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Mani Sharma was in Washington DC when Anupama Gopalakrishnan caught up with him for a exclusive short chat for Meet the “Okkadu*” (chosen one) who became a Pokiri* (meaning wayward), and who will soon be your Athidhi* (guest) [ * Okkadu, Pokiri and the yet to be released Athidhi are telugu films starring yesteryear superstar Krishna’s son Mahesh Babu. Mani Sharma played a very significant role in creating a youthful image for this star son who is now the craze in Andhra Pradesh]

If there is Sa Re Ga Ma - then I would attribute the “Ma” to Mani Sharma. The music director who has brought South Indian music to a global level by churning out hundreds of hits in Telugu and other Indian languages will be enthralling the Michigan audience with his first original “Live” concert in Detroit on Saturday, July 28th.

Swarna Brahma Mani Sharma has won several Filmfare awards in consecutive years proving to his audience that though there is struggle, with hard work and determination, success is inevitable. Performing live in Michigan, Mani Sharma is a music director who was the first to introduce fusion with our Indian film musical patterns by giving regional Indian music the respect it truly deserves. From Ganges to Great Lakes, it has been an incredible journey for this young top music composer who has become the pride of the Telugu Film Industry across the world.

As Mani Sharma subtly explains “this journey was never expected”. I never anticipated any reward while doing my job. I enjoy the work as much with or without awards. To be successful is to be humble in living and in spirit, he exclaimed.

Mani Sharma started his career as a keyboard player in late 80s under the guidance of renowned and popular music director the late Satyam. Mani Sharma was a freelance key-board player for many musicians including one of Andhra’s best M.M Keeravani and has given several live performances with renowned playback singer SP Balasubrahmaniam in India, USA, U.K, Australia, Europe, South Africa, Singapore, Sri Lanka and UAE. With several titles and awards behind him, Mani Sharma opined that as a music director, “performance is critical to any artist”. He prefers to go live in front of the rib tickling audience rather than be in closed doors within a recording studio.

Speaking about his favorite genre of music – fusion – Mani Sharma articulated that “music comes in all forms and shapes; it is left up to a true musician to mould and sculpt.” Mani Sharma loves to blend the classical with the contemporary. Mani Sharma was the first musician to introduce this blend in the mega star Chiru starrer Choodalanivundiin 1998. “Yamaha Nagari” sung by Hariharan became a super duper hit and since then for nearly a decade, all the films that boast of Mani Sharma carries at least one number that either has melody infused with rap, jazz and huge orchestration blended with soothing ragas and so on.

He truly conveyed the message that “fusion is good as long as there is no confusion”. Morning Raga is a classic example of Mani Sharma’s innovative blend of Modern with the traditional. Having raked a few international awards, this experiment worked wonders as many believed that the true hero of the movie was the true Carnatic music with beautiful compositions that sounded super cool with unique beats and echoing vocals.

According to Mani Sharma, the fusion concept has always been there and he was lucky to have received several opportunities in experimenting the blend. Queried about his favorite number, he claimed that most of his favorite numbers are not hit numbers. For instance, he truly loved the song from the 2001 Balakrishna and Simran starrer Narasimha Naidu. He hummed with his b-e-a-u-t-i-f-u-l voice the Udit Narayan and Sujata number “Kokkokomali”.

Talking about the quality of his stage shows, Mani Sharma mentioned that his US tour was first started last year and he really liked the fact that he could connect with his audience. “For a true musician, there is nothing like it”. Live stage show with quality sound and special effects, live rhythms, live instruments and original vocals form the crux of Mani Sharma’s concerts. “Nothing will be compromised”, he said.

Speaking to Mani Sharma was like speaking to a world class musician and so he is! Mani Sharma was talking, walking, speaking and conveying the animated passion and focus he has for his only love “music”. According to Mani Sharma, his musicians adapt to the “Kutcheri” standard [ “Kutcheri” is a classical terminology attributed to the meaning and structure of music that happens in a disciplined fashion] and vouched for the fact that “as an audience you will definitely feel the drums in your heart”.

Mani Sharma was solely responsible for carving out images out of simple actors. The case in question is Mahesh Babu who relies on Mani Sharma for all his films, Allu Arjun, Pawan Kalyan and Chiranjeevi and others have always maintained that it was Mani Sharma who made them contemporary dancers with his heavy mesmerizing mass dance beats, to the extent that Mega Star Chiru’s son Ram Charan Tej debut film Chirutha will have Mani Sharma making the star son dance to his tunes.

As Mani Sharma subtly puts it, “there is always a limitation while working for the image of the stars. One cannot be creative as the star actors have already established their image with the masses. The biggest challenge is to “create and incorporate the music to suit the star image”. He noted that it is very important to provide consistent quality good work because as a music composer, part of the film’s success depends on the musician. He further pointed out that with the new breed of music directors, it has become increasingly competitive to produce good work because according to him, people will remember good tunes, but one failure and it is all over as you have to start from scratch, such is the life of the music director.

As I question him about the role of the film director in the creation of the film music album, Mani opined that directors do play a very critical role in the imagination and the creation of a song. Mani acclaimed the work of Puri Jagannath among others for his instant judgment and innovative concepts.

We see a lot of singing competitions in various channels aired in the United States, if you are an aspiring singer, Mani Sharma animatedly exclaimed that competition alone does not determine a great singer. There are lot of singers who are not competition material but have carved a name for themselves. As Mani Sharma suggests, “a good singer should have the basic classical background,  should understand and be aware of the musical trends, know at least five classical tunes and group singing to him was mandatory”. During sound check, he often spots some unique talents. Point in case - Ranjith, Naveen, Mallikarjun and Murali were all singers who started of with group singing. Mani Sharma pointed that Karunya is a naturally talented singer and that this young Hyderabad boy has a great future.

AR Rahman has often mentioned in many interviews that Mani Sharma was the only musician who has a knack of creating mass songs so easily. Mani Sharma jokingly quipped that mass was in his blood and that it was part of his growing up. He has been attributed to getting into the skin of the characters to determine if the star image was slanting toward a romantic song, an action hero intro song or a fantasy with scenic locales.

For all you private album listeners, do not fret as Mani Sharma is working on an original composition - his own private album that will be released next year. This will out and out be a “mast” filled album with varying tunes and rhythms that will reflect his personality.

Talking about the remix culture, he strongly asserted the fact that a musician should respect the original and should not degrade the quality or the meaning behind that work. He loved creating the remix version of “Superstar Krishna’s Gala Gala” for Pokiri. He justified the need to keep the tempo and the rhythm classy. “Don’t create something just to be different and to make a statement- do it if you strongly feel that the original can be enhanced with innovative experimentation”, he said.

Telugu industry’s hot shot composer Mani Sharma loves listening to all kinds of music as it provides a spectrum of tunes that can be experimented upon. He listens to a lot of Ghulam Ali ghazals, all of Ghantasala’s music, fusion devotional songs et al. He finds “rap” to be very interesting while blending with melody. He loves NT Rama Rao and has special admiration for Megastar Chiranjeevi.

With all that said, audience across the United States were enthralled with this magnetic, mesmerizing composer who performed a medley of super hit songs in cities like Washington, Chicago, Dallas, Memphis and others . Mani Sharma has assured the Michigan audience of one lovely spectacular night of quality music. With day and night rehearsals in full swing, Mani Sharma requests us to buy the tickets and to expect quality music and most importantly, to show support so that the South Indian Film Fraternity can keep Michigan in their radar for future star shows and music concerts.

Mani Sharma specially thanked Devi Jewellers in Chicago for giving him a 2000+ audience and also thanked Jagadish Boddapati and Venkata Pala, the chief organizers from Michigan for making this possible for the Michigan NRI music community.  Please contact Jagadish at 614-296-0621 or Venkat at 248-761- 6789 for tickets to this spectacular musical extravaganza. Mark your calendars for this exclusive first time Live Concert of Swarnabrahma Mani Sharma on Saturday, July 28 at 7:00p.m. Venue: Walled Lake Northern High School, Commerce, MI


Interviewed and Written by: Anupama Gopalakrishnan
Stay tuned to Rockin’ Raaga, every Saturday on WPON 1460 AM from 1:00p.m. – 2:00p.m.
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