Actor – Singer Anuj Gurwara Special Interview
Hi Anuj. Thanks for your valuable time and congratulations on the super success of Ninnu Choodani from Anaganagaa O Dheerudu.
Thanks for giving me this space.
It’s great to have such fantastic response from all over for the song in Anaganaga O Dheerudu, a huge prestigious project! Happy to sing for Siddharth, someone I have immense respect for.
I still can’t believe I’m part of a Disney production.
From a content writer to Actor, RJ, MC, VJ and now a Singer, how do you feel about your journey in film industry?
There’s no greater joy than doing what you love. I’m making a career out of what most people do as a hobby. The world of Entertainment… of Creativity, is what I believe has been my calling.
The journey so far has been extraordinary. The experience of a new day, new challenges, new people, new ideas, every single day. I don’t think I’ve even scratched the surface. There is so much more to learn… and that process continues throughout life. Each time you cross a milestone, the road becomes even longer.
I’m glad I’ve been able to achieve considerable success in various forms of Entertainment, on diverse platforms. My mantra is “Love what you do, and you’ll do it best.” There is no stress, no matter how long you’re on the job. I enjoy the process of being an actor, a singer, MC, etc. 24 hours a day.
The stage has always been my first love. I’ve always felt most comfortable on a stage, in front of an audience waiting to be entertained. I love being the Entertainer. Where it is music, theatre, films, radio or live shows… I feel most alive when the spotlight comes on. It is a high. A feeling of euphoria.
Although I am completely hyderabadi, I hail from a north-Indian family. To be accepted by the telugu industry and people across the world, first as an Actor (Anand) and then Singer is a tremendous support system. One that keeps you going.
The other support system is the emotional, morale-boosting back up you get from family & friends to take those bold steps into the uncertain world of an Entertainment career.
How did you become a singer?
I had approached Keeravaani sir for a voice test soon after I quit radio. I had been singing since childhood. Participated in a lot of music contests, concerts, etc right from my school days, even in college. However, I didn’t really aspire to be a playback singer. Perhaps I lacked the confidence then.
Sir was gracious enough to call me to the studio and hear a few old recordings I’d done. He called a month later saying there was a song he wanted to test. It was a telugu song for a film starring Megastar Cheeranjavi’s son. That was all I knew.
I wrote down the lyrics, practised the tune and recorded the song. That day was 8th August ‘08… a day I’ll never forget.
A year later, in 2009, Magadheera released and my life suddenly took a beautiful musical turn.
Panchadara bomma is a chartbuster hit and even after 2 years, the song is heard on Radio and TV Channels. Panchadaara bomma is the favorite song of many celebrities and even Rajamouli said that this is his all time favorite song. How do you feel about all the accolades that you received?
The strangest part of all this success is that none of us expected Panchadara Bomma to be such a massive hit. It is a wonderful composition… lovely lyrics… and the biggest film in the history of telugu cinema, directed by the ace film maker Rajamouli sir himself.
But the fact that this song is still so popular almost 2 years later, still amazes me.
Over a 100 telugu films release every year, with music and voices of all kinds. Panchadara Bomma is an example of “all factors just working beautifully together”. The composition, the lyrics, the picturisation, the placement of the song in the film, the lead pair, Charan & Kajal, the film itself. I am just a new voice. I cannot lay claim to the success of this song. This song is my blessing from Keeravaani sir.
My true reward was the day I got the opportunity to record the song. I gave it my best and then sat back for a year, waiting for it to release.
Everything else that has come my way since the release of the song – its continuing popularity – has been a bonus. Our work ends once we release our film/music to the people. The learning, the growth lies in the process of creation.
It’s like studying through the year, revising at the end and finally giving your best shot at the exam. You have to do your best before you submit your answer sheet. However, the joy is in the process of studying.
The purpose of studying is not the exam… but to gain knowledge.
There have been awards. And I’ve loved walking up on stage to collect each once of them. I’ve been lucky to bag all these awards for my debut song. Cheers to more!
M.M. Keeravani changed the way your life is today. You have sung in most of his films. How is it working with him?
Keeravaani sir added a whole new dimension to my life. I can proudly call myself a professional singer today only because of his confidence in me. I believe there is a relationship more than just a singer-composer one. He is truly a teacher… I call him my Guru. A wonderful human being who inspires everyone around him.
Sir’s greatest facet is perhaps his simplicity, despite the many accolades and achievements he has earned through his wonderful music. It is an honour for me to have an association with him and his beautiful family. I came from nowhere and suddenly, our worlds merged together.
Yes, I have been singing regularly for him since he gave me “Panchadara Bomma”. I’m only happy to be a part of his music. I don’t want to ask why or analyse this opportunity. All I know is when I’m at his studio or anyone elses, I have to do my best… do justice to his confidence in me.
I pray for our relationship to grow. Not just because of the music or opportunities or anything else… but because I treasure our association, built on mutual respect and overall a sense of happiness in what we do.
Filmfare is one award most of the artists dream and you won filmfare award for your first song. How did you feel about it?
The first ever film magazine I read was in school… a Filmfare. Almost every kid of my generation has grown up around a filmfare magazine. Every year, I’d watch the Filmfare Awards… ogling at the red carpet, the stars going up on stage to collect their own Black Lady.
Little did I know that some years later, I’d be walking up those same steps. My 1st ever Filmfare award for my debut song. My family cant believe there is a Black Lady at home on a mantelpiece.
When my north Indian relatives or friends come home (people who don’t know about Magadheera or my song), they wonder if I got a duplicate Filmfare trophy made for myself!! Haha!
But then again, Keeravaani sir is the creator of this milestone. He brought me out of nowhere and guided me to that trophy and all other awards. I’m happy, lucky, blessed (and all other related words) to be living the dream.
You have also acted in movies like Hyderabad blues2, Anand and Maryaadaramanna. I see that you have not pursued your acting career as seriously as you pursued singing. Why?
Strangely enough, I started out trying to be an actor. I’ve been doing theatre (english plays) since 1999 when I was in college. Been a part of many theatre groups in the city. It was through theatre that I first fell in love with the stage, the world of entertainment.
I believe acting for cinema requires tremendous amount of personal discipline, something I’m still working on. Maybe I enjoy doing plays a lot more. But, open to good supporting roles in cinema. I am definitely limited to the north Indian characters but then it also depends on the director.
Working on my first film role with Nagesh Kukunoor was a great start! He is so brilliantly planned and organised.
The big break, of course, was Anand. Thanks to Sekhar Kammula! Anand changed my life back then in 2004. People still recognise me as Rahul. Making the film was as beautiful an experience as the film itself. And the chance to work with Sekhar and his team of Amigos in their early days. I still hope I get to work with him. His love for quality cinema and the story is so dedicated and motivating.
Unfortunately my pursuit for acting, after Anand, took a backseat due to some unforseen circumstances. I branched out into MC’ing, radio and other forms of entertainment, which I enjoyed again and achieved substantial success in.
It was a pleasant surprise to get a call from Rajamouli sir, after Magadheera. He wanted to know if I was interested in playing the north Indian character in his next film. There wasn’t a single reason to say no! The opportunity to work with a director of his stature doesn’t come by every day.
I spent a few days on that magnificent set, watching him at work.
What’s common between the three directors is that their passion for film-making spills onto the team, each one on their toes, working towards creating his vision into reality. There isnt anyone who is just doing a job. Everyone, including the light boys, makeup men, costume dept, are actually making a film! To be in the midst of that creative, passionate environment is a privilege.
Never count the minutes of on-screen time. The off-screen hours spent creating the film are much more valuable.
RJ, Singer, Actor, MC, Voice over artist. You are truly multi talented. Iam amazed and sometimes feel jealous for your talent. How do you manage yourselves?
I’d say don’t be jealous!
I’ve spent time wondering why I couldn’t play cricket as good as some of my schoolmates… why I wasn’t as good in mathematics or science as some of my college friends. But then I realised I’m born with a different set of skills & talents. It’s not something extraordinary. But it is what makes me unique. Just like your talents make you unique. We are all unique that way. The difference is… have you realised what you can do best? Or are you forcing yourself to be someone or do something you don’t really like!
If you love what you do, things will just fall into place. There wont be any extra effort needed to manage your work. I love each role of entertainment that I take up. I never feel the stress. I’m ready for work if someone calls me at 3am. The happiness that is a result of what I do is not limited by time, money or popularity.
People are usually distracted by the hype that surrounds our work in the movies. Our hard work is equal to that of someone in a bank or a construction site. It is just that the publicity, the attention, the fame surrounding our industry, gives everyone else the illusion of greatness.
Truth is… greatness is in doing great work. No matter what your field.
Ninnu Choodani is a blockbuster hit after Panchadaara Bomma. You are again back in reckoning and the song is being played by radio and TV stations alike. How do you feel about success of Ninnu Choodani?
As a kid, I watched Disney Hour on Doordarshan. Again, life comes around a full circle and makes me part of a Disney produced grand telugu film. The best part is there are four music directors in this film. Keervaani sir chose me to sing the one song he composed for the film, which in itself is such an honour.
Ninnu Choodani has been received well. This time again, Chandrabose garu comes up with beautiful lyrics like he did for Panchadara Bomma. It is a peppy foot-tapping number. Chaitra is an immensely talented singer.
The song was appreciated by Siddharth & Shruti too, who are hugely talented singers themselves. I met them at the audio launch. Siddharth has been praising the song on twitter as well.
Radio stations, media, film folk have called me personally to say good things about the song. I don’t know about blockbuster, but yes, it has been doing well across the telugu speaking world, which is always a great feeling. I have the satisfaction of having delivered another good product, thanks to Keeravaani sir.
I have been waiting to watch the film. Prakash (the director) has wowed everyone with the trailer itself. The 30sec clip I saw of the song (shot in Turkey), has been such a delight.
Eagerly awaiting the release on 14th Jan. I’m part of this film. Wow!
What is your career goal as a singer?
Like I said, I’m enjoying the process of being a singer. Each day brings a new learning. I am not running a race against anyone. Competition, if any, is only with myself. Can I better myself tomorrow?
My primary goal is to keep learning and enjoying the process creating/recording music. Everything else is a by-product of this process.
Would you want to share some of the memorable moments with us?
Each stage show has been uniquely memorable. I come alive on stage, dancing wild, jumping into the crowd, getting them on their feet, singing along with them. It’s where I am happiest! I go into a trance-of-sorts. The world fades away. It’s just me, the mic and the spotlight. It’s a high!
Also, almost every time I sing Panchadara Bomma, the audience asks for an encore! Kids come up on stage on their own to dance with me. The music of the song has that kind of magic over people.
Two of the most memorable moments:
1. Once during the last few songs of the gig, the energy had built up really well. The crowd mainly comprised of ex-army officers and their families. During the last couple of songs, there were these two ladies, aged atleast 80 each, who got up and started dancing with me. They danced with such enthusiasm for atleast 10-15mins. Hats off to their energy!
2. My USA tour in jan-feb 2010. Six months after Magadheera released, I was invited by the Telugu Association of North America (TANA) to perform in 5 cities across America. The shows were super successful. Initially people didn’t know what to expect from this north-Indian singer who just debuted with one hit telugu song. But, by the the time each show ended, it late into the night, every single person was on their feet, dancing away, cheering away. The love I got during my three weeks stay, from New York to California, will stay with me forever! I’m still connected with so many of them on facebook and twitter.
What is the best compliment you have received and from whom?
Haha! That came from Keeravaani sir! He was the guest at a corporate event where I was performing, with my usual dose of running and jumping around the stage and going wild with the audience. When he came up on stage to speak, he said, “I wish I could jump and dance like Anuj.” I doubt there is anything I would consider a bigger compliment!!
Sir enjoyed the performance of this singing boy he discovered. I’m happy!
Who is your favorite singer and your favorite songs?
Being north-Indian, I’ve grown up on the old melodies of Bollywood. My all-time idol is Kishore Kumar. His love for life… his love for music… for cinema… is a benchmark that not many have been to emulate.
Any of his songs are my favorite… although one song describes us Entertainers the best.
Musafir hoon yaaron. Na ghar hai na thikana.
Mujhe chalte jaana hai. Bas chalte jaana.
What are your future projects?
A few films lined up as of now. Big and small productions. Some exciting new music directors. Songs with Keeravaani sir too! Wait for the official news!
We wish you all the best and wish that Ninnu Choodani brings you another filmfare and of-course national award. All the best for your future.
Thank you so much! I’m sure the film is going to be brilliant. Let’s hope the song continues to do well.
by Brahma Mahesh
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