(L to R) Devi Sri Prasad, Mini Mathur amd Ayan Mukerji
Not everybody gets a call from Salman Khan in the middle of the night, who then proceeds to sing ‘O Saami O Saami’ into the phone. But if you’re Devi Sri Prasad, the musician of the moment, you get all that and more. “Salmanbhai always calls me himself when he wants a song. He is a real chilled out, cool person. If he likes you, it is for life,” he says. The man who scored the songs and background music of Pushpa: The Rise is now very much in demand in the Mumbai film industry. From Nitesh Tiwari’s Bawaal to Ajay Devgn’s Drishyam 2, he is scoring the music for many movies. Karan Johar described ‘Srivalli’ as one of the best songs of all time, he says, and “Shankar Mahadevan asked me to jam with him,” he adds. A classically trained mandolin player, he considers the late Mandolin Srinivas his guru, as he does Ilaiyaraaja. Add to that the influence of Michael Jackson thanks to a video on the singer’s life that his late screenwriter-father G Satyamurthy gifted him, and the result is an eclectic mix of influences that has produced the soulful item number ‘O Antava’ as well as the rhythmic ‘O Saami’. “Rashmika (Mandanna) jokes that she has developed a hip problem from the number of times she has been asked to mimic the dance move,” he says. He attributes his wide range to growing up in Chennai, where he was exposed to the kacheris (the music sabhas) as well as film music. Pushpa has done for him what Roja did for AR Rahman nationally in 1992. And with Pushpa, he has shown Mumbai that he is more than the king of item songs, having done popular dance numbers like ‘Dhinka Chika’ (Ready, 2011) and ‘Seeti Maar’ (Radhe, 2021) before. DSP, as he is popularly known, likes to listen to the narration of the whole film before composing the songs and also likes to do the background music himself. He also makes it a point to include all the background singers in the credits, most unusually. And when he wants inspiration and calm, he goes to the room where his “anna” (Mandolin Srinivas) composed and sits there for hours. Whether it was M Balamuralikrishna or Bhimsen Joshi or John McLaughlin, he would be exposed to all, and “only I would carry my guru’s mandolin,” he says. It is so different from his rock star image of someone who enjoys making people dance.
They came to Mumbai together, on the same flight, and in the same taxi, and worked in the same organisation for a few years. Former Delhiwalas and MTV veejays Mini Mathur and Cyrus Sahukar have been friends since that fateful flight and now star as man and wife in Mind the Malhotras. In the second season, the Amazon Prime Video show examines ageing, anxiety and parental worries. The two who have worked with the best in the glamour industry since 1999 can say they grew up with the brightest in the glam clan, whether Alex Kuruvilla, who now runs Condé Nast in India, or Resul Pookutty, who went on to be one of the most notable sound designers in the country. So, how did they get so resilient, so effortlessly good and last so long? Mathur says she is glad she didn’t do any Hindi films of that time, with its funny frocks and fierce hairdos. She became one of the most loved hosts on TV, with long stints on Indian Idol and Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa. Sahukar, meanwhile, would become iconic with his take-offs on Piddhu the Great (Navjot Singh Sidhu) and Semi Girebaal (Simi Garewal). “I can’t imagine doing that kind of comedy now,” he says, referring to the culture of easy offence. Sadly, neither can we.
Scene and Heard
There’s been considerable spotlight on the Hindu elements in Brahmastra: Part One – Shiva, its celebration of Durga Puja, Kali Puja and Ram Leela. But perhaps audiences are not familiar with how deeply it has influenced its young director Ayan Mukerji’s life and is not a trend he has just discovered. Ayan’s father, Deb, runs the oldest Durga Puja pandal in Mumbai, started by his father, Sashadhar Mukherjee, also one of the greatest Bollywood studio heads of all time. Sashadhar broke away from Devika Rani’s Bombay Talkies and started Filmistan Studios along with his brother-in-law Ashok Kumar and director Gyan Mukherjee, and then set up Filmalaya independently.