The word Music enthusiast used to hold such a wonderful meaning to a purpose back in my childhood. You see, I used to wake up to mellifluous music all around me, and as the day would progress, I’d pester my father to buy this Audio cassette or that. Thus, once he did, I used to listen to the cassette perhaps a thousand times, till I just had to make way to the next one. That was life, you know. And back in our day, we used to understand and imbibe the lyrics into her hearts. But today sadly, there have been very few lyricists who can claim that they are bringing sheer poetry to their works. It is our honour to have a conversation with one such talent, Rakendu Mouli. Rakendu Mouli, over the last few years, has marked a niche with his lyrics across movies, most noticeably “Andala Rakshasi”, which today is claimed as one of the best romantic dramas of our times. It only adds to the pleasure that this young wordsmith, has also forayed into the Acting business. So obviously there is so much to talk, and the excerpts of it follow.
Rakendu, you come from a family of literary excellence. Today you are one of the most talented lyricists. We are curious, as to how much of an influence do you contribute to your upbringing towards your present career? Also, do you think it was just meant to be from the start or was it your conscious decision?
I am an artist from my childhood. I was more inclined to arts, movies and sports than studies yet I did well in my academics. But me becoming a lyricist is a surprise to myself and also to my family. Because I had never planned to pen down words until I wrote my first song. In a way, the legacy of my father and brother (Vennelakanti, Shashank Vennelakanti respectively) lead me here. It must be the genes I believe!? lol. Anyways, I am what I am now. While writing the lyrics, I try not to repeat any old expressions. People are happy that I deliver the lyrics quickly, like my father. I’ll share my first song experience, I had to write a song for the movie AWARA, called “Yedho Alajade” which isn’t in the audio, but in the movie, at the climax. It’s a sad situation. My dad and My brother were busy and I had to write it in the last minute. From then I started to like writing. I love to learn languages so, that helped. Later, then Andala Rakshasi happened. And the rest you know.
You are a lyricist, a singer and of course an actor as well. Three different things to explore. Obviously, if you had to rank them as per your preferred choice of art, how would you do so? And why?
Ha Ha.. tough one. Hmm ok, this is my order, Actor, Singer, Lyricist. The reason is, acting is fun, singing is healing, writing is more like labour pain. Now you know why this order. But I give my hundred percent in anything in everything I do. By the way, I also dance and I’m a dubbing artist too!
Rakendu Mouli became a household name as soon as Andala Rakshasi happened. Could you walk us through the journey of getting aboard this movie and in your career how important has this movie been?
My friend Tamil writer-actor-director K.Manikandan introduced me as a track singer to music director Radhan. Then instead of singing the “Thananaa” I wrote dummy lyrics for Yemito and Manasu Palike songs and sang the rough tracks, which impressed director Hanu Raghavapudi and he offered me to write the final versions. Then I completed writing a whole 80 pages notebook to pen one song Yemito. Finally, the pallavi’s lyric (initial few verses) is retained from the old track’s first version, and the rest he picked from that book, which he felt the best. Manasu Palike was another level of experience. Hanu had asked me to discuss the extremities standing in the equilibrium of love. I understood that the expression remains neutral then. The way I sang that song is a different experience altogether. I screamed and lost my mid tone vocals to get it more Huskier with the highs tone in it to sing that song, which aesthetically represents not the throat’s voice, but the heart’s voice. This version of the song you all are hearing is the rough track version which was finalised as it is, without changing a bit. This song is very special and close to my heart. It changed me as a person. Also, it fetched me Mirchi Music Awards for both lyrics and singing along with the appreciations and blessings from the other senior lyricists. Many Thanks to Radhan and Hanu for this opportunity.
We all know that you are out to mark a niche courtesy your talents. But what’s the story of Rakendu Mouli before he landed in the spotlight? Where does his story start and where is it headed?
It all started when I heard the people clapping for me when I danced on stage in my kindergarten. I decided that I wanted those claps for the rest of my life. So I figured it out soon, cause from my childhood all I knew was movies. It’s not a surprise, coming from the film fraternity family, that I realised, the Movie industry is the best place to showcase one’s talents and get appreciated for it. My mom encouraged me in learning what ever I had asked for. So I have tried learning dance, singing, drums, karate, painting n etc. Dad helped me cover Telugu mythological movies. My brother used to read books for me. I was a star in my school. I did my engineering and was offered a job which I rejected right then, as I felt I would end up being a mediocre engineer. I always wanted to be in this movie industry as I thought what if my passion becomes my profession?!
My Mom was a little worried initially but my dramabazi of using dialogues like “who asked you to take me to preview theatres? who asked you to show good movies like Mayabazar, Missamma, Sagarasangamam etc to me and still stop myself from getting inspired!? Movies are running in the blood” and stuff like that helped me get the permission. These arts I have learnt helped me learning crafts in movies better. I also worked as an assistant director under director Samudrakani for Nani’s movie Jandapai Kapiraju, and also under Gautham Menon as a post production AD for Yeto Vellipoindhi Manasu. These experiences helped me better in understanding the acting in terms of technicalities, for the movies, Moodu Mukkalo Cheppalante and Saahasam Swaasaga Saagipo. All these while I also parallelly kept writing songs. Luckily, I’ve been able to manage my writing and acting careers simultaneously by God’s grace. All I want is to pursue my life in movies, cause it is like meditation for me. And I want to learn and master as many crafts as possible. In the future, I wanna write, act, direct, compose, sing, dance, and through these, I want to entertain as many people as possible and be a better human serving the needed at the end of the day. Till then, I’m just going with the flow. As Bruce Lee quoted I’m trying to be water, my friend!
We see that in the recent times, we hear people saying that Telugu movies today are devoid of poetic sensibilities and lyrics. Why do you think that is? And as a lyricist what measures do you take while accepting a project, ideating and bringing out relevant verses?
Change is the only constant thing. It is inevitable. Only the language and the usage changes. The emotion and sensibilities are the same, and it will remain the same as we all are still humans. Not every old song is great and not every new song is bad. I have listened and covered all major old, retro, songs and I also update myself with the new ones in all the languages possible. I have seen the transformation from gramophone records, to cassettes to cds to mp3 to YouTube. That helped me better in understanding life’s transition. So as a lyricist my job is to do justice to the situation by understanding the director’s view. I try to get into the character’s shoes understanding the character’s intelligence and limitations, so that he plays himself, singing his own idea of lyrics within his boundaries of behaviour in that situation. I’ll never use heavier language for a dumb character, but if I have the leverage, by all means, I try to pen as heavier as possible. For me, the meaning and sounding have to blend well harmoniously so that it is hummable for the audience of all classes. I also make sure my words make sense, with some meaningful poetry, unlike filling the musical metre alone.
Within the industry, we are seeing a new influx of music directors, and lyricists, who are redefining the music arena when you compare it to the 80’s and 90’s which arguably were the golden years for Telugu music. What is your take on it? And who are your favourite music men in the industry presently and why?
Undoubtedly, that is the golden era, because we have witnessed the transition period in writing, composing, singing and sounding. Contemporary ways of writing and composing evolves with the time, taking the essence of native nostalgia and mixing it with global ideas. For example, I have written a song called Shokilla from Saahasam Swaasaga Saagipo, the first ever Telugu rap for the Mozart of Madras , AR Rahman sir himself. Rapping being the recent culture in music, it becomes local or more authentic when it is written in Telugu. That I have experimented. But this idea is not new. I have repeated the magic of Urvashi Rambha from Maharshi movie, in which the whole song is written in Sanskrit and is used for a teasing another song called Sanskrit Disco. Getting inspired from golden era and recreating the magic is what I am trying to do. the only thing I miss is the silences in-between music, calmness in the presentation. the warmth in dynamics are gone, and only this constant beating rhythms became mandatory in most of the recent songs for the sake of so called sellable commercial aspects.
At the same time with the influence of coke studio, and exposure to global music etc, one can see that the new age music is so amazing and beautiful. The writing has become simpler with the simple day to day usage ideas and words. The metaphors and comparisons are changed. In the old times, the comparison was done with nature and natural elements. But now since the world has become more virtually active, even the metaphors and comparisons are done with the technologies, phones, apps, n etc. The effect of globalisation has an impact on language. For few songs, English, Hindi and other languages are used along with Telugu. And people are enjoying this. If given a choice I prefer to keep it in Telugu unless the director or the music director asks for the other way around. My list of music men and women are a lot to mention. But I’ll tell you my favourite cinematic singer, cinematic lyricist and cinematic composer, who are SPB garu, Veturi garu and Ilayaraja garu respectively.
We are curious, you’ve journeyed far enough to have explored various genres of music. Now, if you had to pick 3 lines from everything you wrote till now, which are the closest to your heart, what would they be? And lastly, to people who are aspiring to make it big in the industry, particularly in the creative writing aspects of it, what would your suggestion be? What are the Dos and Donts that they need to keep in mind?
Ha Ha, all the lines I write are my favourites, anyway here are a few…
*lokanne jayinchina nee prema valla pondhuthunna haayi mundhu odipona!
*needanicche veluguthodu cheekataithe yemikaanu!
*kaatilo kaaladhu thudhileni ee prema
janmane koradhu ammerugadhu ee prema
*vishwamantha unna prema
iruku yedhalo dhaachagalama
*attharule nalona netthurulai paarale
manase maseedhaina maaye
*divi nunchi digivacchi
durga bhavani la darga lo darshanamichinde
*vedham padinavee namaazulu
*madhilo thalapula vishrutham
pedhavullo maate vismrutham
vishamau valayamu vidhike vilayamu vivarinchedhika veedu
adugule padithe kallolam
pidugula kodithe beebaccham jarigithe kadaku mullokaalika kuyyo morro
*maree chikaakaina mareechika nuvve
maree maree kore manassu nee navve
*geetha saaramanthata paatha maatai
neethi leni kothiga chesenee aashaley
*gamanam nenai gamyam nenai
nisi cheelchu kaanthi nenai
kanneru theeru maarche
aananda baashpa dhaarai
anukshanam kotha janmai pona
Sorry for mentioning few more, I just went on with the flow. all these r from the movies I wrote. There are lot more which I’m writing for myself I wish I get a chance to show it to all sometime in the near future. anyways, for all the aspiring lyricists, I wanted to tell you that I am also learning life as it goes. So all I can tell you out of my experience is that, just leave all the tensions and stress along with your shoes outside the studio before you enter into it. Be as creative as possible. Don’t lose patience. At the end of the day, even with the 64th alternative pallavi or charanam, only you have to satisfy the director or the music director. Don’t lose your patience. Keep talking to the people of all the age groups to be updated. Try to learn the language better, but never let the scholar inside you to kill the poet inside you. Try to better yourself everytime. You are your only competitor. A hummable pallavi with the meaningful charanam is a hit song’s formula. Come up with out of the box ideas even if they are bad, just try to attempt once before u dump it. According to the required perspective, imagine as if you are in that situation and get into that trauma of the character, it is more like owning or living the situation types. Have a vibrant body, joyful mind and an ever loving heart to experience the life to its fullest and to be a better poet.
Thank you Voxspace for the opportunity. I had fun answering to these interesting questionnaire.
So that was Rakendu Mouli, talking to us about all the things wonderful and magical within the world of words. Follow his page for more interesting stuff coming your way.