It’s an honor to have interview of Music Director Saluri Koteswara Rao well known in the industry as “Koti”. He is currently working for the movie “kshetram”.
Here are our conversation details.
Tell us about your family!
I am married to Jyothi, i have one daughter Babitha and two sons Rajeev and Roshan, all are doing well.
Did you get inspired from your father Shri Saluri Rajeswara Rao garu and entered into movies.
He was always my inspiration and role model. My father used to compose music at home. Initially, I didn’t show much interest in music at that time but I used to observe great personalities related to music like Ghantasala garu, P.Susheela garu, Pendyala garu, Janaki garu, T. Chalapathi rao garu. They used to visit my home while working with my father. They were like family members to me. We also used to visit their home.
My father always wanted me to become an IAS officer. At that time my physic was also good. I use to play drums just for fun. My family used to advice me to concentrate more on studies, but I found more interest in playing drums. It’s a real difficult task to play drums. I learnt to play drums on my own. Compare to studies, I was more interested in music.
When did you start your career?
In 1975, I started my career in music as a guitarist. I worked under Ramesh Naidu garu, V.Kumar Garu, Chakravarthy garu, Pendyala Nageswara Rao garu, Ilayaraja garu, Laxmikant Pyarelal garu, Bappi Lahiri garu and Akshay Mehndi garu as a guitarist. I have learnt other musical techniques while working under these people.For about 8 years I worked under Chakravarthy garu as an assistant to him.
Have you been to any institute for learning music?
I have learnt fourth grade theory in classical guitar and in western classical notations. After that, I was unable to concentrate much in this because of busy work schedules.
Who gave you the first opportunity in movies?
The first break I got was through my colleague Thotakura Somaraju (raju) son of music director T. V. Raju. We were very good friends at that time and even now. Raju got an opportunity to work in the movie and he recommended me at that time. Hence, we decided to have a team-up and we started the duo called Raj-Koti. Our first movie as music directors was with Director Krishna garu. After that movie Director Ravi Raja Pinisetty garu gave us an opportunity to work in “Yamudiki Mogudu” (1988) movie. The movie became a sensational hit. After yamudiki mogudu, movie we never looked back and the rest is the history.
Who gave you the name “Koti”?
Within my family, my parents and relatives use to call me as “Koti”. And after working with Raju for ten years we decided to split up and start composing independently. At that time I thought to add something to Koti but many people like Rajendra Prasad garu, Producer Shekar garu strongly insisted and adviced me to continue working with the same name. Hence, I didn’t change my name and retained it as “Koti”.
Tell us about the music of “Kshetram”.
When Director T.venugopal narrated me the story of “Kshetram”, I found it really interesting and for this reason I had accepted to work in this movie. I got really satisfied for myself composing for the movie. The movie has got situational songs and every song is composed with deep involvement. After Arundhati (2009) this is the movie which satisfied me. The songs of this movie were well choreographed to my music and it’s really entertaining to watch. It took 23 days to compose the background score. My son Roshan has helped me a lot in composing. We used the latest technological and softwares to give the best feel of the music. For this movie we used traditional instruments like tabla, taranga, sitar and this will enhance the attention of the audience. Everyone is tired of listening to loud music and I am sure this will bring a change from that loud noisy music.
Which is your favorite song in this movie?
My favorite song is “Rahoore Rajaa…Priya Sudha…” Director T.Venugopal has explained me the scene and after working on it for 3-4 days, I composed this song. When I approached with the song to director he was really blissful with the song.
You have done composition for more than 475 movies. Name some of your favorite movies.
There are many movies Nuvve kavali (2000), Nuvu Naku Nachavu (2001), Nuvve Nuvve (2002), Ela Cheppanu (2003), these are the movies of which stories and music both are my favorite. I also like, Bala Gopaludu (1989), Raja Vikramarka (1990), Shatruvu (1991), Hello Brother (1994), Vamsanikokkadu (1996), Intlo Illalu Vantintlo Priyuralu (1996). And Arundhati (2009) is really close to my heart.
Do music directors have the freedom to do what they like?
During our initial days, we didn’t have much of freedom. Presently we have the freedom to compose our music. Initially, when I was in Chennai every director or producer wanted me to compose music like Illeyraja Sir. But I never tried to copy him or any music director. I always depend on the trend and demand of the director to compose music. For the current movie also I did the same.
A.R.Rahman has achieved greater heights/goals and you were one of his teachers. How do you feel about this?
I always feel happy for him. It was our dream to get an Oscar. I didn’t believe for myself after watching him hold the Oscar. He has worked really hard. He used to work late nights and used to learn or try for versatility all the time. It’s the result of his consistent efforts and hard work. He is now an inspiration for all the people across the cinema industry. He has proved his mettle and excellence in the world of music and I feel proud to say that I was one amongst his teachers.
How do you keep yourself updated with the latest technology?
From the beginning of my career, I used latest electronic instruments and software. This helped me to keep updated with the technology. This saves my time and I can compose different kinds of music with one single instrument. The technology that I have used in the past is the one which people are using at present. During my initial compositions there was no internet and we used to have meager information about the music what other cinema industry is following. For example, we are familiar with the names of many of the Hollywood Music (albums) but we were unaware of the music team behind it and the technology which was used to make the song. At present as the internet is available everywhere, I suggest the new comers to keep themselves updated by browsing and knowing all about the well known music directors/musicians irrespective of the location and learn the techniques. This will not only enhance their knowledge but will help in learning new things.
What softwares you use while working?
Initially we used to work on MC500 equipment. Later, Logic-5 came into market. Analog recording is practiced no more. Because of software’s like PROTOOL, Dolby, DTS we can compose the music sitting at home and no need to seek for recording studios. Once recording is done, we can generate the required quality output while processing with the software. With this kind of software we are able to generate different kinds of sounds.
Which are your favorite equipments?
I like working on “Kurzweil keyboards”, “Carl keyboard”, “Nord keyboards” and logic-9.
Do you have a team? How do you carryout the work?
My team consists of my younger son Roshan, who works on keyboard, my main assistant Jeebu, Sri Krishna, Naveen – Tabala player, Sai Vamsi (Manager). All are very cooperative and are with me from a long time.
What is your opinion on remix songs?
I encourage remix songs. There is nothing wrong in doing songs remixing. We are trying to present the younger generation with the flavor of our old songs with a new soup. The song should be remixed in such a way that it should not lose its originality and must be good to listen.
What kind of music does you like the most?
Personally, I like Jazz, Hindustani and classical music.
In the current industry who are your favorite singers?
Shankar Mahadevan is my all time favorite singer. I also like Karthik and Ranjit.
Let us know more about your son Rajeev?
While I and Rajeev were shopping in a mall, Director Chandu (10th class fame) saw Rajeev and approached me for casting him in the movie. After listening to the script and music of the movie I said ok for the movie. Rajeev got good response for the “Notebook” (2007) movie and recently he has also done another movie called “Akashame Haddu” (2011). Now he is working on a couple of movies.
You have worked with many people. With whom was it delightful to work with?
It’s R.D.Burman. He is the trend setter of bollywood. I have worked with R.D.Burman for the movie “Mahaan” starring Amitabh and I had worked for 40 days with him and I still feel lucky to have worked with a legend. I have learnt the way music is composed while working under him. The complete music team used to encourage me at work. I will never forget those days. They will remain as the delightful memories of my life.
Who is your idol?
My father Saluri Rajeswara Rao garu, RD Burman garu, and Naushad garu. They are the one who used to compose music in correct manner.
In what manner you support new comers?
If a new comer is talented I will surely help him. I always encourage them by teaching them personally.
If not Music Director what you would be?
My dream was to become a marine engineer and become a captain of the ship and go on a world tour. I even tried for that and wrote the exam for that but didn’t get selected due to other reasons.
How much time will it take for you to compose music for a movie?
Well I cannot say about that. A song can be composed within a day and sometimes may go on for 2 to 3 months to compose the same song. The songs are composed according to the scene or situation in the movie. So it takes time to compose a song with which souls match perfectly with the situation.
How far are we with Hollywood musicians?
As far as the technology is concerned we are almost running parallel to them. We are using the same kind of softwares and the instruments which Hollywood technicians and music directors are using. The major difference is the time given to complete the project. In Hollywood Hans Zimmer, john powell, james honor and other composers are given 6 to 8 months for the composition of music and they are completely dedicated about a movie and hence they create wonders. As Tollywood is concerned, we do not have enough time. Here directors and producers cannot wait here for 6 to 8 months. Hence, the output differs. If we get at least 2 months time we can create similar kind of wonderful music. I would like to add a point here, we are lagging behind because of low budget allocation. If adequate amount is allotted for the music then the music of that cinema can create magic.
Do you support the royalty issue?
Yes! I support that one too. If a movie becomes a hit the profits are shared by only directors, producers and actors but not with either music directors or singers. They should share the profits with us also. Primarily I agree that making a movie is teams work and effort but without music you cannot create a movie. Music is a very important aspect of the movie. I don’t want to criticize anyone but I wish to insist that music director and singers are equally important for the movie.
When is Jr. Koti (Roshan) to be launched?
At present he is working with me and he is still learning the techniques. He needs some more time for getting launched. When appropriate time comes he will definitely get into the field and will surely do well.
In which songs you have used most number of musicians?
For the song “maa voori devudu andala ramudu…” from the movie Alluda Majaka (1995) for this song a huge orchestra was used. “Mechanic Alludu” (1993) a drum dance. And for the movie Hitler (1997) “habibi…” song.
What are your upcoming projects?
“Kshetram”, Rajendra Harinath Policherla “Rajendra” movie, “Oonamallu” and two more movie are yet to be named. And i am also working on Annamaya project.
What you want to say about “Kolaveri Di” song?
It’s indeed a wonderful song. The song has become a sensational hit and everywhere it is creating magic. The song’s lyrics are really simple and easily understandable. Everyone is waiting for the actual video of the song. The taste of public has changed and now they don’t want all the ragas and talas instead they want to enjoy and hum the music when they listen. I whole-heatedly welcome these kinds of songs.