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Interview with Rama Jogaiah Sastry
Date: July 8, Hyderabad
rama jogaiah sastry

When directors are daring to make films sans songs, lyricist Ramajogaiah Sastry has no qualms to say: “Lyricists are an extra bogie in filmmaking, when people like Ramgopal Varma don’t want songs in films.” This way, he feels utmost responsibility in playing his parts with a committed impel, contributing the best on his behalf for the enrichment of entertainment. A very few people know that Jr. Sastry works for an MNC and has an M.Tech from the IIT. “Love for lyrics is in my blood,” he says. An exclusive interview with him:

Tell us how you started your journey as lyricist?
The Beginning: I came from an agricultural family in Guntur district. Had my Inter at Narasarappet. Studied B.Tech at the REC, Warangal. M.Tech at the IIT, Kharagpur. While doing B.Tech, I concentrated much on writing lyrics. It had a telling effect on the marks. Doing M.Tech, I was a little bit careful. But, I always took active part in the cultural functions during college days. Working in Bangalore, I had the opportunity to peep into the world of private songs. I contributed Telugu lyrics for about forty albums. I wrote three Kannada songs. I never expected that I would become a lyricist, because I thought I would become a playback singer. Now, I realize my dream of becoming a singer was an infatuation. Writing lyrics will be my first love forever.

The Middle: It was Ravichandran (Kannada hero and director) who helped me a lot to have a stand in Kannada film industry. Through Krishna Vamsi, I got introduced to my guru Sirivennela Sitarama Sastry, working for a dubbed version of a Kannada flick into Telugu. I earnestly requested Sastry to accept me as his Sishya and he readily agreed. My career started in Tollywood – with two songs in Yuvasena (a Sravanti Ravikishore film). Sastry wanted me to make my debut as a duet writer, when I ought to have penned an item song. He said: I don’t want you to get branded as an Item-writer.

Endless Journey: After one year break, I wrote two songs for Nandamuri Kalyanram’s film Asadyudu with Chakri scoring the music. Through I Chakri I got acquainted to Seenu Vytla and penned three songs for Dhee. Ghazal Sreenivas recommended me to Mohan Babu. I wrote three songs, including a thematic rendering, for the film Game. Later, I wrote majority of the lyrics for Mohan Babu-produced films – Raju Bhai and Krishnarjuna. Prominently, I worked for Dubai Seenu (Music: Manisharma), followed by Chirutha and Kantri. Afresh I penned lyrics in Rajni’s Kathanayakudu. My association with Trivikram Srinivas during the days of Yuvasena made me work for Jalsa. I also hold good rapport with Devi Sri Prasad. Over all, I penned about one hundred lyrics. In the last six months, I wrote 36 songs, which shows I am getting busy to some extent. Now, I am working for Nagarjuna’s King, MS Raju’s Maska and Gopichand’s film.

How do you enjoy being disciple of Seetarama Sastry?
It’s my bliss to be the disciple of Sastry garu. Previously, I used to be very timid. His training made me outspoken and bold to a large extent. He has the rare blend of involvement and balance. There are no set rules in his school. It’s free flow of creativity. I slowly but steadily grasped the varied moods of lyricism… how to adapt to situations, composer’s requirements, lyrical equalizing of tunes. Sastry garu is a man of stability. He reflects the way of life in his lyrics.

How do you manage both professions – as software pro and lyricist?
Certainly, I am doing injustice to my job. If I could spend the same amount of time that I spend as lyricist in my profession, it would surely help my career graph. But, I don’t think that way. Love for lyrics is in my blood.

You seem to be very poor in PR (Public relations). Don’t you think it will either slow down your chances in film industry?
Mere Waste of Time: For me PR means ‘Pata Rayatam’.

Credibility matters: Everybody maintains a track record. If they (patrons) like mine, definitely I will get a chance. Moreover, I should suit their requirements, they should respond to my credibility. After all, the lyrics are dependent on the story; and not the story on lyrics.

Not aggressive: I am a safe player. But, I will let aggression reflect in my work, but not in my attitude.

An artiste means varied moods and tight timeframes. How do you cater to these requisites?
I haven’t gone to touch fatigue levels to that extent. Of course, there is no end for perfection. I always prefer to have a good number of versions to my lyrics. Generally, I stick to deadlines. In some cases, I ask for some more flexibility (if time permits). I move fast as per the tunes. I also hold command in grasping the situations, which helps me to finish projects faster than the general timeframe. When the lyric goes into the blood stream, the thoughts are instant.

What about your remuneration?
I am not so particular about it. I am passionate about writing lyrics.

You are an M.Tech, but most members of your fraternity hardly hold a degree. Did this ever make you disgusting?
Never. I believe in the saying of Mahatma Gandhi… that… A customer is God. I am aware of my domain. Education is not the barometer for one’s workmanship. Every one is king in his own profession. Naaku nenu eppudu goppavaadani anukonu.

In film industry, the culmination point seems to direction. How about your option?
The quote Vairamuthu's words here - If I were to get a National Award, I prefer to take it as a lyricist. I know the pluses and minuses in my career as lyricist.

All lyricists are good singers. Why can’t you also be a playback singer?
My first love is for lyrics. I already said playback singing was mere infatuation.

What about your personal life?
I have two sons, studying 7th and 5th classes. I live in a rented house in city. My marriage was in the order of traditional Menarikam. She is a housewife.

What kind of films you watch?
Any film that entertains. Satyame Sivam is one film that impressed me the most portraying the difficult message in layman’s perception.

Who is your favorite lyricist apart from Sirivennela?
I like all good lyrics. Somehow, I like Veturi’s versatility.

What is a good lyric?
A good lyric is one which is heart-touching.

What kind of public response you have?
I am not interested to know. I want my work to speak about me. When I worked for Teja’s Lakshmi Kalyanam, hero Kalyanram liked my lyrics, without knowing that I penned them. It should be like that.

As a lyrist, what are your literary interests?
I really have no interest in literature. I hardly touch it..

How do you enjoy Ready success? What about Ankith Pallavi & Friends?
Commercial break is vital for any lyricist. I wrote majority of the lyrics in Ready. It is doing fine. Devi Sri Prasad's score added to the effect. Such success is reflexive on future projects. I penned two lyrics in Ankith Pallavi and Friends. One lyric will bring out the entire theme of the film.

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