Close Encounter with Legendary Lyricist

Thanks to RJ Shiri and DJ (Damodhar) I have experienced close encounter with legendary lyricist Sirivennella Sitaramasastry (SSS), this weekend in Dallas.    It is no brainer that I have had an enlightening experience interacting with him, which is further fuelled by additional research that have I have done in last 48 hours to get more insight into SSS garu.  I have always been enthusiastic of high quality lyrics and aficionado of pure (swachhamaina) Telugu language.  However, this weekend rendezvous with SSS garu will change me forever, how I listen to the songs and further accelerate my appreciation of telugu songs with good “sahityam”.  Here is my weekend blog on my interactions with the legend, written on-board American Airlines, enroute to Philadelphia. I have included few snippets and snaps that I have captured with his permission, along with a tiny glimpse from the concert. Telugu literature enthusiasts and music aficionados who missed the event in Dallas, it’s “too bad” for them.  Rest of you can catch him in the town nearest to you.  It is one of a kind of a concert.

Here is the complete story:

When I landed in DFW on Jun 24th, I saw a FB note from RJ Shiri  “The BEST moment of my day!! And the Thrilling feeling ever!!! Sirivennala seetharama Sastri the renowned Telugu lyricist talked with me on the phone and said ” shiri all that you shared on the video and radio, how did you know about me so well amma. Shiri you are my daughter now”. Thanks a ton Damodhara Reddy Garu!!! I’m still feeling awed!!!”.Then I saw note from Shiri on Whatsapp pleading me and then threatening me on the phone to stop at her place for Dinner, before I head to hotel.  During that Dinner, I met Damodhar and we three discussed plans to meet SSS garu.   Shiri and I went to place where SSS garu staying at his cousin’s residence in Coppell.

As soon as we entered his residence, he wished Shiri and said ‘my daughter is here”.  He started chatting with us as if knew us a for a long time.  It was extremely endearing and humbling experience to see him see him so grounded.  He enquired about us in detail and listened attentively.   Shiri asked him several trivia questions and while trying hard not to be on cloud 9.Shiri asked him, who inspires him most. He said, “My father” and then his never-ending penchant for inquisitiveness. He said, being inquisitive and being questioning is his inspiration.   He discussed about his childhood and then recited a song.  I asked him which movie is the song from me.  He gave me a soft verbal slap and said, “how does it matter”.  Why do you need to associate a song with a tune and a visual from a movie?  He said, you would truly own the song as if it’s yours, only if you associate it with from external music and visuals from associated movie.  That was my “Buddha “moment.  I have realized that I used to pay attention to lyrics of a song only when I was listening on the radio, and more so it was when sung by someone at a party with no associated Karoke or soundtrack.

SSS garu said, each of his song has a built-in tune and visual.  No external help is needed.  In fact external entities (music and visuals) actually distort the intended meaning and experience that are you meant to have.  He talked about his two sons and his daughter.  Mrs. SSS garu also with him during our interaction, and intently listening to him.  She must have seen him repeating the same for thousands of times already.  But SSS garu was chatting as if this is first interaction after his first Nandi award.

I went back to the hotel that evening, and Googled on YouTube for all songs penned by SSS garu. I never paid attention to know to the author of my favorite songs for last 25 years.  I was shocked to see that over 90% of my favorite songs have been penned by SSS garu.  I felt happy and sad that I did not know all of this when I met him just few hours ago.  I called Shiri and said that I regret not knowing about him prior to meeting him, and wished that I can meet him.  Later that evening, I shared my experience in Whatsapp to my colleagues.  Prasanna replied back saying SSS is one of the 3 persons he is dying to meet in his life and said I would be his hero, if I can get one-on-one for him with SSS garu.  Raj and Ravi said, they both are die-hard fans of SSS garu.  I called Damodhar and requested him to set up another rendezvous with SSS garu.

We met SSS garu on Friday again.  As soon as we entered his house, “Hi Sai, how are you” as I am his long lost friend.  My colleagues were surprised and were in awe, to see how grounded he was.  We said, “Sorry for distributing you again”.  He said, “ I have all the time in the world, to spend time with you folks, unless you folks are in hurry”.  Next one hour with him was life-cherishing event for all of us.   He bantered with us on all possible topics, and recited his favorites and world’s favorite songs from Sirivennela, Chakram, Shiva, and more. We were humbled and thought what we achieved so far is so miniscule

He spoke in details about importance and nuances of appreciating good lyrics and sahityam. Later Prasanna had a one on one with him.  Raj joined and had an exclusive one on one with him.  He asked us to wait some more time, and came for a walk in the neighborhood.  He chatted with high levels of enthusiasm, and recited many verses.  Again stupidly we asked, “which movie is this song from”, and got a soft spat again in an affectionate way.  We were surprised to realize to that we were so ignorant of great lyrics that he has penned, due to distraction from music and visuals in the movies.

As we ended our conversation, he said, “Interaction with folks like you, make me want to come to Dallas more often”.  It is a flattering statement.  He said, “My interaction does not come FREE. You have to pay for it, by sharing your e-mail address to me, and being in touch with me”.

He talked about the website which is followed his enthusiasts where they discuss and analyze the philosophy embedded in his songs.  I went to the website, and savored in-depth interpretation of some of great songs that I have been adoring for decades now.  One of them is listed at the end of this blog.

Our final interaction was at the concert in Irving on Saturday.  It was a 3-hour event, where SSS garu discussed some of his and our favorite songs, while Partha and Sahiti beautifully rendered them.   We loved the fact that many of the songs he discussed at the concert, were the same as he rendered to us in our private session. We were shouting inside our hearts and looking at each other with a big grin, “Hey.. He already shared this to us yesterday”.  I loved Sahiti’s rendering of “Venu Madhava” song from Nenunnanu.  Entire audience cheered “Botany” songs from Shiva.  Entire audience immersed in heavenly bliss when Partha rendered “Vidhata Talapuna”.  I do not want to list all songs and ruin the surprise for those who are yet to attend his concert.  Most songs were rendered without Karoke and soundtrack, which further enhanced our listening experience

Few of the learnings from our interaction with him and songs that we followed during last few days:

  • His songs were always full of optimism, though few of tunes distorted and created perception as sad songs.  One such song is “Jagamantha Kutumbam”
  • He said, don’t give up life easily, fight for it
  • You have your sainyam “army” within you. Yeppudu otami ni oppukoku (“Never accept the defeat”.  Life is there to achieve something
  • Teacher gives an answer before a question. But life first question us then provides answers to us
  • …to be continued ….

I feel some of his songs definitely needs to be part of curriculum in our school books.  Instead of still focussing on Vemana poems, we need to teach young generation on how to interpret and appreciate good literature, and learn meaning of life from some of his songs.  Some of his songs can be used as great case studies and teacher can have students present their own interpretation as classic assignments.  The more I read about Jagamantha Kutumbum song, the more confused I get, and more enlightenment I would receive too.  It is so deep, so simple, and yet so philosophical.  Same with so many other songs.

Trivia I got from Wiki & Interviews on the net, which makes me relish my experience meeting with SSS garu:

  • Chembolu Sirivennela Sitaramasastri is born on 20 May 1955
  •  He won the Nandi Award for Best Lyricist 10 times and Filmfare Award for Best Lyricist – Telugu 3 times.
  • Sita Rama Sastri debuted with writing songs for K. Viswanath’s Sirivennela. The songs in the movie were so phenomenally popular that the name of this movie got tagged to his given name. The songs of this movie are wonderful and rich in meaning that each of the songs is remembered to this day as landmarks in Telugu film-music. A particular highlight of the movie is the song “Vidhata Thalapuna”, sung by S. P. Balasubrahmanyam and P. Susheela. The song is about Aum, the most sacred syllable in Hinduism, from which the Veda traditions originated.
  • One of my own all time favorite song is Adibhikshuvu Vadinedi Koredhi andEe gali Ee Nela. The songs and their lyrics became hugely popular with Sastry, subsequently winning his first Nandi Award for Best Lyricist for the song “Aadi Bhikshuvu”. He won Nandi Award for his first film itself, which was an unprecedented and never again record
  • He also made record by winning hat-trick Nandi Awards in 1986, 1987 and 1988 and became the first one to do so.
  • His next major breakthrough was “Rudraveena“. The lyrics for songs like “Tarali raada”, said to have inspired many people.
  • His lyrics for the film “Gaayam” were considered as a path breaking effort and gained him, his fourth Nandi Award for Best Lyricist for the song “Surajyamavaleni”, in 1993.
  • He won his fifth and sixth Nandi Award for Best Lyricist for the films “Shuba Lagnam” and “Srikaram” respectively
  • His next venture was “Ninne Pelladatha“, in which he was the single card lyricist. All songs were big hits, both lyrically and musically
  • His lyrics got extremely positive reception and won him his seventh and eighth Nandi Award for Best Lyricist for the songs “Ardha Shatabdapu” (Sindhooram) and “Devudu Karunistadani” (Prema Katha).
  • “Jagamantha Kutumbam” (Chakram) got exceptional reception with “Aakasam Thakela” winning him, his first Filmfare Award for Best Lyricist – Telugu and “Jagamantha Kutumbam” winning him his ninth Nandi Award for Best Lyricist.
  • “Entha Varaku” from “Gamyam” is often described as one of his best works and won him his tenth Nandi Award for Best Lyricist and third Filmfare Award for Best Lyricist – Telugu (the second Filmfare Award for Best Lyricist – Telugu is for “Indiramma” from Mahatma
  • He is considered as one of the greatest lyricist in Telugu Film Industry and is often regarded as next best to “Aatreya“, who is considered as the best ever Telugu Film Lyricist.

To know more about SSS garu, I encourage you to read his interview, which easily may take about 2 hours to savor all the details.  I felt his story makes a great case for  a great movie to be made in future.  If you just have 7 minutes, I would encourage you to watch Director Trivikram’s ode to SSS garu.

Translation of Vidhatha Talupna Song is listed below.   The more I read it, the more immersive experience I am getting, and further getting lost in divine experience 

In the thoughts of the creator the ancient living veda has born..omm
The earliest salutable hymn that has enabled senses to the human nerves..omm
The representation(exhibition) of vishwarupa that has reflected in the ponds of eyes…omm
The Brahma’s song that has reverberated around the mountains of heart…aaa
This is the gist of sama veda, which is like the movement of angels
The life song that I am going to sing…this song

I re-wrote this poem By becoming Brahma him self …
I made you hear(sang) this song By becoming a bird …

On the flute of Eastern side and on the strings of morning sun…
becoming the sounds of woken up birds on the stage of blue skies..
when the rythm of that spelt twitter sound has become the initiator of world..
By making it the holy message of universal act..

I re-wrote this poem By becoming Brahma him self …
I made you hear(sang) this song By becoming a bird … 

The waves of living sounds that will speak out of every infant that is born..
The sounds of a heart that are like Mrudanga’s sounds when the heart is responding to an emotion (chetana)
By making those earliest tunes on the adi tala as the eternal life saga..
That ever going natural(creation) process …
I re-wrote this poem By becoming Brahma him self …
I made you hear(sang) this song By becoming a bird …

 My Inhalation is the poem..
My Exhalation is the song..



With Prasanna and Ravi

With Prasanna and Ravi

With me and Prasanna
With me and Prasanna
With Raj Neravati
With Raj Neravati
With Cigniti Team
With Cigniti Team
With Cigniti Team
With Cigniti Team
Mr & Mrs. Sirivennella
Mr & Mrs. Sirivennella
Mr & Mrs. Sirivennella
Mr & Mrs. Sirivennella
Mr & Mrs. Sirivennela
Mr & Mrs. Sirivennela
Super Singer Partha Garu
Super Singer Partha Garu
Super Singers Partha & Sahithi
Super Singers Partha & Sahithi
Shiri receiving the award from the Legend
Shiri receiving the award from the Legend
Shiri and her parents @ concert
Shiri and her parents @ concert

Shiri with Sirivennela Garu
Shiri with Mr and Mrs. Sirivennela Family


One of the photos from this blog has been picked up and published in this article – Update from Jan 2022

Sirivennela Seetharama Sastry: సిరివెన్నెల సీతారామశాస్త్రి గారి రేర్ అండ్ అన్ సీన్ పిక్స్ వైరల్..!

5 thoughts on “Close Encounter with Legendary Lyricist

  1. Sai, Don’t know how but it happened to read on my birthday, today.
    Thanks a lot. This is a nice gift.
    I really liked the translation at the end. Though I know the complete lyrics of song in Telugu I don’t know the meaning of some words. This translation helped me


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