists come up with their own lines in the language they are working in and still evoke a similar thought successfully in both. The role of lyricists in films like Oopiri/Thozha , Cheekati Rajyam , Baahubali , Size Zero and forthcoming bilinguals like A..Aa, Oka Manasu, Brahmotsavam, Saahasam Swasaga Saagipo become all the more significant.

During the choreography for a song, where visuals drive the lyrics, one doesn’t mind the similarity in both languages. The quality of a lyricist comes to the fore when the lyrics act a backgrounder to the track, where there’s no necessary lip-sync. Madhan Karky, who’d written lyrics for the Tamil versions of Oopiri, Baahubali and Size Zero feels that the effort pays off when the directors allow freedom to experiment. “Vamshi Paidipally and Karthi took extreme care to ensure the Tamil flavour was very much existent”. Except for the ‘Door Number Okati’ number in Oopiri , where the translations were very literal, the lyrics in both the albums weren’t desperately trying to sound similar, even the letters with which, the stanzas started or ended.

Ramajogayya Sastry, who’d written lyrics for Baahubali (Telugu), the only song in Cheekati Rajyam and teamed up with Seetharama Sastry for the lyrics of Oopiri adds, “This goes by convenience. People need to be meticulous on how the result is transformed in both the versions. I’d written the Telugu songs of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Bajirao Mastani too and was satisfied with the job I did. The maker gave me a go-ahead totally, with trust. In situations, where there’s a thorough discussion with the director, the output may have been better too. It’s tough to generalise this.”

Sample another instance of Karky, working with SS Rajamouli for Baahubali . “In the shiva-lingam song in Telugu, the pallavi is followed by lines written mostly in Sanskrit. For the Tamil one, I’d felt Sanskrit lines wouldn’t connect with its audience, even if I changed only the pallavi to Tamil. I thenasked him if I could make it an all-Tamil song keeping in mind the spiritual literature that exists in a fantasy-period film. I wrote them and he enjoyed the liberty that I took, both the words and the sounds.”

However, this trend has its own set of problems, when the makers of a film don’t work on both languages independently. For Size Zero , the Telugu lines were written first and the Tamil version’s lines made sound like the Telugu one; the effort seemed forced. In some cases, the directors may not explain what he/she wants to the lyricist and deputes the task to someone else. . There is always a risk of a gap in communication that affects the output adversely.

Vanamali, who’d worked on a bilingual 180 and once had famously reprised the Telugu version of ‘Nenjikulle’ track (in Kadal ) with ‘Gunjukunna’ (in Kadali ), opines that the experience indeed varies from director to director. “I’ve had equal number of cases, where a director just mails me the tunes and asks me to send the lyrics for the song. I had to go to the theatre myself to verify if the song stayed the same and my name was mentioned. For the dubbed version of Kadali , Mani Ratnam and A R Rahman garu were in constant discussion with me and made me write different versions of the song until they were satisfied”

Gautham Menon’s films, be it Ye Maya Chesave or Yeto Vellipoyindi Manasu ( and working on another- Saahasam Swasaga Sagipo) , are a testimony to the success of the music and lyrics, when the care’s taken. Just as Thamarai did the honours for the Tamil versions of the above films, Ananth Sriram (who also wrote lyrics for Baahubali) brought his own uniqueness into play in the Telugu ones. With the greater reach that bilinguals, it’s imperative that the soul of lyric writing is retained for each individual language.

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