Here’s an engineer who makes music (Mano Murthy)

Published: Monday, Jan 31, 2011, 12:17 am IST
By G S KUMAR | Place: Bangalore | Agency: TNN; Times of India

Mano Murthy
It was December-end 2005. Music director Mano Murthy was getting ready to leave for the US. Suddenly, he got a call from director Yograj Bhat, who wanted to know whether Mano Murthy was ready to direct the music for his next movie, which he wanted to shoot with fresh faces. The soft-spoken music director told Bhat he would contact him after landing in the US. Promptly, Bhat got a call and for nearly eight months, tunes and lyrics were tossed about in discussions over phone and email.

The movie was Mungaru Male. While Bhat was busy shooting, Mano Murthy worked on the music. It was only during the re-recording stage that Bhat and Murthy met, and finetuned the music. Not even during the pre-release screening did anyone dream that Mungaru Male would be a trendsetter in Sandalwood. The rest is history.

While Yograj Bhat emerged as a director with a vision, Mano Murthy gave a new lease of life to the Kannada film industry with his excellent tunes.

Though settled in the US with his wife Lata Murthy, son Nevin and daughter Sonia, Mano visits Bangalore regularly for his music assignments. "I am not alien to Bangalore. I was born in KC General Hospital on January 13. I spent my life in Malleswaram till I completed engineering from UVCE.''

A visit to `Ashirvad', Mano Murthy's home in Sadashivanagar, gives a glimpse of his life and achievements. He stays on the first floor, while his 84-year old father Dr Y N Sathya Murthy, who was personal physician to the late Jayachamarajendra Wadiyar for two years, resides on the ground floor.

As you enter Mano Murthy's chamber, a huge painting hanging prominently on the wall catches the eye. It is done by his wife, Lata. The showcase is full of trophies and awards he has bagged, with a Filmfare trophy finding pride of place.

Mano Murthy did his schooling at Cluny Convent in Malleswaram, then joined St Joseph's Middle and High School, followed by National College, Basavanagudi, where he did PCM and joined UVCE to complete electrical engineering.

Mano was not a silent boy in his schooldays, and was quite intelligent in studies. "I had no patience to listen to the lessons. I enjoyed making strange noises in class and was often sent out often for mischief. I had a teacher called Ms Golmes in Cluny Convent. She liked me a lot. One day, when I wasn't paying attention, she took me to her room and locked me up. My grandfather, who picked me up from school, was surprised when he didn't find me and asked Ms Golmes about my whereabouts. The shocked Ms Golmes rushed to her room and released me, with sincere apologies to my grandfather. She had completely forgotten that she had locked me up for nearly five hours. She was very apologetic."


Mano had great interest in music right from his childhood. After getting admission into UVCE, Mano's father bought him a set of drums. "I started a band troupe called Sonics, and we performed at college functions. The lessons were self-taught."

His interest in music was so intense that whenever his parents took him to weddings, he would stand before the orchestra troupe, return home and play on tin boxes or table tops. "Listening to film music on Binaca Geeth Mala and Radio Ceylon was part of my life when young. That also inspired me to take to music."

A Hindi movie buff, Mano never missed a single Hindi movie in Majestic area. "As I was doing electrical engineering, we used to have boring drawing classes every morning. Class would get over by 10 am, after which we would bunk the next one and go to the movies. My all-time favourite star is Dev Anand. I have seen Jewel Thief and Guide more than 25 times. In fact, I want to have a photograph taken with him, and am trying to contact him through a friend."

Mano's date with Sandalwood began in 1996 when director Nagathihalli Chandrasekhar was in the US to screen one of his movies. He was also looking for new faces for his next venture, America America. "I met him and showed him some of my music albums and played some scratch tunes. He was impressed and asked me to work for America America. It was a big hit. Later, I did the music for `Nanna Preethiya Hudugi...' and `Car Car...' became a household song. In 2003, I produced `Preethi Prema Pranaya'. I never will produce a movie again."

Mano has directed the music for 23 movies so far, which include Milana, Cheluvina Chithara, Geleya and Ee Bandhana. The music of Pancharangi, directed by Yograj Bhat, is recorded on Latin instruments. Mano has a handful of films in hand, which include Life Ishtene, Parijatha and Mr Duplicate. He bagged the Filmfare award for Mungaru Male and Milana.


His better half, Lata, is a painter. They married in December 1979 in Malleswaram. "My grandfather and Lata's uncle were very close friends. He had told her uncle about me and asked them to meet me along with Lata. It was a casual visit with no intention of a wedding proposal. When they came home, I took Lata to Lalbagh and while returning home, asked if she was ready to marry me. She was shocked. Later, we told our parents."

Lata, an MBA graduate, has taken up painting as a hobby. She is also an expert in pottery and ceramic works. "One thing I appreciate in Lata is that she gives away paintings as gifts to anyone who appreciates the art. We have a collection of around 20 paintings at home. After composing music for Anisuthide and Mungaru Male, I made Lata listen to the tunes. I was wondering who was the best person to sing the songs, and Lata suggested Sonu Nigam's name."

Whenever Mano Murthy returns to the US, he carries a big bag of condiments, which include happala, sandige, raagi flour, hurigaalu and Dharwad pedha. "My wife insists that I bring these items from Subbamma's shop in Basavanagudi.''

For those who want to know more, Mano Murthy's full name is Manohar Murthy. "When I went to the US in 1982, I cut out `har' to make it easy for the Americans to pronounce my name. But despite that, they call me Mono or Myano!"


For me, music is synonymous with melody and is divine. It can bring back memories vividly. It is the best therapy for a healthy life. I consider it my life.

FOOD: Masala dosa, biryani, rajma and avarekayi saaru

PLACE: Mysore and Italy

FILMS: Jewel Thief and Guide

SINGERS: Lata Mangeshkar, Asha, Kishore Kumar, Rafi, Pt Shivakumar Sharma (santoor) and Zakir Hussain

POP GROUPS: Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, America