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Salur Rajeswara Rao(10 October 1922 – 25 October 1999)

Salur Rajeswara Rao (10 October 1922 – 25 October 1999) was a composer of musical scores for South Indian films for over half a century. He also sang, and played the harmonium.

He was born in the village of Sivaramapuram, near Salur in Vizianagaram district (formerly Srikakulam district), Andhra Pradesh, India. His father, Sanyasi Raju, was a famous mridangam player at concerts performed by Dwaram Venkataswamy Naidu and also a lyricist.

Early career

Rao's introduction to cinema came unexpectedly, in the form of Mr. Huchins' (of the Huchins Recording Company) visit to Rao's home district of Vizianagaram in 1934. A child prodigy, Rao could identify the Carnatic music ragams at age four; by the time he was seven, he was giving stage performances. Huchins spotted young Rajeswara Rao's talent, and took him to Bangalore with his father; there, young Rao recorded "Bhagawat Gita". Film producers P.V.Das and Gudavalli Ramabramham visited Bangalore and, impressed by Rao's singing ability, brought him to Madras. They cast him as Lord Krishna in their production of Sri Krishna Leelalu in 1934. The film was released the next year (1935) and Rajeshwara Rao became a household name all over Andhra Pradesh. He played the role of Abhimanyu in Maya Bazaar (1936).

Rao went to Calcutta to act in Keechaka Vadha, and met such stalwarts as Kundan Lal Saigal and Pankaj Mullick.He became a disciple of Saigal and studied Hindustani music for a year, learning to play the sitar and surbahar. Rao had already mastered playing the tabla, dholak, and miridangam; later instruments were piano, harmonium, mandolin and electric guitar. He learned orchestration, and how to mix the sounds of different instruments.

Music director

Returning to Madras in 1938, Rao formed his own music troupe. He worked as assistant to Jayaramayyar for a Tamil film, Vishnuleela, in which he also played the role of Balarama and sang his own songs. He became a full-fledged music director on the film Jayaprada. He continued acting in Bala Nagamma and Illalu (in which he played opposite his singing partner, Raavu Balasaraswathi).

When Rao entered the industry, there was no playback system. The actors sang and acted at the same time as the orchestra played in the background, unseen by the camera. While he was making Illalu, the playback system became popular.

In his records, Rao pioneered the use of light music in Telugu cinema; "Thummeda Oka saari", "Kopamela Radha", "Podarintilona", "Rave Rave Koyila", "Challa Gaalilo" and "Paata Paduma Krishna" were all written by his father. Through Rao, these songs set a trend of using light music in Telugu films.

Rao's most rewarding assignments came from Gemini Studios, which he joined in 1940 and with which he remained for a decade. After leaving Gemini, he received an offer to provide music for B.N.Reddy's "Malleeswari" in 1950; the song was a hit. "Vipranarayana", "Missamma" and a host of other musical hits – more than a hundred in Telugu and Tamil and a few in Kannada – followed. When Vijaya's Missamma (originally a Telugu film) was remade as Miss Mary in Hindi, Hemant Kumar provided the music. He changed all the songs except one, "Brindavanamadi Andaridi" – which Hemantha liked so much that he received permission to retain it in the Hindi version (an instance of one master's tribute to another).

Among the classical ragas, Rao liked "Bhimplas (Abheri)", "Sindhu Bhairavi", "Kafi", "Kalyani", "Pahad" and "Malkauns (Hindolam)", which he used most frequently in his songs.

His two assistants (for over four decades), Rajagopal and Krishnan – both well-versed in classical music – were an asset to him.


Saluri Rajeswara Rao's elder brother, Saluri Hanumantha Rao, was a music director in the Kannada and Telugu film industry.

Rao was married to Rajeswari Devi; the couple had five sons and four daughters. His eldest son, Saluri Ramalingeswara Rao, was a piano and electric-organ player in South India. His second son, Saluri Poornachandra Rao, was a guitarist. His third and fourth sons, Saluri Vasu Rao and Saluri Koteswara Rao (Koti), are also music directors in the Telugu film industry. Rao's youngest son, Saluri Koti Durga Prasad, is not associated with the film industry.


* Honorary doctorate Kalaprapoorna in 1979 by Andhra University.
* Appointed Asthana Vidwan by Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams, during which time he composed music for Annamacharya Keerthanas.
* Kalaimaamani-award winner from Tamil Nadu Iyal Isai Nataka Mandram
* Raghupathi Venkaiah Award from the Andhra Pradesh government, for his outstanding contribution to Telugu cinema in 1992


Rao visited the United States of America in 1981, performing at the Telugu Association of North America conference and the Telugu Literary and Cultural Association (TLCA).

Film credits

Film Language Function
1935 Sri Krishna Leelalu Telugu Actor
1936 Maya Bazaar Actor
1939 Jayaprada Telugu Actor
1940 Illalu Telugu Actor
1941 Apavadu Telugu
1942 Bala Nagamma Telugu Music director
1943 Chenchu Lakshmi Telugu
1944 Bhishma Telugu
1945 Paduka Pattabhishekam Telugu
1947 Miss Malini Tamil
1947 Ratna Mala
1948 Chandralekha Tamil
1948 Vindya Rani Telugu Music director
1950 Aahuti Telugu
1950 Apurva Sahodarulu Telugu
1951 Malleswari Telugu Music director
1951 Mangala
1951 Navvite Navaratnalu Telugu
1952 Priyuralu Telugu
1953 Manampol Mangalyam Tamil Music director
1953 Pempudu Koduku Telugu
1954 Raju Peda Telugu
1954 Vipra Narayana Telugu Music director
1954 Kudumbam Tamil Music director
1955 Missamma Telugu Music director
1955 Missiamma Tamil Music director
1956 Bhale Ramudu Telugu
1956 Bale Raman Tamil Music director
1956 Charana Dasi Telugu
1957 Maya Bazaar Telugu Music director
1957 Maya Bajaar Tamil Music director
1958 Chenchu Lakshmi Telugu Music director
1958 Chenchu Lakshmi Tamil Music director
1958 Kadan Vangi Kalyanam Tamil Music director
1959 Appu Chesi Pappu Koodu Telugu Music director
1961 Bhakta Jayadeva Telugu Music director
1961 ddaru Mitrulu Telugu
1961 Bharya Bharthalu Telugu Music director
1962 Aradhana Telugu Music director
1962 Bhishma Telugu Music director
1963 Chaduvukunna Ammayilu Telugu Music director
1964 Amara Shilpi Jakkana Telugu
1964 Bobbili Yuddham Telugu Music director
1964 Desa Drohulu Telugu
1964 Doctor Chakravarti Telugu Music director
1964 Mairavana
1964 Manchi Manishi Telugu
1964 Puja Phalam Telugu
1965 Dorikite Dongalu Telugu
1966 Aatma Gowravam Telugu
1966 Chilaka Gorinka Telugu
1966 Palnati Yudham Telugu
1966 Sangita Lakshmi Telugu
1967 Bhakta Prahlada
1967 Pula Rangadu Telugu
1967 Vasanta Sena
1968 Bangaru Panjaram Telugu
1969 Aatmiyulu Telugu
1969 Aadarsa Kutumbam Telugu
1970 Chitti Chellelu Telugu
1971 Pavitra Bandham Telugu
1971 Amayakuralu Telugu
1972 Bala Bharatam Telugu
1972 Kalam Marindi Telugu
1973 Neramu Siksha Telugu
1975 Yashoda Krishna Telugu
1976 Chakradhari Telugu
1977 Kurukshetram Telugu
1977 Radhakrishna Telugu
1986 andra Paparayudu Telugu


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Private & Folk Songs