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A man of all seasons - Veturi - 11
Srinivas Kanchibhotla

continued from part 9

Can an illustrious career of an exemplary lyricist be book-ended by a nice swan song, like it can be with careers in other disciplines in the creative medium? A director might bow out with a final masterpiece, a music director might put his baton down with a delectable composition, but wordsmiths are a different breed, in that aspect. They constantly keep evolving with times, tastes, subjects and situations. The basic reason for why a song is needed remained the same since the dawn of time, but the expression of those emotions through the changing times is what that keep the creative juices constantly flowing for the lyricists. And it is in these re-imagining of the same situations through the added layers of times and changing flavors of the language does the work of the lyricist continue to thrive. And Veturi's career is a living testimony, a standing testament to that fact. The concepts that supported the structure of the song (Silpam) - construction, description, elevation and enhancement - are very much dependent on the style (Saili), which in turn keeps abreast with the changes in the language and its usage, and the ever increasing exposure of it to a wide variety of information. Consequently, what was once scholarly 'eDaarilO kOyilaa tellaarani raeyilA' expression to convey the exasperation in an unrealized love became a more approachable 'renDaksharAla praema renDu kshaNAla praema' with the passing times and changing tastes. The regality of the expression might have been compromised a bit, but the sense of loss and pain didn't diminish between the two eras. The audience connected as much with the abstraction of the thought in the earlier song, as much they did with the personalization of it in the second one. Move down a few decades from there and the same loss and pain in the instant generation era translates to 'andamgA laenA asalaem bAlaenA nee eeDu jODu kAnanA'. In the eternal argument of which scores more with the writer - the language or the idea (bhaasha or bhaavam) - it is context of the time that makes the work of the lyricist both topical and transcendental at the same time.

In other words, the key to survival is adaptability and for a career that spanned well over three decades, Veturi remains the best there was at adaptation. At the peak of one's prowess and popularity, pracitcally every lyricist would have a considerable body of work against his name that he would leave behind to show for to the future generations. But realistically speaking for every 'SankarAbharaNam', there are at least 50 or more the likes of 'gharAna donga', 'gharAnA alluDu', 'gharAna moguDu', 'gharAna bullODu', 'gharAna gangulu'.. And the true talent of the lyricist shines in the tidying up of the mundane and making it worthy of at least some feature, if not turning into a poetic masterpiece. Consider the following examples - muTHA maestri, dharma kshaetram.

saruku aemO yama cheepoo
taluku aemO yama Taapoo
paluku aemO piDi bAku
manasaemO navaTAku

korameenu kOmalam
sorachApa Sobhanam
dorasAni buradakoyya

To the extent the commercial songs go, these are as good examples as any. And the reason why such songs should exist is to make up for the mandatory requirement of 6 songs for a hero and nothing more. And when numbers matter more than necessities and plausibilities, the lyricist is left with nothing to base his aesthetics on and therefore is left with exploring trivial aspects . In that scenario, even 'navaTAku' (a liquid mesaure, a word that is specific to Krishna and Guntur districts) becomes an object of beauty, and ichthyology (study of fish) is as good a simile to explore sensuality as any other conventional comparisons. To understand the true range of Veturi, pick the songs that fall outside the respectable realm and observe how he blends the various branches of human knowledge - geography, history, arts, music, anatomy, and many such - into a routine situation making them at least an eye opener about an obscure field, if not another repetitive word play exercise in extolling the fairly obvious. And that is adaptation - ability to find a lifeline in a morass of situation and making the most of it. By that principle, Veturi's survival over 36 years through noble and ignoble, is no mean feat.

And thus an era passes on into history. Veturi's rise coincided with an interesting transitory phase that was happening during the late 70s. Though the rise of commercialism started well before Veturi strengthened his foothold, the process has certainly hastened after his entrance, and it remains an interesting question as to who proved a catalyst to whom - did the transformation of the telugu lyric from being 'about something' to a kitsch of anything and everything under the sun (kaadaedee kavitaku anarham) happen due to Veturi's ability to cross-pollinate unrelated ideas into the song, or did the changing times force Veturi to recalibrate his toolset and merely cater to the requirement. In either situation, the lyric was only as intelligent or as insane as the listener made it out to be, and if taken the leap of faith, had enough gems hidden from plain view to be discovered with each visit to the song - 'nee kachaTapanallO karagutunnadee sogasu, nee gajaDadaba dabalu kadhalu aemiTO telusu', 'acchaa dAni choopu adi icchaapuram pOpu, abbaa daani veepu adi bobbarlanka slOpu', 'aaku pooja neeku nOmu sOku pooja nAku nOmu, janTa kinka ganTa koTTaraa' (what a requirement this was, to blend Hanuma Bhakti to Bhama rakti)

They say there CANNOT be another wordsmith like Veturi. The amazing speed at which he came up with the words to suit the requirement aside, the statement that another lyricist in his mould can never be forged again can be attributed to the fact that he never restricted himself to (in other words, he was never bound by) the parameters of the song - the situation and the language. And so, names and places of interest, foreign words and phrases, culinary foods and delights, and just about anything that can be fit in the meter gladly found a place in it ('sembawangu rambhatOTi saagutunna haelalO', 'hae chikitaa komostaas, janTa kaDitae jamastaas'). Compile all of the data - not just relating to the emotional aspects of the song, but the informational ones as well - that he studded the songs with, and the catalog would easily rival the best of Encyclopedias in the business. Mere poets, there were many, mere commentators, there were dime a dozen, mere philosophers, linguists, connoisseurs, in their singular capacities, there were plethora. But a poet, commentator, philosopher, linguist, connoisseur and a vast compendium of information and knowledge, all rolled in one unassuming avatar operating in a unlikely arena of telugu film lyric writing, there is just one - Veturi. His words and intentions were never misunderstood for what they were not, he never struggled to have his word heard among the stalwarts that he shared the space with. Throughout the length of his career, he never went out of vogue nor was his position usurped by the new flavor of the season. He left the arena in the same way as he entered it - held in high regard with his head held high. Probably for only the second time in history, a Latin phrase becomes applicable to another towering personality in his field, that was once reserved for Gaius Julius Casesar - Veni Vidi Vici - He came, He saw, He conquered.

And for a man who made his living doling out words, there can only be one that would describe him aptly - UNIQUE, with a tag, never before and never again (na bhootO na bhavishyati). A poet lives on by his words, a philosopher lives on in his thoughts, an artist lives on in his works. And a man like Veturi, who is an amazing amalgamation of various artistic endeavors, lives on in the language. As long as the language finds currency with the passing generations, Veturi's legacy lives on in the wondrous deployment of the language in ways never seen before. Though telugu literature is serenaded with several renowned poets who left their own indelible impressions on the field as to create their own brand, a la 'tikkana chandam', 'Sreenadha seesam', 'pOtana padyam', 'krishNaSastri bhaavam', 'SreeSree vachanam', it isn't so conducive in telugu film lyric writing to chart out an entirely different path, as the writers need to play with pretty much the same situations over and over again. A radical idea can always be penned by someone who needn't be a SriSri, one in simplicity and sensitivity needn't come from an Aatretya/Krishna Sastry, a chime in rhyme needn't be Aaradura's alone, and one deep seated in observation and philosophy cannot be staked just by Sirivennela. But here is the challenge - try mimicking Veturi's style, that combines the world of knowledge - past and present - presenting in a style that is apt to the requirement, in a language that keeps up with times, tastes, contrasts and contradictions. Yeah, try reproducing that! Until then, LONG LIVE(S) Veturi, and that is a fact, not a mere wish.




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