Hamsalekha in News

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1. Neha Mujumdar writes in The Hindu:

Grand plans to keep folk traditions alive

The expert:: Hamsalekha: Sound exists to carry the intention, and expression, of its creator, whether a bird, an animal, or a human being. If you understand this, you appreciate all music. Photo: Karan Ananth

The expert:: Hamsalekha: Sound exists to carry the intention, and expression, of its creator, whether a bird, an animal, or a human being. If you understand this, you appreciate all music. Photo: Karan Ananth

Composer Hamsalekha dreams of making Basaveshwaranagar a cultural hub

In 1987, Govindaraju Gangaraju, soon to be known as Hamsalekha, bought his first piece of land in Bangalore — in Basaveshwaranagar. He had just completed touring with a “semi-professional” theatre group that aimed to take its work to rural areas of Sirsi and Davangere.

“The area was completely empty — khaali,” the 62-year-old composer reminisces. “It was like Cubbon Park then. Now it’s like Kolkata; one can’t even see the sun!”

Hamsalekha’s home is something of a landmark in Basaveshwaranagar, and for good reason: situated right next door is his school for Indian music, the Hamsalekha Desi Vidya Samsthe, established in 2004.

To the composer, the uniqueness of the school’s model is its integration of various skills across the spectrum of music and performance. Knowledge of folk music and performance is prioritised as much as the technical side. “There is a lot of demand for these multi-talented people,” he observes.

Hamsalekha is known for his multi-faceted tunes in Kannada, Telugu and Tamil films; his songs incorporate a variety of musical styles, such as ghazals and Western music. One of his innovations consists of notating Indian folk music onto Western staves. To him, no music is foreign. “If we widen our capacity to understand a little bit, we can use all music. There’s nothing new, it all exists in nature,” he says.

A curiously fundamental understanding of music — as, simply, sound — informs his composition. “Sound exists to carry the intention, and expression, of its creator, whether a bird, an animal, or a human being. If you understand this, you appreciate all music.”


1987 was also the year that Premaloka released; his music for this film would catapult him to fame. Today, 25 years on, there’s no dimming of enthusiasm. “I feel all the coming 10 years are mine,” he states. “I can do very modern things…there is a need for a new trend.”

Hamsalekha is also deeply critical of the hero culture in the film industry, seeing a preoccupation with celebrity as affecting creativity, spawning endless remakes, for example. “We will now even watch a film with a common housefly as the hero!” he remarked, as proof of audiences’ fatigue with the cult of the hero. “They [heroes] dictate terms too much.” He directs us to draw a cartoon, with a large hero, a director at his feet, an eager producer at his ear, and a heroine in his palm.

Through it all, there’s a deep affection for Basaveshwaranagar that’s evident. Nobody wanted the land that was to eventually become his home as the vaastu was bad, he says. “I didn’t care! I wanted the park opposite,” he says, gesturing towards the Swami Vivekananda Park nearby.

The fact that the area has many parks is definitely one that pleases him. He also rattles off a long list of Basaveshwaranagar’s other positives: several educational institutions, a high level of civic awareness, and even skating rinks, he points out. And it’s set to get busier, he predicts, especially after the metro line becomes functional.

This is why he’s eager to move forward with his latest plan: a cultural centre, a rangamandira for Basaveshwaranagar, where folk traditions from around the world can be kept alive.

The project is currently awaiting allotment of land. “If it’s on the outskirts, it’s comfortable for us [organisers], but if in the city, it’s good for society,” he emphasises.

But he’s set on the plan, even showing us initial drawings. He sees it as a need for balance. “There should be a food chain, an ecology. If there is one lion, there should be four deer and so on,” he laughs

2. World Space Kannada Radio Sparsha RJ Shruthiwrites on Hams

Text of her writing: Is Hamsalekha on Sabatical?

 Where is Hamsalekha? That seems to be the question on every Kannada film buffs mind. The master of new age film music is on a hiatus. Is it a lack of exciting offers, or curtailed poetic freedom that's keeping him low profile? Or is the composer too busy with the logistics of setting up his music school which is supposed to bring all genres of music under one canopy? Without speculating too much, it's clear that fans are eagerly waiting for another Idu Nanna Ninna Prema Geethe Chinna or a Yaare Neenu Cheluve or Swathi Muthtina Male Haniye. A random pick of his songs reveals the musical and lyrical variety that they contain, says RJ Shruthi. Though his initial offering was really fresh and novel, there came a stage where the music began to sound typical of him. That's not to take away from the fact that the man is known to have reinvented music time and time again. Every time the industry reached dreadful levels of creative deficit, it was Hamsalekha who was the saviour. Notwithstanding the fact that a movie has to run based on its screenplay and story, in several cases it's the film’s music that has been the saving grace. In fact, it's Hamsalekha who is responsible for these films even coming to the film buffs' notice. (Pic: Sparsha Programme Director, Chaitanya Hegde with actress Tara, Hamsalekha and On the other hand, there is always a Premaloka, Ranadheera, Nanoo Nanna Hendthi- all which Hamsalekha’s trademark lyrics became popular. Others, like Yuga Purusha, Anjada Gandu, Bannada Gejje, Hrudaya Geethe, Chaitrada Premanjali and Baa Nalle Madhuchandrike went on to strenghten his hold over the industry. For every Muththina Haara, there was a Maafia. Forgettable movies but with unforgettable music. Hamsalekha who entered the film industry to become a director ended up writing from his swan pen. Writing under the pseudonym Hamsalekha, P G Gangaraj as he was known earlier became familiar to everybody as the man with the magical pen and words. Starting with Triveni- the movie where he penned the song Neena Bhagavantha Jagakupakarisi. It was Premaloka and the song Ee Nimbe Hanninantha Hudugi Banthu Nodu..and Aye Gangu Ee Biku Kalisikodu Nangoo..that made the Kannada literary fan sit up and take notice. The latter began to wonder if anything could be conveyed through such lyrics at all. But it was there for all to see. We saw a young kid sing Yenu Hudgeero Idu Yaaking Aadtheero and the kid next-door followed suit. He is known to experiment with his music like no one else. He was the music director who made good use of the left-right stereophonic sound effects as early as in Premaloka. He managed to compose the background score for a movie with just a single instrument and made the music for a movie Kona Eedaita with absolutely no musical instruments. His music in the movie Hagalu Vesha boasted of a totally rustic and folksy feel without the use of synthetic sounds. He then went on to win the National Award for the movie Gaanayogi Panchaakshari Gavaai, the music for which was remarkable. Chastised initially for his lyrics, Hamsalekha did bring in a new dimension to lyric writing. Wonderful, profound yet simple. Take for instance, Ee Bhoomi Bannada Buguri, a song from the movie Mahakshatriya where he uses the playing top as a metaphor for the world and God as its striker. Then there is Preethiyalli Iro Sukha Goththe Iralilla that seems to have just been penned while the composer was brushing his teeth. Both songs are remembered equally. Hamsalekha is donning a different hat this time around. His effort to direct a successful flick is yet to bear fruit. But his effort to start a one-of-its-kind music school is keeping him a lot busier these days. According to him, it will be a place for the music student, and aficionado to come together to know, learn and discover all genres of music. But the music fan is still waiting for the master to return. After having heard a lot about the alleged break-up with his long time ally and associate Ravichandran, it is time for them to break the newly formed ice. The duo worked in close to 25 movies, complementing each other successfully. And the fans just cna't wait for more. On his birthday, June 25, the Kannada film industry has a lot to thank the maestro for. May his baton rise again and let the music begin. Tune in to catch the best songs that Hamsalekha has penned on Radio Sparsha June 20-25 on Inchara and Gandhinagar Express.  

2. KR Ganesh writes in Hindu:

Following is the text of his writing:


Hamsalekha, the first true-blue Kannadiga lyricist-composer, gave film music a major turn in the Eighties. This highly inventive musician has many firsts to his credit

Photo: G.P. Sampath Kumar

INFUSING NEW ENERGY Hamsalekha has a fantastic receptiveness to language. His grasp of Kanglish that occupies urban spaces is remarkable

Premaloka, the trendsetting Eshwari Combines film that released in 1987, brought star value to two people; actor Ravichandran and lyricist-composer Hamsalekha.

The Eighties was, in a way, peak time for the Kannada film industry. It was a time when there was a reawakening of Kannada pride with the Gokak Agitation of ’82, Lankesh Patrike and others. It will perhaps not be wrong to say that the outcome of such a happening was largely benefited by the film industry. Just when a non-Congress party came to power, film industry also tried to establish itself locally. There was also a shift in attention with the many other backward classes and communities gaining centre stage, a healthy departure from the hackneyed debates that revolved around the hegemonic and marginalised classes. It was during the Eighties itself, that the other backward classes and communities gained recognition – both politically and culturally. Hamsalekha, one could perhaps say, is the outcome of such a materialization.

Not that films of the period were in the strict sense of the term mirroring the Brahmin community. But it was evident that there was a considerable Brahminisation in the manner in which characters were conceived; notional manifestations of what we believed were traits of the community.

Apart from this, it was also the post-zenith period for most Kannada’s brilliant lyricists and composers. They were “tired” and a grating tedium had begun to set in. Hamsalekha, to put in filmy jargon, stormed the scene breaking all time-tested norms and infused Kannada film music with refreshing energy. And thus with Premaloka in 1987, film music entered a new phase. The credit to this, of course, is shared equally by Hamsalekha and the maverick actor Ravichandran.

High flown, chaste Kannada (of course, filmdom had created its own distinctive idiom), came to be replaced by street Kannada, the language spoken by the masses. Hamsalekha’s music rang of a completely unique style, – a predominant strain of Kannada folk music flavoured with other dominant styles of folk and Western music – which he conducted with tremendous élan and perfection. From here, Ravichandran and Hamsalekha, who almost became an inseparable team, and worked with each other for 26 films. The duo not only became responsible for an innovative narrative technique in films, but were also non-conformist in every aspect of film music. What till then seemed like high brow, snobbish conservatism, was replaced by more earthy, semi-urban, realistic creations. These experiments however, were not free from acidic criticism. Traditionalists dismissed them completely.

Interestingly, Hamsalekha in the only composer-lyricist who’s a true blue Kannadiga. He belongs to Tulasithota of the Pete area of old Bangalore. His father K.H. Govindaraju was an actor with company theatre. Hamsalekha, the 13th child of his parents, was originally Gangaraju. His brother Balakrishna, who was a good singer, used to run an orchestra. With such a cultural environment at home, Hamsalekha started playing mandolin for the orchestra and acted in small roles.

At his father’s printing press, Hamsalekha found himself absorbed in all the manuscripts that came for printing – poems, plays, folk songs etc. This tempted him to try his hand at writing and scribbled poems and one act plays. “When I was in high school, I wrote the play ‘Belakina Mane’. My teacher was so pleased and gave me a Swan pen. From then, I decided to keep my pen name as ‘Hamsalekhani’, which eventually became Hamsalekha,” he remembers.

Hamsalekha with his immense hunger to learn went to Shivram for Carnatic music lessons and the teacher who taught him to write music notations was Dasanna. He went to S.K. Joseph for piano lessons and Sebastian for Western classical music. Hamsalekha, deeply fascinated by cinema, had a great desire to script a film and direct it, but in due course he became a composer.

In the Seventies, Hamsalekha, along with friends, set up a theatre group Viveka Ranga and went around the state performing plays. Around the same time, he also worked as music arranger for several re-recordings in Chamundeshwari Studios and worked as a ghost writer for several films. It was in 1986, Ravichandran spotted Hamsalekha making the script for “Naanu Nanna Hendti”. Ravichandran liked his lyrics for “Yaare neenu cheluve”, and asked him to compose it, which went on to become a super hit.

With “Premaloka”, Hamsalekha became a phenomenon. He has composed over 3,500 songs and has made hit numbers such as “Premalokadinda Banda”, “Belli Rathadali Soorya Tanda Kirana”, “Madikeri Sipyai”, “O Premada Gangeye”, “Naa Kande Ninninda Chandrodaya” and many more. In fact, if several remakes, mediocre films became successful it was because of Hamsalekha’s original music score. For instance, films like “Chinna Tambi” and “Meri Jung” had very competent music. But Hamsalekha gave them successful, original scores.

Probably because of his grass roots upbringing, Hamsalekha has a fantastic receptiveness to language. He mixes Kannada and English amazingly well and sometimes even Hindi. From his very first “Hello my lovely lady…” to the more recent “Choriyaagide Nanna Dil Kaledukollode Ondu Thrill”, Hamsalekha has churned out some very interesting songs. His ability to achieve an unlikely rhyme scheme, and sometimes even between languages is exciting. For instance, “Ye Gangu, ee biku kalsikodu nangu…” or “Luna mele nanna myna”. Traditional lyricists would have scoffed even at the thought of using lemon of the backyard as metaphor for a woman’s beauty, but Hamsalekha did it with style. Known for his inventive metaphors, he sang “Nimbe hanninantha hudugi bandlu nodu…”. The other unique ability of Hamsalekha is to set to tune even very prose-like passages. Remember the song, “Tandana Tandana”? The charana of the song is a series of riddles and answers to it, and Hamsalekha manages it beautifully. It is also true of the unofficial State anthem, “Huttidare Kannada Naadalli Huttabeku”.

But it’s ironical that this very composer, who infused life and dynamism to Kannada film music, had to say that it was with “Ganayogi Panchakshari Gawai” that he attained his deliverance. Pity that someone who broke away from the shackles of established standards found fulfilment in conforming to them. Even after nearly three decades of his association with the film industry, Hamsalekha is still full of original ideas. He now pins aspirations on Hamsalekha Desi Vidya Samsthe, that plans to impart all round education in the desi way.