MM Keeravaani: The Indian Composer Who made The World Dance To ‘Naatu Naatu’
Keeravaani is the man behind Hindi film songs such as “Gali Mein Aaj Chaand Nikla” from the 1988 film “Zakhm”
He was on "top of the world" and MM Keeravaani shouted it out from the world’s biggest showbiz stage when he won the Best Original Song Oscar for his exuberant “RRR” track “Naatu Naatu”, and doffed his hat to The Carpenters while doing so.
"I grew up listening to The Carpenters and now here I am with the Oscars," said the Andhra Pradesh-born composer, known to Hindi music lovers as MM Kreem, as he etched his name into record books by bagging the first Academy Award for an Indian feature film production.
The 61-year-old, who made the world dance to the hit number from S S Rajamouli’s Telugu period action blockbuster, went on to sing his acceptance speech to the tune of the band’s 1970s hit “Top of the World”.
"There was only one wish on my mind, so was Rajamouli's and our families"... 'RRR' has to win, the pride of every Indian and must put me on the top of the world," Keeravaani sang to thunderous applause from the audience gathered at Los Angeles’ Dolby Theatre on Monday.
Much like the film that was released in four languages and his celebrated number - “Naattu Koothu” in Tamil, “Naacho Naacho” in Hindi, “Karinthol” in Malayalam, and "Haali Naatu" in Kannada - Keeravani’s work has spanned genres, regions and many moods.
Among his best known songs is the Telugu track “Thelusa Manasa” a breezy love ballad sung by SP Balasubrahmanyam and KS Chitra, in the film “Criminal”. Up north, the composer is best known to audiences for “Tum Mile” from the Hindi version of the film.
Koduri Marakathamani Keeravaani, who works across film industries in India, made his debut in 1990 with the Telugu film 'Manasu Mamatha' but success came calling with Ram Gopal Varma's Telugu blockbuster film 'Kshana Kshanam' a year later.
While he is MM Keeravaani in the Telugu and Malayalam films industries, he is known as Marakathamani in the Tamil and M M Kreem in the Hindi circuits.
Keeravaani is the man behind Hindi film songs such as “Gali Mein Aaj Chaand Nikla” from the 1988 film “Zakhm”, as well as “Aa Bhi Ja” and 'Dil Mein Jaagi' from the 2002 movie “Sur - The Melody of Life”. Then there are songs such as “Jaadu Hai Nasha Hai” and “Aawarapan Banjarapan” from 'Jism' (2003), and “Maine Dil Se Kaha” from 'Rog' (2005).
Rajamouli and Keeravaani are first cousins, their fathers are brothers.
Born to a Telugu family in Kovvur in Andhra Pradesh, the composer is the son of Koduri Siva Shakthi Datta, a lyricist and screenwriter, best known for the song “Mamathala Thalli” from 'Baahubali: The Beginning', another Rajamouli hit. Rajamouli's father and 'RRR' co-writer V Vijayendra Prasad is Datta’s younger brother.
Call it familial bond or trust in his ability, Rajamouli bet big on his cousin right from his directorial debut 'Student No 1' in Telugu in 2001.
The pathbreaking success of the movie, which starred Jr NTR, Gajala, and Rajeev Kanakala, started a collaboration that continued with a series of Telugu titles, including actioner 'Simhadri', sports action movie "Sye", fantasy epic 'Magadheera' and the 'Baahubali' series.
The Oscar for “Naatu Naatu” is a huge win for the unassuming Keeravaani. It caps the international momentum of months, recalling the the buzz around 'Jai Ho', A R Rahman's hit track from the British film 'Slumdog Millionaire' in 2009.
It took more than a decade for an Indian song and musician to win an Oscar again in the category, but what makes the honour more special this time is that it is for an Indian production. "Glass Onion" stars Kate Hudson and Janelle Monae presented the trophy to Keeravaani and Chandrabose.
The song also won a Golden Globe and a Critics Choice Award. In January, Keeravaani was awarded the Padma Shri, India’s fourth highest civilian honour.
“Naatu Naatu”, which translates to bucolic in Telugu, was a runaway hit at home in India with the release of Rajamouli's magnum opus. Soon, viewers in the West were also swept away in the irreverent yet inclusive vibe of the 4.35-minute song, danced by leading stars Ram Charan and Jr NTR.
The rousing soundtrack and background score of "RRR", a fictional tale set in pre-Independent India following the adventures of real-life revolutionaries Alluri Sitarama Raju (Ram Charan) and Komaram Bheem (Jr NTR) is the bedrock of the film's success around the globe.
Actor Deepika Padukone, who introduced the song at the Oscars ahead of the performance of the song on stage, had to pause at various points during her presentation as loud cheers echoed in the vast auditorium.
Singers Rahul Sipligunj and Kaala Bhairava brought the Dolby Theatre to life with dancers of all ethnicities acing the hook step of the international music sensation. As the song finished, the audiences stood up to honour the performers with a standing ovation.