Musical Notes

Keeravani in Telugu and MM Kreem in Hindi: tune into the ‘Baahubali’ music composer

The musician and singer has been around in Hindi films since ‘Criminal’ in 1995, but his success in Bollywood has been limited.

Music composer MM Keeravani likes to play hide and seek with Bollywood. He has been flitting in and out of the Hindi film music scene for over two decades. In 2015, when he composed the soundtrack of SS Rajamouli’s Baahubali: The Beginning, its showy sounds indicated a comeback for Keeravani.

In the April 28 release Baahubali 2: The Conclusion, Keeravani mounts a grand score for the final chapter of the two-part fantasy epic. Daler Mehndi, bhangra pop star and proud owner of one of the highest vocal pitches in the music business, sings Saahore Baahubali, a war cry paean urging the hero to vanquish his enemies.

Few playback singers can be entrusted to unsettle eardrums as Mehndi. This isn’t the first time he has sung for Keeravani. They have collaborated on such foot-thumping Telugu dance tracks as Rabbaru Gajulu (Yamadonga, 2007) and Jorsey (Magadheera, 2009).

Baahubali 2: The Conclusion is being released in Hindi, Telugu, Tamil and Malayalam. It is an opportunity for the singer-composer duo to captivate moviegoers across the nation. Keeravani’s sweeping compositions also give him another chance to showcase his work in Bollywood, where he has worked intermittently.

Play
Saahore Baahubali from Baahubali 2: The Conclusion (2017).

The composer has trained in Indian classical music, and melody is closely associated with his name –
Keeravani is also the name of a Carnatic raag. Keeravani has several aliases, using the name MM Keeravani for Telugu films, Maragathamani in Tamil and MM Kreem for his Hindi compositions.

Keeravani got his break in the 1990 Telugu film Manasu Mamatha, and won his first Filmfare Best Music Director for Ram Gopal Varma’s Kshana Kshanam (1991). Sridevi sang her only Telugu song, Ko Ante Koti, a duet with SP Balasubrahmanyam, in the road movie.

With several soundtracks in other languages, including Tamil and Malayalam, Keeravani made a foray into Hindi films with the Mahesh Bhatt directed Telugu-Hindi bilingual action thriller Criminal (1995).

The ambient sounds of the popular track Tu Mile Dil Khile, sung by Kumar Sanu, Chitra and Alka Yagnik, were borrowed from Age of Loneliness, a 1994 single by the band Enigma. In Sudhir Mishra’s Is Raat Ki Subah Nahin (1996), Keeravani produced such lilting melodies as Chup Tum Raho, Jeevan Kya Hai and Mere Tere Naam.

Play
Chup Tum Raho from Is Raat Ki Subah Nahi (1996).

Keeravani followed Criminal with the evocative Gali Mein Aaj Chand Nikla in Zakhm (1998). He concentrated his output in films written, produced, and or directed by the Bhatts (Mukesh, Mahesh and Pooja). He admitted his preference for the Bhatts in an interview: “Mahesh is frank, straightforward and likes my kind of music. Film music, according to me, is of two kinds, for the lip and hip. Mahesh likes the first, which is long-lasting and doesn’t provide scope for pelvic movement.”

Play
Gali Mein Aaj Chand Nikla from Zakhm (1998).

Keeravani’s fruitful collaboration with the Bhatts continued with the films Sur – The Melody of Life (2002), Jism (2003), Saaya (2003), Rog (2005) and Dhokha (2007). The soundtracks were studded with numerous ballads to which Keeravani also contributed as a playback singer. His balladeer trajectory for the Bhatts was interrupted by Amol Palekar’s ghost story, Paheli (2005). Working with lyricist Gulzar, Keeravani composed the lovely tune Dheere Jalna, reworking his own Telugu song Nadira Dhinna from Okariki Okaru (2003).

Although Keeravani’s tunes were lilting melodies, they were not always chartbusters. His sound was soothing and never targetted the mass market. He explored classical genres and musical styles in other languages, but his melodies for Hindi films rarely entered the experimental stage.

Play
Dheere Jalna from Paheli (2005).

In Neeraj Pandey’s Special 26 (2013) and Baby (2015), Keeravani’s musical prowess took a backseat to the high-intensity drama in the films. The imposing sounds of Baahubali 2: The Conclusion, including the terrific background score that plays an important part in shaping the tugs and twists in the fantasy period dramas, is a masterstroke by the composer. A soundtrack in four languages is unlikely to miss anyone’s attention. Will it mark a new beginning for Keeravani?

Play
Baahubali 2: The Conclusion jukebox.
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