MEMOIR — THE LYRICIST
Veturi was an acclaimed film lyricist. He was a much admired and much sought-after film poet who churned out lyrics with ease for a great number of popular songs with his innate style and lyrical beauty using words inventively with puns, suggesting different meanings and inferences at the same time, setting out a new trend of lyrical style.
Providing meaningful lyrics as per the cinematic situation to a pre-set tune of the music composer was the task of film lyric writers and that kept him in good stead in the Industry. Departing from the practice of tuning after the lyrics were written, some composers insist on lyrics to their tune. Veturi proved his imaginative abilities in the given song situation superbly, both prosaic and philosophic, outshining other contemporary songwriters in the field. Lyrical writing requires spontaneity and linguistic interweaving ability.
The felicific flow of lyrical beauty albeit in a song sequence comes with the poet’s imagination. Classification of poets for literary grading is not correct and unprejudiced. Poet is a poet. Lyrical poets are not inferior to others. Can we have only a tune without lyrics? What can it convey always in any situation? A poem can convey without a tune. The sublimity is in the combination. It was natural to get incited by literary inspirations when one has such a tendency. I was no exception.
I dabbled with my pen to produce some verse and prose on contemporary subjects. It was a pastime and literary fun to play with words and pun. All that was for my self satisfaction as I was conscious of the standards of my literary capabilities and made no pretensions of my preferences.
Precisely during that period, that is the 1980’s, I was a frequent traveller by chance to Madras as it was known then, before it began to be called as Chennai much later. I thought of meeting Veturi and tried to find out his residential address and telephone number. A small-time junior artist who usually hangs around provided me the telephone number from the Film Artists’ Diary she had with her.
‘All men are my friends. I have only to meet them’, says an old saying. Ruskin Bond sums it up beautifully. Time, place and emotion must coalesce, hence the rarity of these occasions. Delight cannot be planned for — she makes no appointments !
I telephoned his house to confirm the number before I set out the very next morning to his house in the Kodambakkam area of Madras. I was asked to be seated in their sit-out and I could sense, he was woken up while I was whiling away my time in that small space in anticipation of meeting a poet of his stature directly for the first time. In my mind I was a little sceptical of the reception, as I was meeting a film celebrity.
My impatience ended when Veturi emerged from inside and casually sat in a chair in front of me. When I introduced myself, he appeared nonchalant and simply said “You don’t need any formalities to meet me”. I sensed an informal warmth in his voice. He immediately got up and said “Let me take a bath, we will go out” and went inside.
When he was ready, we both walked a short distance and entered a house to find a music-sitting going on with the music director JV Raghavulu squatting before a harmonium on the floor covered completely with white coloured mattresses and tuning a song already written by Veturi. He sang the composition of the “pallavi” part and someone handed a writing pad and paper to Veturi, who spontaneously scribbled a few lines in continuation of the song, what is called as “charanam”. Returning the writing pad back, Veturi got up and in his unmindful way and walked out of the room briskly, I silently followed him, when someone came running behind asking us to wait a while for a car to take us to wherever we were going.
We sat in the car that arrived and reached Vijaya Vauhini Studios located in Vadapalani area. I found many people busy in their own way talking among themselves or otherwise. Veturi discussed something with someone. There were many film artists and writers. SPB also arrived and there was some small talk among the present and after sometime SPB left the place.
We too came out of the Studios and walked the way to LV Prasad Studios some distance away. There, sitting in the room were SPB and music director Chakravarthy in a pensive mood. Veturi went to them and had a small talk while I watched from a distance. Veturi told me Chakravarthy’s pet canine died that day and the recording that was to have been held on that day stood cancelled, to mourn its demise. He asked me to come again the next morning to VV Studios for the recording. I bid him goodbye and we parted.
The next morning, after breakfast I went to VV Recording Studios to find preparations for the recording of a duet song under the direction of Chakravarthy with so many instrumentalists rehearsing with SPB and P.Susheela. Moving here and there I watched with amusement, the arrangements and the activity of so many technicians. After some time I spotted Veturi while the buzz was on. [Song “Acham alage unna dhi vechaga” — Movie “Samsaram Santanam”(1981)]
Veturi was not always a conversationalist as I saw him and preferred reticence if not talked to. His manner was unobtrusive and I was also measured in my approach and kept to my composure of not being inquisitive of anything.
One cannot become a poet by training and by mere knowledge of grammar, nor literature can be appreciated and enjoyed by clamour. All this is confined to one’s inner literary characteristics and inspirations. A temptation towards poetic subtlety outbreaks into lyrical expression. Intrinsic way of expression makes all the difference. The subject may be common, but the feeling it invokes is the style.
Veturi turned towards me and asked in a low voice, “Do you write any lyrics?”, “Just like that” I answered hesitantly. “Do you have them right now with you?” He asked, looking at my shoulder bag. I nodded with a smile. “Fine, let me see”. So saying he moved out of the busy recording room looking for an unoccupied space for both of us to sit. We found a room with no one around and sat down on the vacant chairs. I gave my notebook to him. “The notebook is fine. Where did you get this?” He patiently turned over a dozen pages in the book I gave to him. He suggested that I should be careful with the combination of Sanskrit and Telugu words mix-up. I was touched by his friendly and unassuming disposition. I didn’t expect the condescension from a person of his stature as generally successful writers bear a superior disposition, sometimes eccentric !
During later visits I happened to attend the recording session of the well known music composer KV Mahadevan. The particular song was “Govullu Tellana” for K.Vishwanath’s film “Saptapadi” (1981), the duet sung by SPB and S.Janaki.
And yet another time I could not make it to the maestro Illayaraja’s recording session though Veturi was kind enough to send a car for me. There was some communication gap and at that time I was held up in a different location in Madras in a heavy downpour.
I was asked to stay back for lunch a couple of times, which I did over a period of time when I was on a visit to the city of Madras. I desist from making a long narrative of all the details. But I must not fail to mention that Veturi made it a point to introduce me to others as “a person interested in literature”. Many years later, Veturi relocated his residence to Hyderabad as the Telugu Film Industry shifted entirely to the Deccan city. Somehow as it turned out I could not meet him after, though Hyderabad is nearer and also the Telugu State Capital. Perhaps time, place and emotion must coalesce !
If I recollect the year correctly, I was in Hyderabad to attend a wedding in 2002 when I came to know that Veturi was undergoing treatment in a private hospital. I called up the Hospital located in Begumpet. I was connected to the room telephone and Veturi himself answered the incoming call. When I asked him if my visit to the hospital would not inconvenience him in any way, he replied in the negative, saying “Please do come my child”. He said a few endearing words about me to the hospital attending nurse with a tinge of palpable affection.
I did not name my first born girl child for over a year as no particular proper noun spontaneously appealed to me. The selection later, was a chance. One day I was casually listening to Telugu film songs on the radio. A particular song written by Veturi and composed by the duo Rajan-Nagendra unwittingly inspired me to name my daughter. When I mentioned this to Veturi, he gave a delighted smile.
I wished him a speedy recovery and hoped to see him again which never happened. That was the last meeting with the poet lyricist.
It requires a vivid recall and the necessary fervour to dwell on the long past and some nostalgia to record them with an inexplicable feeling of solitude as only the thoughts guide us and not the surroundings of the present. The impressions of life may interest the readers if they have the verve. Memoirs at the best can revive the bygone days in the mind frame if not serendipities! I still nourish the reminiscences of the past times like these. Some events of life linger on giving us the impetus to record them. Youthful memories never age !