Film music

‘Mahanati’ music review: Soulful and dramatic, just like screen legend Savitri

Mickey J Meyer’s soundtrack for Nag Ashwin’s Tamil-Telugu bilingual biopic of Savitri has a song for each phase in the actress’ life.

Mahanati, Telugu filmmaker Nag Ashwin’s biopic of actress Savitri, is attempting a cradle to grave account of the South Indian screen legend. The soundtrack for the May 9 release comprises five songs, each of which corresponds to a phase in the actress’s tumultuous life. Composed by Mickey J Meyer, who has mostly worked in Telugu cinema, the album stands out for its ability to be diverse as well as soulful.

Aagipo Balyama represents Savitri’s childhood. Sung by Ramya Behara with lyrics by Sirivennela Sitarama Sastry, the song is based on film music of the 1940s and ’50s. Sastry’s lyrics talk about the loss of innocence and childhood and hint at a big role for the little girl on life’s big stage. Behara beautifully renders the song that is set to a lively pace.

In Nadigaiyar Thilagam, the film’s Tamil version, the same song becomes Kutti Rani and is sung by Nayana Nair. Madhan Karky has written the lyrics for this version. The songs are identical and work well in both versions.

All the songs, in fact, are identically composed in both languages, with the Telugu soundtrack gaining an edge over the Tamil one.

Meyer offers his tribute to Savitri’s 1964 hit Mooga Manasulu with a track that is named after the title. Directed by Adurthi Subbarao, Mooga Manasulu (Mute Hearts) follows a reincarnation narrative in which lovers Gopi (Akkineni Nageswara Rao) and Radha (Savitri) undertake a journey that helps them discover a story from their past life.

Mahanati’s Mooga Manasulu opens with a portion that is reminiscent of the opening of Eenati Eebandhamenatido from the 1964 film. The song soon transforms into a full-fledged modern romantic number. Sung by Shreya Ghosal and Anurag Kulkarni, the composition is full of stark, straight notes that steadily build up to a crescendo. There is an operatic quality to the composition, which is further elevated by dramatic instrumentation.

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Mahanati.

Sada Nannu is the best track in the album. Composed in a semi-Carnatic style, the pace is far slower, and Meyer also cleverly incorporates a chorus. Charulatha Mani’s vocals are balanced with some intricate and beautiful instrumental interludes by the veena and the flute. Sastry’s poignant lyrics speak of two love stories across time (kaalam narthinchada nito jathai, pranam suminchada nee kosamai) – possibly referring to Savitri and Gemini Ganesan (Dulquer Salmaan) and the sub-plot involving Vijay Deverakonda and Samantha Akkineni’s characters.

There are two more tracks in the album. If the title track Mahanati is the song that celebrates Savitri and works as a standard introductory number, Chivaraku Migiledi is Savitri’s swan song. Mahanati, sung by Anurag Kulkarni, with lyrics by Ramajogayya Sastry, is upbeat and triumphant in its mood. Chivaraku Migiledi is the exact opposite – it is sorrowful, slow and has a melody that gradually descends into silence. Meyer’s differentiation between the moods of the two tracks can be gleaned from how the singers render the word “Mahanati” in each song.

The main tune of Chivaraku Migiledu, sung by Sunitha, is eerily similar to Main Agar Kahoon from Farah Khan’s Om Shanti Om (2007), especially the bits on the piano in the latter. It is the weakest track of the album and also the most melodramatic in the soundtrack.

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Mahanati (2018).
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