How Composer Devi Sri Prasad Got Farhan Akhtar To Sing A Telugu Song In Mahesh Babu’s Bharat Ane Nenu

The Southern music director tells us how the Bollywood actor overcame the challenge of singing in a new language and how he kept the collaboration a secret
How Composer Devi Sri Prasad Got Farhan Akhtar To Sing A Telugu Song In Mahesh Babu’s Bharat Ane Nenu

Ace Southern music director, 'Rockstar' Devi Sri Prasad's  (or DSP, as he's popularly known) phone hasn't stopped ringing since Sunday morning. The lyrical video of his  'I Don't Know' track from  Mahesh Babu's Bharat Ane Nenu had released around 10.30 AM  and touched 1.2 Million views by the afternoon. The composer has had a great week with Ram Charan-starrer Rangasthalam also doing well at the Box Office.

For DSP, the 'I Don't Know' track is special. He's finally fulfilled his dream of getting Farhan Akhtar to debut in Tollywood as a singer. DSP has always liked to introduce different voices to Southern cinema. Apache Indian, Adnan Sami, Mika Singh and Baba Sehgal are some of the singers he's brought to the South. In a freewheeling chat he tells us why he thought Farhan would be best suited for this track and how he convinced him to sing in a new language.

Farhan Akhtar has sung only in Hindi films. What made you think of him when composing this Telugu song?

Ever since I saw Farhan's performance as a singer in Rock On, I fell in love with his voice. By chance, I happened to meet him at one of the IIFA events in Singapore a few years ago. I had just recorded the 'Dhinka Chika' song for Salman Khan's Ready and he had heard about it. He also knew about my other hit songs like 'Aa Ante Amalapuram'. I found him to be very chilled out and friendly despite his star status. We vibed  well. In fact, I wanted him to sing the 'Who Are You' track in  Mahesh Babu's Nenokkadine few years ago. But Telugu is new for him and Farhan  being the perfectionist he is, was a bit anxious about getting it right. But he very sportingly agreed to try it out and see if it worked. However, due to schedule changes for the film, that recording couldn't take place with him.

But my idea of making him sing didn't die out. So when I was composing 'I Don't Know', I thought Farhan's voice and persona would be ideal for this song. Mahesh Babu plays an urbane, cool, English -speaking and stylish character in Bharat Ane Nenu, much like Farhan himself. And since a lot of words are in English in this track, I thought Farhan would be perfect for it. He's a talented and smart artiste, so I was confident he would easily overcome the challenge of singing in a new language. So I approached him with the idea and convinced him to do it.

A lot of times, he would burst out laughing at certain words he couldn't understand

How did you go about recording the track? How did Farhan get over his initial anxiety about getting the pronunciation right ? 

I composed the song about two months ago and we had initially planned to record it in Chennai. But he couldn't make it since his mom was unwell so I went to Mumbai to record it instead. I sent him the guidance track a week in advance. He was super excited on hearing it. When we reached the studio for the recording, I sat with him and first explained the entire meaning of the lines, the song situation and how the scene would be picturised. Once he got the hang of it, we then began work on recording each line. He got really comfy when I told him to just be himself and sound  just like himself. The interspersed English lines also made him more comfy and he soon got into the loop. We recorded a few lines each time. A lot of times, he would burst out laughing at certain words he couldn't understand.  It was a fun session overall. He's a very fast learner and we finished the recording in just around 5 hours.

Between the time you recorded it and the final release, you kept it a  secret for 2 months. What was Farhan's reaction when you sent him the final mix?

Yes, we all kept it a closely guarded secret. In fact, even my lyricist didn't know Farhan was going to sing it! We told all the team members and assistants to keep mum about it. It's because the expectations would become sky-high and I didn't want that. I feel doubly thrilled today to see people's happy reactions! Both Mahesh Babu and director Koratala Siva were very excited and waiting to hear the final mix, and Farhan was on tenterhooks as well. I was involved with Rangasthalam and so I did the mastering only bit by bit over 2 months. In the interim  I informed Farhan that the song  was  fantabulous and he messaged back, 'I was very nervous because of the language. But you were like a rock in the studio and that's why it happened.'

I actually sent the pre –final mix to Farhan only last week. After hearing it he was overjoyed and texted back saying, 'Just heard, its rocking… Full fun vibes! Congrats and thank you! Very happy!'

Farhan's a talented and smart artiste, so I was confident he would easily overcome the challenge of singing in a new language

The lyrical video has over a million hits already and is a rage on social media. What is Mahesh Babu's reaction?

Mahesh Babu and director Koratala Siva have both been excited about this song right from the inception stage. They are currently shooting this very song in Europe right now. They are thrilled and so am I. In fact, till  Saturday night, I was still adding the final touches to it and crashed out only at 7 am. After the release, my phone hasn't stopped ringing. Radio Jockeys are telling me its on hi –rotate since morning.  It's a rage on social media. When people react like this, it's feel awesome. This is a special moment for me because the music of back –to-back films, both completely different musical genres, have been a huge success.

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