Music does not serve as narrative medium in southern cinema: Mahesh Shankar

Chennai, July 20 (IANS) : Southern composer Mahesh Shankar, known for Telugu films such as "Vennela" and "Payanam", feels music in south cinema is still in the "break out and dance" form, but not used as an effective narrative medium.

"Upcoming composers in Tamil and Malayalam are showing signs of creativity, but in Telugu and Kannada there is less experimentation. Music in the south still means breaking out and dancing from a scene and therefore I think we are yet to use it as a narrative medium," Mahesh told IANS.

He, however, said nobody was to blame for this.

"Filmmakers are very responsible individuals and that's why they want to give audiences what they think they will like. Their intention is to satisfy them as much as possible because cinema is their favorite pastime," he added.

"Films with songs and dances are fun to watch. There's a place for such films in the industry. Seldom do we use music to empathise with our characters because we like to break into a dance when a song comes on screen," he said.

Why do you think there is lack of creativity?

"One of the reasons is that we are trying too hard to be different. We should try to be original. The other reason is we lack infrastructure. Even to record a song, we have to either go to Chennai or Bombay. We need to set up infrastructure and nurture a talent base everywhere," said Mahesh, who personally roots for music that's fresh and creative.

He is gung ho about the music of upcoming Telugu comedy-thriller "Bangaru Kodi Petta" (BKP), which he has composed. It's the first "mash-up" soundtrack in the language.

"BKP is a mash up of different voices, words and sounds. It's not a remix album, but one made up of everyday's sounds. It's one of those albums where focus is on all the songs, and each one is different from one another," he said.

"All the songs are synced into the narrative in such a way that they don't break the flow of the film. The music sounds global yet is rooted to Telugu sensibilities. It will be a new experience and we hope audiences appreciate our effort," he added.

Even though BKP's music transcends language in style, its lyrics are in sync with Telugu culture.

"There's absolutely no reason to look out of Telugu for inspiration. Our idea was to take music beyond language and keep its lyrics rooted with 'Teluguness'. We took inspiration from what we hear and see in our daily lives," said Mahesh.

For one of the songs "Allo Nerello", he created a melody out of everyday village sounds such as wood chopping and bottle opening.

"It's a village song that doesn't sound 'villagey'. It's a melodious number but the arrangement of music is 'hatke'," he added.

In his decade-long career, Mahesh has composed music for only nine films.

"I'm multi-faceted. I need both sides of me to be satisfied. I'm not a full-time composer because I have a day job in a branding company. But, when I'm not working I'm creating music with friends. I'm creating music most of the time, but I don't do it commercially," he said.

Music-wise what changes do you like to see in south Indian cinema?

"I want to listen to music we can enjoy and appreciate. I want songs that we can sing whenever we feel like singing. Let's not try too hard to be different," said Shankar.

(Haircharan Pudipeddi can be contacted at haricharanpudipeddi@gmail.com)

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