Devi Sri Prasad: Acting is a goal I have left unchecked for a long time
The composer, fresh from the success of his pan-Indian film, Pushpa: The Rise, talks about his acting dreams, working for over two decades, working in other languages, and more
Composer Devi Sri Prasad comes across as rather religious. His God, interestingly, is music. His eyes glow as he speaks about how music has ruled his life since childhood. “I don't know what I am without music. That’s why I either create it or consume it throughout the day. Even when I wrote exams as a student, I remember finding ways to have music on. Being a composer for as long, I can tell you that I don't control music; it controls me."
His recent film, Allu Arjun-starrer Pushpa: The Rise, continues to trend on social media in the form of reels and new recreated videos. The film being DSP’s first pan-Indian release, he claims to have treated each version of the film as a separate album. "The final audio mix alone took us a month and a half," he says.
Excerpts from the conversation:
Did you expect the songs of Pushpa, especially ‘Oo Antava’ (‘Oo Solriya’), to become such a raging hit?
All I know is that if we try something new with our whole heart, our audience will never fail to celebrate it. We released all the songs of Pushpa as singles and the response for each encouraged us to level up. Even before the release of ‘Oo Antava’, we had delivered a hit album. With this last song, I wanted to try something different from all my previous ‘item numbers’. Our item numbers are peppy and fast usually, but I wanted to make this sound like a chant. I sent a basic version to Suku bhai (director Sukumar) and told him that while he may be put off by the sound immediately, I believed that it would be a huge hit. The idea of commentary about male desire in the lyrics was brought in by Sukumar and Chandrabose sir and the singers in each language took the track to the next level.
All the success has encouraged us to begin working for the second part right away and I have got the basic tunes ready. Shooting will go on floors once the COVID wave subsides.
Being in the industry for two decades, do scripts still surprise you?
Absolutely! Directors like Suku Bhai make sure that they bring out something new from every technician and actor. Even when a story permits only for a regular song placement, directors are gracious enough to ask for my inputs to spice things up. Sometimes, I have even suggested the addition or removal of songs.
‘Ninnu Choodagane’ from Attarintiki Daredi wasn't a part of the story, for instance, but I came up with this tune one day and suggested to Trivikram that it would be nice if Pawan sir performed for this number. The script was then rewritten. Similarly, when Buchi Babu Sana told me about the situation for the ‘Dhak Dhak Dhak’ song in Uppena, I suggested the idea of adding something that evokes a heartbeat with the visuals.
As a composer, you are known for your spontaneity. How did you develop this practice?
A composer cannot wake up from bed and be confident that a hit song would come naturally—not unless you are Michael Jackson or Ilaiyaraaja. They are divine beings. Composers like me feel grateful when our songs get love and recognition.
My family and friends are music lovers and they have encouraged me to be engrossed in music. This enables me to find inspiration from everywhere. Mostly, I finish the basic composition for an entire film even during the narration. I don't know how other music directors work as I don't believe in taking breaks to compose songs. It doesn’t matter where the narration happens; I strongly believe creativity lies within a musician.
Saamy Square was your last direct Tamil film. Can we expect to see more work from you in the language?
My heart is always with Chennai and Tamilnadu. Even while composing for Uppena, I was running my memories of Marina beach. In fact, I wrote the song, ‘Sandram Lona’, in Tamil first, before translating it to Telugu. Similarly, for Ram Pothineni-Lingusamy's bilingual, The Warrior, I composed all the songs in Tamil first, despite the film having a major Telugu star.
You also seem to like the camera.
I grew up watching Western albums in which composers themselves would get featured. The musicians I saw weren't camera shy; they were performing and dancing to their songs. This was a major encouragement and I strongly believe promoting a song visually takes it closer to the audience.
I love Chiranjeevi sir, and he first invited me to dance with him in Shankar Dada MBBS and that practice continued till Khaidi No. 150. Also, directors who are close to me like Trivikram encourage me to be a part of their songs, and I do it for friendship.
We understand that your acting debut is finally happening.
Yes, it has been quite some time since I began contemplating acting. I have decided to give it a shot this year. I have neither been against the idea of acting nor have been desperate to do it. But the pandemic made me review my to-do lists and acting is a goal I left unchecked for a long time. I have been blessed enough to get offers from top producers like Dil Raju, Allu Aravind and Thanu over the years.
Right now, I have shortlisted a few stories and you can expect me to do a film as a lead in one of them soon. I have also planned to do a lot of independent albums and numbers this year.