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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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?

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Baahubali 2: The Conclusion jukebox.
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London then and now – As experienced by Indians

While much has changed, the timeless quality of the city endures.

“I found the spirit of the city matching the Bombay spirit. Like Bombay, the city never sleeps and there was no particular time when you couldn’t wander about the town freely and enjoy the local atmosphere”, says CV Manian, a PhD student in Manchester in the ‘80s, who made a trip to London often. London as a city has a timeless quality. The seamless blend of period architecture and steel skyscrapers acts as the metaphor for a city where much has changed, but a lot hasn’t.

The famed Brit ‘stiff upper lip, for example, finds ample validation from those who visited London decades ago. “The people were minding their business, but never showed indifference to a foreigner. They were private in their own way and kept to themselves.” Manian recollects. Aditya Dash remembers an enduring anecdote from his grandmother’s visit to London. “There is the famous family story where she was held up at Heathrow airport. She was carrying zarda (or something like that) for my grandfather and customs wanted to figure out if it was contraband or not.”

However, the city always housed contrasting cultures. During the ‘Swinging ‘60s’ - seen as a precursor to the hippie movement - Shyla Puri’s family had just migrated to London. Her grandfather still remembers the simmering anti-war, pro-peace sentiment. He himself got involved with the hippie movement in small ways. “He would often talk with the youth about what it means to be happy and how you could achieve peace. He wouldn’t go all out, but he would join in on peace parades and attend public talks. Everything was ‘groovy’ he says,” Shyla shares.

‘Groovy’ quite accurately describes the decade that boosted music, art and fashion in a city which was till then known for its post-World-War austerities. S Mohan, a young trainee in London in the ‘60s, reminisces, “The rage was The Beatles of course, and those were also the days of Harry Belafonte and Ella Fitzgerald.” The likes of The Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd were inspiring a cultural revolution in the city. Shyla’s grandfather even remembers London turning punk in the ‘80s, “People walking around with leather jackets, bright-colored hair, mohawks…It was something he would marvel at but did not join in,” Shyla says.

But Shyla, a second-generation Londoner, did join in in the revival of the punk culture in the 21st century. Her Instagram picture of a poster at the AfroPunk Fest 2016 best represents her London, she emphatically insists. The AfroPunk movement is trying to make the Punk culture more racially inclusive and diverse. “My London is multicultural, with an abundance of accents. It’s open, it’s alive,” Shyla says. The tolerance and openness of London is best showcased in the famous Christmas lights at Carnaby Street, a street that has always been popular among members of London’s alternate cultures.

Christmas lights at Carnaby Street (Source: Roger Green on Wikimedia Commons)
Christmas lights at Carnaby Street (Source: Roger Green on Wikimedia Commons)

“London is always buzzing with activity. There are always free talks, poetry slams and festivals. A lot of museums are free. London culture, London art, London creativity are kept alive this way. And of course, with the smartphones navigating is easy,” Shyla adds. And she’s onto something. Manian similarly describes his ‘80s rendezvous with London’s culture, “The art museums and places of interest were very illustrative and helpful. I could tour around the place with a road map and the Tube was very convenient.” Mohan, with his wife, too made the most of London’s cultural offerings. “We went to see ‘Swan Lake’ at the Royal Opera House and ‘The Mousetrap’ by Agatha Christie. As an overseas graduate apprentice, I also had the pleasure to visit the House of Lords and take tea on the terrace.”

For the casual stroller along London’s streets today, the city would indeed look quite different from what it would’ve to their grandparents. Soho - once a poor suburb known for its crime and sex industry - is today a fashionable district of upmarket eateries and fashion stores. Most of the big British high street brands have been replaced by large international stores and the London skyline too has changed, with The Shard being the latest and the most impressive addition. In fact, Shyla is quite positive that her grandfather would not recognise most of the city anymore.

Shyla, though, isn’t complaining. She assures that alternate cultures are very much alive in the city. “I’ve seen some underground LGBT clubs, drag clubs, comedy clubs, after midnight dance-offs and empty-warehouse-converted parties. There’s a space for everybody.” London’s cosmopolitan nature remains a huge point of attraction for Indian visitors even today. Aditya is especially impressed by the culinary diversity of London and swears that, “some of the best chicken tikka rolls I have had in my life were in London.” “An array of accents flood the streets. These are the people who make London...LONDON,” says Shyla.

It’s clear that London has changed a lot, but not really all that much. Another aspect of Indians’ London experience that has remained consistent over the past decades is the connectivity of British Airways. With a presence in India for over 90 years, British Airways has been helping generations of Indians discover ‘their London’, just like in this video.

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For more information on special offers on flights to London and other destinations in the UK, see here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of British Airways and not by the Scroll editorial team.