Mano Murthy: the filmmakers want the melody back in the music

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Veteran musical director Mano Murthy has composed more than 150 tunes over nearly three decades. Songs such as ‘Nooru Janmaku’ (‘America America’, 1997), ‘Anisutide Yako Indu’ (‘Mungaru Male’, 2007) and ‘Ninnindale’ (‘Milana’, 2007), are hummed to this day.

The 68-year-old engineer-musician broke into the industry with Nagathihalli Chandrashekhar’s romantic drama “America America,” which recently completed 25 years. Murthy talks to Show time on his journey as a composer in the Kannada film industry.

Excerpts:

How did you develop an interest in music?

Music has been my companion since the age of two. I listened to songs on a Philips radio at my home in Bangalore. When I visited wedding ceremonies, I enjoyed the orchestra. I grew up listening to the music of the 1960s. At that time, many popular Hindi songs were played on only two radio stations, Radio Ceylan and Vividh Bharati. I only listened to a few Kannada songs. Music directors like Madan Mohan, Shankar-Jaikishan and OP Nayyar are my role models.

Have you had any formal training in music?

My music is self-taught. When I was a drummer in college, I would listen to other artists’ records playing on radiograms and pick up the beats. Later, I studied musical theory and harmony in the United States.

Tell us how “America of America” ​​happened.

I used a few local singers in the US for my indie albums and wrote several scratch tracks. When Nagathihalli Chandrashekhar came to screen his film “Kotreshi Kanasu” (1994) there, I showed him my tapes. He invited me to his apartment to play some of my songs. He liked a track that later became ‘Nooru Janmaku’ in ‘America America’. I had my big break with this film in 1997.

Did you use any Western style of music in your compositions?

I’m a Beatles fan. Although many of my Kannada songs are based on raga, I have added western harmonies to some. I used this technique when composing the song ‘Yava Mohana Murali’ in ‘America America’.

Tell us how you got enlisted for ‘Mungaru Male’.

I had this project thanks to my work in ‘Amrithadare’ (2005). Director Yogaraj Bhat listened to the title track “Nee Amrithadare” and liked it. He got in touch with me through Nagathihalli.

How was your experience working with Sonu Nigam and Shreya Ghoshal?

‘Mungaru Male’ brought me and these singers into the limelight of Karnataka. We wanted a new voice and thought about experimenting with Bollywood singers. I was surprised how quickly they grabbed the lyrics and tuned. They wanted to have perfect sound even in a language that was foreign to them. Sonu Nigam finished recording a song in just 45 minutes.

What is the current music scene like?

In the 1990s and even early 2000s, songs were mostly melody-based. Mass songs will always be there and fans of some superstars support it. Many filmmakers however want to recover the melody and approach composers like me.

Do you think independent musicians have a bright future?

In India, music is an integral part of movies. If movies fail, music also fails. In Western countries, there is a separate market for film and music and the latter is quite popular. Our artists should use platforms like YouTube to grow. I made an independent album with Sonu Nigam 10 years ago and it was well received.

What are your upcoming projects ?

People want to listen to my songs again. I work on films, including ‘Sambharama’, ‘Bond Ravi’ and ‘Pranayama’. I finished composing for my first Tulu film ‘Magane Mahisha’, which will be released on April 29th. The album is out.

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