HYDERABAD: Although we have triumphantly entered 2017 and have fancied three back to back most anticipated releases, we are still in the hangover of the songs from the previous year. Making us revisit those crazy, euphonious, lyrical beauties is Manisha Eerabathini, from the melting pot of cultures. Her recent mashup of 2016 Tollywood hits, which has reaped nearly 1,71,592 views is proof enough that the year was truly a filmy year. As soon as the video opens, we hear this 25 year old, beautiful girl sing ‘It’s a crazy crazy feeling,’ provoking our reflexes and senses to groove instantly, followed by Nanaku Prematho.

Speaking about the inception, this major from University of California says, “In December, a couple of people from my college did an a cappella mashup of eight English songs in 2016. I immediately thought this would be super cool to do with Telugu songs. But I didn’t want to do an a cappella version. I wanted it to all sound like one song that you can listen to while driving. I wanted it to be a dynamic song with as many songs as possible but still sounding like one.

I immediately searched Google, wrote down a list of almost 75 Telugu songs that I loved in 2016. With a rough idea in my mind, I went to composer Karthik Rodriguez with this list and explained my vision to him. We got to work and he finished half the programming in that first meeting. Karthik was also a participant in Padutha Theeyaga many years ago and he attended AR Rahman’s music school. Since then, he has been composing for movies and other projects. He did the music for Niharika Konidela’s popular web series, Muddapappu Avvakai.

“I went to director, Harish Nagaraj, a short film director in the industry. I had previously done a web series episode with him called Coffee Shop Love Stories (Episode 4). A fan of his vision and direction, I immediately asked him to direct our video. After recording the song, along with Cinemacitivty and Creative Snapix, we shot the video in three hours on a random Tuesday night. We had the track mixed and mastered by Ishit Kuberkar, a sound engineer based in Chennai and we had our video edited by Sai Krishna. This was all done in a bit over 10 days – from the idea to the final release,” she adds about the making of the video.

Manisha Eerabathini is a Hanumakonda born, US-raised girl majored in electrical and software engineering. “I moved to the US with my parents when I was five months old. My father, Manohar Eerabathini, is a senior director at a tech company in San Francisco, California. My mother, Madhavi , was a software engineer when I was young. She recently worked as an elementary school teacher until she came to India with me. My younger brother, Manosai, works as a project manager at Vevo in San Francisco as well. I did all my schooling in Bay Area in California,” she informs about her.

Her parents had keen interest in Indian fine arts and thus got her enrolled in Carnatic and Bharatanatyam classes at a young age. Eventually, both the art forms grew on her and she continued to take classes out of her own interest. “In the US, I learned Carnatic vocal music from Jayashree Varadarajan. During my third year of college, my dad informed me about the auditions going on for ETV’s Padutha Theeyaga US show, hosted by SP Balasubramanyam. I recorded a video, posted it on YouTube as my audition and didn’t hear back until a year later. In 2013, I got selected for their first ever US series. A couple weeks later, the shoot schedule began and lasted for six weeks.”

She continues, “I was doing a software engineering internship at the time so I would work from Monday-Thursday, fly to the next location in America, attend rehearsals on Friday and shoot the episodes on Saturday and Sunday. Despite it being a hectic schedule, I learned a lot from SPB and the entire team and eventually, I became a finalist! It essentially changed my life – if it weren’t for Padutha Theeyaga, I wouldn’t be here in India. I would probably be in America working as a software engineer at a tech company in San Francisco,” she beams with joy.

She graduated from college in 2014 and stopped interviewing for companies and decided to come to India to test out the industry and see how it goes. “Late 2014, I came to India and ever since then, I have been singing in South Indian movies and working on my own projects. I also currently learn Carnatic vocal music from Sreenidhi Venkatesh. My first film song was in Kannada and released in 2015 – Barbie Dolly from the movie Red Alert, music by Ravivarma. My first Telugu song was Alare Aa from Soukhyam. Anup Rubens encouraged me and gave me this opportunity.

Other prominent songs include Saturday Night Fever in Nani’s Gentleman, music by Mani Sharma and Lakshmi Bomb, music by Sunil Kashyap. “My most recent release is from Nani’s Nenu Local, Arere Ekkada – music by Devi Sri Prasad. So far, I have sung almost 15 movie songs and worked on many more projects,” she informs. Thanks to her dad for introducing her to Telugu classic songs. It evoked attentiveness in her towards it. Later she discovered YouTube in her high school when she started listening on her own. “I remember one of the first songs I discovered on my own was Vintunnaava from Ye Maaya Chesaave and I immediately fell in love,” she quips.

Her future projects include a few movie songs that will release soon, including one by MM Keeravani. “I am juggling between a couple of ideas for my personal projects. I have always loved mashups though – when I was in college, I was on a competitive a cappella team called Berkeley Dil Se and we used to always sing Hindi and English mashups, so I have worked on them for many years now,” she concludes.

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