MM Keeravani: I am hoping Naa Saami Ranga will be the next President Gari Pellam

The Academy Award-winning music composer talks to Cinema Express about his upcoming film Naa Saami Ranga, reuniting with Nagarjuna and more
MM Keeravani: I am hoping Naa Saami Ranga will be the next President Gari Pellam

It is rare to watch an interviewee have a group of reporters in raptures despite answering questions most nonchalantly and matter-of-factly possible. MM Keeravani is one such rare celebrity. Not one to beat around the bush, when asked the rather perfunctory query regarding why he chose to work in Naa Saami Ranga, which is hitting theatres this January 14, MM Keeravani says, “For money.” The veteran music composer, who has been in the business for a little over three decades, is all praises for director Vijay Binni, who finished the film at breakneck pace to make it to the Sankranti release window. “It is a rare sight to watch directors finish a film in such a short period.” The music composer is also not one to take the nostalgia bait. Midway through the interaction, the sixty-something composer opens his iPhone and shows an app that simulates the look and feel of a cassette. “One does not need to miss anything. Technology has found a way to keep the essence of the old times alive.” Breaking down his opinions in the most colorful of analogies, Keeravani answers questions about his upcoming film. 

Selected Excerpts 

Apart from money, as you have just mentioned, what other reasons drew you to work in Naa Saami Ranga? Is it the story? 

Well, not really. I am always game to working with Nagarjuna (Akkineni). We have done many films together that proved to be successful for both of us. I would say Naa Saami Ranga is a lot like President Gari Pellam (1992). Both films are set in a village. Both films have the same, fun elements. I am hoping Naa Saami Ranga will be the next President Gari Pellam

Naa Saami Ranga is the adaptation of the Malayalam film Porinju Mariam Jose (2019)...

Needless to say, one can adapt the story but not the music. The customs and culture of Kerala are worlds apart from that of Andhra. Vijay (Binni) has ensured that the story has been suitably adapted to the nativity of coastal Andhra. Adaptations need to be approached with care, they need to be intentional as well as accessible. Naa Saami Ranga is one such remake. It is not your average scene-by-scene adaptation. 

Could you speak about working with Vijay Binni? 

It is always interesting to work with newcomers like Vijay. They come with a burning desire to prove themselves and make a mark, so they are always willing to go the extra mile. Since Vijay is a choreographer, he is used to perceiving music in terms of steps and dance movements. That was one noteworthy difference I felt between working with him and the others. He finished shooting Naa Saami Ranga in three months. Now, I do not know whether that happened because he was trying hard to reach the Sankranti release deadline or it is because he is extremely efficient. Only time can tell, I suppose. 

Though Chandrabose has been credited as the film’s single card lyricist, you have also penned the lyrics for one song in the film. 

Yes, that is true but I would still maintain that Chandrabose is the film’s sole lyricist. Imagine you ate rice for lunch, but you had one puri in the middle. Would you tell people you had rice or the puri? Chandrabose is the rice here, I am just the pachadi (pickle) that comes for one course and goes. To answer your question, I wrote the song quite randomly. I am not a professional lyricist, this is not something I do regularly. But inspiration did strike me this one time, so I did go ahead with it. 

You have worked with filmmakers like Vijay Binni and Dasari Narayana Rao, who finish shooting their films in a handful of months. You also collaborate with the likes of SS Rajamouli, who takes years to complete a project. What do you find easier? 

Whatever option offers me more money, I find that easier (laughs).

But there must be some marked differences in your creative processes right, considering the vastly contrasting timelines in both scenarios…

It may take you 10 minutes to cook an omelette but an hour to cook a curry. Do you think a curry is superior to an omelette because it takes more time? They might be different, but they both do the job of keeping you satiated and happy in their own ways. It is the same with films. Rajamouli’s films are heavily reliant on VFX, and you cannot make them in a few months even if you want to. How much time a director takes to finish a project does not severely impact the way I work. 

Songs these days are judged based on virality, instead of quality or artistic merit. How do you view this particular transition in popular judgement?

Songs were also judged for ‘virality’ back then. (Director) Raghavendra Rao always told me that if you go to a wedding and see the band members playing a song, it means that your song is a hit, otherwise it isn't. The metrics for that popularity today have just changed to Instagram reels and YouTube views. That's all. And as far as a composer is concerned, we are in no place to predict a song’s success. We do not come equipped with the extra skill set of fortune telling. 

Any music from recent films that has caught your fancy?

I haven't watched that many films lately. I loved the music in Animal. The songs of Jailer were kind of okay, but I particularly enjoyed the film's background score. I have also texted Anirudh this, after watching Jailer

Could you speak about your upcoming projects? 

There are no updates to speak of, as far as SSMB 29 is concerned. Rajamouli is not even lifting my calls these days (laughs). We have recorded three songs for Hari Hara Veera Mallu (HHVM). Krish (Jagarlamudi, HHVM’s director) is not available at the moment, and I will be composing more songs once the project resumes production. I am also working on Chiru 156, directed by Vassishta. Currently, scenes that do not involve Chiranjeevi are being shot in Maredumilli. Music sessions for that film shall also resume soon. 

Related Stories

No stories found.
Cinema Express