Lyricist Shreshta: There is gender discrimination in the Telugu film industry
The lyricist talks about fighting depression and her relentless struggle in the industry
Shreshta is overwhelmed by the warm reception to her song Raletti (rendered by Divya S Menon) from Vijay Deverakonda-starrer World Famous Lover. Despite the film's dismal show at the box office, the song has become a favorite among the masses. “Raletti brought me a lot of love and appreciation. Not many know that I wrote the song overnight. I would like to thank director Kranthi Madhav for believing in my abilities. I came out with a new expression and the song is a representation of love and heartbreak. I ensured the Telangana flavour was very much present in the lines,” the young lyricist begins.
Journey into showbiz
"Initially, my family was apprehensive as to how a girl without a godfather would survive in the industry. After noticing my passion, they allowed me to pursue a career soon after completing my LLB from Osmania University. I started writing devotional songs before pushing myself into the showbiz. I made my film debut as a lyric writer with director Sunil Kumar Reddy’s Oka Romantic Crime Katha (2012)."
"Back in 2013, I became a victim of the film industry’s dirty politics and slipped into depression. I went through mental agony and every minute was a struggle. I felt exhausted and demoralised the whole time. There were several lyric writers and directors, including women, who ganged up against me. Mind games were in full play and I was bullied. They have always been envious of my success and their inappropriate stares made me feel uncomfortable. A sense of insecurity and fear grew in me. They tried to discard me and constantly took chances to exploit me. There is gender discrimination and I realised that talent alone isn't enough to get work. I couldn't deal with this negativity and took a self-imposed break from films. I went back to Mancherial. My family members, especially my mother, who is also a working woman, rallied around me and helped me overcome this trauma. I wouldn't have achieved my dreams had it not been for the support of my family."
Road to fame
"After a two-year hiatus, I made a comeback with Nithiin’s Courier Boy Kalyan (2015). But the success of the National Award-winning film Pelli Choopulu (2016) redefined my career and gave me the confidence to write. Since then, I have become a regular lyricist for Vijay Deverakonda’s films and I wholeheartedly thank him and his father Govardhan Rao for backing me through thick and thin. I've written 55 songs in over 15 films and my writings seamlessly switch from rural earthiness to urban elegance, from riveting romance to painful heartbreaks. Quality and spontaneity are my strengths. Lyrics express emotions and you cannot create them. Films are a medium to convey our emotions and it feels good when our work reaches the masses. I am glad that nobody can contaminate this medium."
The relentless struggle
"I am still struggling to make a mark and pushing myself really hard to get offers. Lack of encouragement bothers me a lot too. Even after bagging slew of literary awards, I am still snubbed and sidelined in the industry. There is a saying that 'women are their own worst enemies'. There's a distinct undercurrent of meanness and negativity plaguing women in Telugu cinema. Several women who call themselves feminists and flag-bearers of girl power put down other women. They promote internal sexism and launch a veiled attack. It's difficult to deal with them. At one point, I had no interest in coping with these things and wanted to quit films. But I have worked hard, endured a lot of pain and managed to deliver a few hits. Being a woman, I am still seeking a safe work atmosphere. I feel isolated in the industry."
"I mix English words in my songs whenever necessary and have always been open to working in multiple movies at once. But I have my reservations. I do not like writing lyrics with double entendre. At the same time, I am not a stickler and do not insist on listening to the full story before penning lyrics. It’s enough if I am given a scene as a reference. On average, I take two days to complete a song. I believe that a song must have lyrics that a common man can understand and be touched by. While people think love songs are my forte, I am also open to experimenting with a range of songs including mass numbers."