Ram Gopal Varma Blog #151. Dustbin Fortunes

Cycle I

When I was hanging out around Annapurna Studios trying to get a break, I used to attend the music composing sessions of “Collector Gari Abbayi”. In the course of those sessions whenever its music director Chakravarti and the director B.Gopal used to go for lunch I used to chat up with the music director’s assistant and once in a while he used to sing tunes which he himself composed. I was very impressed with many of his tunes and one day I described to him a scene from “SHIVA” the way I was intending to shoot it and I asked him about what kind of music he thinks should be there in that scene and he replied that there should not be any music in that scene. I was mighty impressed with the answer especially as it came from a musician and I committed to him that if ever I get a break I will sign him as my music director.

Finally when I got the break I suddenly had this opportunity to get Ilayaraja. So with a lot of guilt I told that assistant that I won’t be taking him for the film as I am getting Ilayaraja. He was obviously very disappointed but said that he understood the situation and wished me all the best. But because of the time I spent with that assistant and the association I developed, the guilt was killing me and the moment “SHIVA” became a big hit I went back to him and signed him for my second film. That assistant’s name was Keeravani (also known as M.M.Kreem) and the film I signed him on for was “Kshana Kshanam” which I think along with “Rangeela” are my best musical films till date.

A keyboard player used to be working for Keeravani and I used to interact with him a lot especially when he was doing the background soundtracks and I always believed that he can be a very good music director if he ever tries which he used to deny saying that he is technically not a composer. Much later when I had a problem with R.D.Burman during “Drohi” (Antham) and I could not get Keeravani as he was busy, I forced that keyboard player to do one song in that film.

Both the song and the film didn’t work but later on when a film with megastar Chiranjeevi came up I told Chiranjeevi that the “Drohi” song didn’t work but I really believe that the keyboard player is very good, Chiranjeevi said that if he was good enough for me he was good enough for him. The keyboard player was ecstatic and after a great fanfare launch the Chiranjeevi film got shelved due to various reasons which I can’t tell now and the poor keyboard player was devastated. But on the strength of the impression Chiranjeevi developed on the keyboard player due to a song he recorded for my shelved film he gave him another film called “Choodalini Undi” which firmly set the keyboard player well on the way to be one of the top music composers in the Telugu film industry. The keyboard players name is Mani Sharma.

Cycle II

When my first film “SHIVA” was ready for background score there was a musicians Union strike in Chennai and so Ilayaraja and me shifted to Mumbai to get the score done. A musical team chosen by Ilayaraja in Mumbai saw the film and one particular violin player from a group of violin players walked up to me and said that this film will create a sensation. Technically that was the first ever compliment I have ever received from an outsider in my career. After that me and that violin player used to chat once in a while through out the period while the background was going on.

A few years later I signed R.D.Burman for “Drohi” and I went to Mumbai for recording a song. Those days I used to operate from Hyderabad and kept flying up and down to Mumbai. I again bumped into the same violin player in the violin group. After telling me how happy he was for “SHIVA’s” success which he predicted, he brought a guy and introduced him as his closest friend and told me that he is a lyric writer. That guy gave me a visiting card. I put the card in my pocket and in the evening returned to Hyderabad and completely forgot all about it.

Like I told you earlier, as I fell out with R.D.Burman due to various reasons which I can’t tell now, I had to record a song with a new music director Mani Sharma in Chennai.

As I was leaving for Chennai in the evening, my mom brought in a bunch of visiting cards collected over a time to ask me if she can throw them away. I quickly glanced through them and I just kind of registered the card which the lyric writer gave me before telling her to throw all the cards away.

By the time I landed in Chennai I got news that Javed Akhtar who was supposed to come with the lyric to Chennai is not coming as he got stuck in some work. I got cheesed off and I told my guys in Mumbai to send some lyric writer or the other in the night itself as I didn’t want to cancel the recording. I was told that none were available. As I was getting flustered I suddenly remembered the visiting cards my mother showed. So I called up my mom and asked her about it and she said that she already threw it in the dustbin. She searched for it in the bin and luckily found it and gave me the number. I immediately got that lyric writer flown to Chennai and he wrote the song for “Drohi” composed by Mani Sharma and the recording was done.

Both “Drohi” and the song bombed but because of that association my relationship with that lyric writer continued and whenever I was in Mumbai, me, the violin player and the lyric writer used to meet up once in a while and at that time I was just beginning to work on the idea of “Rangeela”. When I mentioned the story to both of them, they got very excited and the violin player composed a tune for which the lyric writer wrote a song. I was very impressed with both and committed to both of them that they will be doing the music for “Rangeela”. They were thrilled to bits.

A few days later Maniratnam made me hear the songs of “Roja” at his home on Chennai and I was simply blown away with the orchestral brilliance of A.R.Rahman. I got too greedy and at any cost wanted to get that sound in my film and went back on my commitment to the violin player and signed Rahman instead, which understandingly left the violin player in a very angry and a heartbroken state. The lyric writer pleaded with me not to do that to his friend and I said it is just a professional decision in the best interest of the film.

I spoke to Rahman about the lyric writer and told him that his first song didn’t work but I do believe that he is very good. Rahman said, “If he is good enough for you he is good enough for me”.

Thus that lyric writer named Mehboob came into “Rangeela” minus the violin player and the first song he wrote was “Tanha Tanha”. I played that song to Maniratnam and he was mighty impressed with the fact that he hasn’t heard a song since a long time which didn’t have the words dil, deewana and sanam and signed on Mehboob for “Bombay”.

With the super success of both “Bombay” and “Rangeela” Mehboob got a very big name and credibility and using that he recommended his closest friend the violin player to Sanjay Leela Bhansali who was looking for a new music director for “Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam” and thus was born Ismail Darbar.

After the tremendous musical success of “Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam” which also timed with a couple of Rahman albums not doing well including my own “Daud” Ismail Darbar was the new musical genius on the block. I called Ismail Darbar up to congratulate him and he didn’t pick up my calls.

Later on Ismail gave an interview where he said that now that he is a success, everybody is calling him including Ramgopal Varma. That was obviously his revenge on the heartache I gave him by dumping him from “Rangeela”.

Both the close friends Ismail and Mehboob who were responsible for each other’s careers broke up after “Devdas” due to various differences which they didn’t tell anyone and both went on a decline in their respective careers and now after years sometimes when they try to call me to patch up and bury the hatchet I don’t pick up both their calls as I moved on to a new set of people and I don’t have neither the time nor the inclination to dwell on old time relationships.

Anyway the point of this whole article is that I am just so fucking fascinated with how the cycle of fortune keeps on throwing people in and out of dustbins.

PS: I just signed Mani Sharma for Rakta Charitra and am planning on to take Mehboob as the lyric writer.