It's been nearly three decades since MM Keeravaani began composing music for films; however, he doesn't seem to be in a mood to continue doing so, for the rest of his life. Earlier this year, he announced that he will retire in 2016 as part of a decision he took when he recorded his first song on December 9, 1989 in Chennai. The most surprising element of his confession is sticking to the decision he took 29 years ago. "Although I was never academically inclined, I did study math and throughout my life, I have been fixing certain goals and working towards them. When we close one door, another opens for us. But I don't really know what's in store for me. I want to take control of my life and frankly, music is just a part of my life," MM Keeravaani says, as a matter-of-fact.
From the days of Kshana Kshanam to his recent film Dikkulu Choodaku Ramayya, Keeravaani has scored music for nearly 218 films in Telugu, Tamil and Hindi. Ask him the biggest challenge of his task, and he confesses, "It's a nightmare to work with people who are incompatible with your style of working.The most challenging part of my job has been to work with fools and I've had my share of all that over the years. Being content and behaving like one is still a big challenge for a lot of people. I'm happy with what I've achieved." Although he's quite content with the work he has done so far, he regrets not scoring many lullabies. "I wish I had scored more lullabies like Jaamu Rathiri in Kshana Kshanam. Quite rarely do lullabies become huge hits in our films. And truth be told, it's difficult to compose simple tunes. Anyone can come up with a complicated tune, but it requires a lot of effort to keep it simple," he says.
There's a distinct Carnatic music influence in his work and Keeravaani credits it to his guru, the late Kavitapu Seethanna, who taught him music back in 1965. And he's candid enough to admit that he learns a bit from everyone including his contemporaries like Ilayaraja and AR Rahman. "Apart from music, you tend to learn a lot from the lives of others. Ilayaraja is the embodiment of dedication, and it's this trait that I find quite inspiring. After having observed AR Rahman over the years, from my perspective, the secret of his success is his exclusivity. And if you want to know my secret of success, a secret should remain a secret and I can't share it with anybody," he says with a laugh.
Keeravaani is quite fond of writing and it's this aspect of his life which he's quite proud of. "I write stories, lyrics which I unveil to the world from time to time. I enjoy composing music and singing, but I get a sense of achievement every time I write something," he says. Currently, he's busy working on SS Rajamouli's upcoming period film, Baahubali and it's by far the biggest film Keeravaani has ever worked on. "I've been associated with this project for almost three years now and there's a lot of work left to be done. No matter how big a film is, in terms of its scale, my approach towards my work doesn't change. When I read a story, I can visualise what sort of music I must compose; however, it takes a lot more time when I have to compose for a regular dance number."
"Everything in life is an accident. I didn't know I would become a music director. I took up music because I had no other choice and there was a point where I wanted to be a top-notch playback singer, but I realised quickly that I had to change tracks," he recalls, with a tinge of nostalgia, adding, "Hypothetically, if I didn't take up music, I would have gone into food business. I'm a big foodie and I believe that if I like something, chances are that everyone else will like it too. That's the same philosophy that I've been using whenever I score music. Often, you hear people say that 'personally, they don't like what they are composing, but they are doing it for people', but that's not how it should be done. You have to believe in your work."
There's no doubt that the music in films has undergone a sea change over the past couple of decades and Keeravaani has been in the midst of the evolution. So, what does he think of the current state of music? "I think, it's dependent on too many factors that are beyond a music director's control," he signs off.