MM Keeravani’s success sutra: Family is Team and Team is Family

Keeravani encourages young talents and treats his colleagues as a family which is why he is adored as 'guru' by many artists in the industry.

ByDeepthi Nandan

Published Mar 13, 2023 | 4:30 PMUpdatedMar 13, 2023 | 4:30 PM

mm keeravani

MM Keeravani, one of the senior music directors from the Telugu film industry, has made India proud by winning the Best Original Song Oscar for the “Naatu Naatu” song from the blockbuster movie RRR.

With the Oscar glory, this unassuming and low-profile music composer from Tollywood has turned into a global figure.

Besides decades of musical toil, what made the victory possible is Keeravani’s inimitable style of turning family into a movie-making team and treating his team members as a family.

Interestingly, RRR itself is a family affair for the 61-year-old. The Telugu action period drama is directed by his first cousin SS Rajamouli and the story is written by his uncle Vijayendra Prasad (Rajamouli’s father).

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Director SS Rajamouli and music composer MM Keeravani are cousins. (Twitter)

The bonding between the members of Keeravani’s family is so strong that Rajamouli has never looked beyond the music director whenever he needed him to compose music for his projects.

In fact, the maverick director collaborated with Keeravani since his (former’s) debut movie Student No 1 (2001), a super hit starring Jr NTR. The duo went on to deliver musical hits with their every collaboration: Simhardi, Chatrapathi, Yamadonga, Magadheera, Eega, and Baahubali series, to name a few.

Irrespective of scale and genre, Rajamouli bet on his elder brother Keeravani for composing music, throughout his journey.

‘Keeravani treats colleagues as family’

“The biggest advantage for Rajamouli and Keeravani is that they have wonderful chemistry and deep trust between them. Moreover, they carefully groomed their family members in the different crafts of filmmaking,” senior director VN Aditya told South First.

He teamed up with the Oscar-winning music composer for Nagarjuna and Shriya Saran-starrer Nenunnanu movie in 2001.

Aditya believes that they all own and pour their hearts into the movie-making which eventually shows up in the final result.

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Music director Keeravani with lyricist Chandrabose with Oscars. (Twitter)

“The best thing about Keeravani is that he treats his colleagues with utmost warmth and respect. When we work with Keeravani, we feel like a family,” he added.

It is part of Tollywood folklore as to how singers, lyricists, directors and visitors to Keeravani’s house will be served delicious Telugu cuisine and offered hospitality.

Indeed, the music director’s home is like a film-making school with almost all the members entering the industry and even creating a mark for themselves.

His younger brother Kalyani Malik and younger sister MM Sreelekha are music directors and playback singers.

His elder son Kaala Bhairava, who sang “Naatu Naatu” along with Rahul Sipligunj, is also a music composer. His younger son Sri Simha is an actor.

A household name for Indian film buffs 

Born in Kovvur village in Andhra Pradesh, Keeravani is the son of lyricist-screenwriter Koduri Siva Shakthi Datta who penned the “Mamathala Thalli” song from Baahubali: The Beginning.

While he is known by the same name in Telugu and Malayalam, he is popular as “Marakathamani” in Tamil and “MM Kreem” in the Hindi film industries.

He debuted in Tollywood with “Manasu Mamatha” (1990) but Ram Gopal Varma’s Kshana Kshanam (1991) starring Venkatesh and Sridevi placed him in the limelight.

Among his best-known songs is the Telugu track “Thelusa Manasa” a breezy love ballad sung by Balasubrahmanyam and Chitra in Nagarjuna’s Criminal (1994). Up North, the composer is best known to audiences for “Tum Mile” from the Hindi version of the movie.

Keeravani’s other major works in Bollywood include: “Gali Mein Aaj Chaand Nikla” from Zakhm (1998), “Aa Bhi Ja” and “Dil Mein Jaagi” from Sur-The Melody of Life (2002).

The other famous songs include “Jaadu Hai Nasha Hai” and “Aawarapan Banjarapan” from Jism (2003), and “Maine Dil Se Kaha” from Rog (2005).

Encourages new talent

Besides supporting his family, Keeravani is known for encouraging new talent. Interestingly, even Oscar-winning lyricist Chandrabose was groomed and supported by him in the initial phase of his career.

On several occasions, Chandrabose publicly acknowledged how Keeravani helped him settle in Tollywood as a successful lyricist.

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Singer Vedala Hemachandra (middle) with Keeravani and Mani Sharma. (itsvedhem/Twitter)

Besides working with legendary singers like the late SP Balasubramanyam, Janaki, and Chitra, Keeravani encouraged singers like Hema Chandra, Geetha Madhuri, Deepu, and Rahul Sipligunj in the initial days of their careers — the reason why many treat him as a “guru” and adore him.

“Keeravani garu is an amazing human being. We cherish his association. Not just he, even his family is sweet and welcoming to every individual. I had the privilege of working with Keeravani for many songs and also on a USA tour,” popular singer and music composer Hema Chandra sharing his joy with South First.

He said Keeravani and his family treat people in an amazing way. “The best thing about Keeravani is that he gives opportunities and good memories. Now he not only cheered just Telugu people but the entire nation by winning Oscar,” he added.

The music composer shares a good relationship with his colleagues. Hence, Telugu stars like Jr NTR and Ram Charan who featured in RRR — proudly claim to be a part of Keeravani’s family.

(With inputs from PTI.)