World taps to the new beat from India - GulfToday

World taps to the new beat from India

MM Keeravaani with his award at The Beverly Hilton hotel in Beverly Hills, California. Reuters

MM Keeravaani with his award at The Beverly Hilton hotel in Beverly Hills, California. Reuters

It is not an everyday phenomenon that a south Indian language movie song will win big in what is the biggest stage of world of entertainment – America. And that is exactly what has happened when M.M. Keeravani, a Telugu music composer, who has also worked in Tamil and Malayalam films, won the Golden Globe for Best Music/Original Song for ‘Naatu Naatu.’ It is the first Golden Globe award won by an Indian film music composer. The Indian film is generally associated with the Hindi films made in Mumbai on a scale comparable to Hollywood.

But India is a hub of film production in half-a-dozen languages.

The two other Indian languages which had international recognition in films are Bengali or Bangla, the language spoken in east India and led by the internationally reputed film director, Satyajit Ray and Malayalam, the south Indian language, where the films are made depicting life stories with rare sensitivity.

But Hindi films, followed by Telugu, Tamil, and very recently Kannada, are breaking fresh ground, raking in money at the box office. In the last two years, it is the Telugu and Kannada films that are making waves outside India, overshadowing the generally glitzy Hindi cinema of Mumbai.

Keeravani won the Golden Globe award for the song ‘’Naatu, Naatu” from the megahit Telugu film “RRR”, directed by Rajamouli. Keeravani is the cousin of Rajamouli. And the two come from the coastal districts of the state of Andhra Pradesh in south India. In his acceptance speech, Keeravani said that he did not ever want to follow the set pattern of saying that the award was for the whole team and not just of the winner, but that he was forced to fall back on tradition and thank everybody associated with the song, the musician who arranged the score, the singers, the actors who danced to the beat of the song in the film.

And he thanked his wife Srivalli. The world has sat up to notice that Indian film is much more diverse than suspected, and that it is not just the mega-buck raking Hindi cinema and the award-winning Bengali and Malayalam films.

It is a revelation that there are other languages in India which nurse a vibrant cinema culture, and Keerevani’s award comes out of this long tradition of films and music in Telugu as in other Indian languages.

Rajamouli, the director of “RRR,” is the first director from India who has won international recognition for making a film that is an unapologetic commercial success, and which breaks all the rules of the cinema verite. It is not a slice of life.

It is a film with daring fantasy, and its success in America’s film circles is because of this element of fantasy.

Keeravani’s musical score for the song from “RRR” is a celebration of defying the rules of the game.

What seems to have appealed to the American audiences as well as critics is the celebration of life through music, dance, which is also the underlying theme of American popular art.

Indian film critics did not approve of Rajamouli’s “RRR”, dismissing it as escapist fare, and the music for the movie provided by Keeravani was seen as music without artistic merit. But the Golden Globe awards are generally about the commercial popularity of films, television and music.

Rajamouli and Keeravani meld into the American art scene. Sceptics are sure to say that Keerevani’s music and Rajamouli’s movie is a flash in the pan, and that it should not be seen as a sign of the Indian commercial cinema finding acceptance with the global audiences. But this is more than a flash in the pan.

The Indian commercial movies in Telugu and Kannada are blazing a new trail and the global audiences seem to be tapping their feet to the new beat of Indian films.

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