Morning Raga

Morning Raga is an Indian film with most of the dialogue in English, released in 2004. It was directed by Mahesh Dattani and starred Hindi actresses Shabana Azmi and Perizaad Zorabian, and Telugu actor Prakash Kovelamudi. The film is unusual for its understated acting and extensive use of English, albeit with a generous smattering of Godavari Telugu.[1] Prasad Devineni and Shobu Yarlagadda of Arka Media Works were Line producers for the movie.

Morning Raga
Morning Raga - 2004 Movie Poster.jpg
DVD cover
Directed byMahesh Dattani
Produced byK. Raghavendra Rao
Written byMahesh Dattani
StarringShabana Azmi
Prakash Kovelamudi
Perizaad Zorabian
Lillete Dubey
Nikhil Tummalapalli
Sanjay Swaroop, Ranjani Ramakrishnan
Music byMani Sharma / Amit Heri
CinematographyRajiv Menon
Edited byA. Sreekar Prasad
Release date
  • 29 October 2004 (2004-10-29)
Running time
110 minutes (U.S.)

The film focuses on three main characters - all Telugu - whose lives have each been ruined by past tragedies and how they are united by circumstance. These three are all connected by a love of music, and through this the film explores elements of classical Indian Carnatic music, the raga, and contemporary Indian music.


The story is set deep in the Andhra Pradesh countryside, in the West Godavari. Swarnalata (Shabana Azmi) is a classically trained Carnatic singer who lost her son and best friend, Vaishnavi ( Ranjani Ramakrishnan ) in a bus accident. The story reopens after a period of 20 years, when Vaishnavi's son, Abhinay (Prakash Kovelamudi)plans to leave his business of composing jingles with a desire to start a music troupe to compose an everlasting music just like the Charminar, and with these plans returns to his home in his village. His plan irks his father Nassar who wants him to look after the ancestral lands in the village. On the day of Death Anniversary of Vaishnavi, Abhinay spots Swarnalatha, and hears her song "Pibare Ramarasam" in the temple. When Swarnalatha leaves the temple, Abhinay stops her, saying, "you knew my mother" and follows her. The duo reach the bridge when a car comes and hits Abhinay, and the car was being driven by Pinky (Perizaad Zorabian). Swarnalatha screams and reaches her home, with the 20 years old guilt in her mind that her one step on the bridge caused the accident. Here, the Car gets some glitch and Pinky is compelled to stay for the night in the village. Next morning both Abhinay and Pinky set for Hyderabad to seek the perfect artists for the proposed troop, and they get a guitarist and a drummer Balaji Shaleen Sharma. All land up at Pinky's boutique whose environment irritates Abhinay but somehow Pinky consoles him and the practices start, with a few opportunities coming up their way, but their rock-band does not receive the respect as Abhinay had expected. After a few days Abhinay receives the violin his mother used to play when she was alive. He returns to the village to return the violin to Swarnalatha, saying that both her voice and the sound of the violin are complementary to each other and one cannot exist without one another, and invites her to sing with their troop, for which she refuses saying that she won't come to the village and returns the violin. Swarnalatha's husband asks him to bring his troop to the house on Ganesh Chaturthi day. The troop arrives on the said date and Swarnalatha starts singing "Mahaganapathi Manasa Smarami", but stops in between and sings the sophisticated sargam of the song, for which no compatible music could be played. That evening Abhinay again compels Swarnalatha to sing in the city, but she again refuses, and Abhinay ends the communication with the note that She owes him a lot as he is her best friend's son, after all. Next morning Abhinay's father expresses his dislike in his son's musical career in front of Swarnalatha, and at the same time Swarnalatha agrees to sing for Abhinay in the city. She starts from her house with her husband. On the way their car breaks down and they are forced to take the bus, which crosses the bridge. Swarnalatha starts screaming, stops the bus and starts running and falls ill. Both return to home and her husband reports that she cannot come for singing. Next day Swarnalatha personally calls pinky and asks her to learn Carnatic Music. Pinky learns carnatic music from Swarnalatha. After a few days Abhinay plans a concert, though for Pinky to sing but always urges Swarnalatha to come for singing, but she continues to express her reluctance because she considers the bridge as a punishment for her ambitions. One day, while driving, Pinky gets irked at the repetitive reluctance of Swarnalatha, and speeds up the car and crosses the bridge, and Swarna starts screaming, "Stop the car! We all are going to die". Finally Pinky stops the car and reveals that her father was drunk and was responsible for the accident. The film ends with the concert in which Swarnalatha appears and sings "Thaaye Yashoda" on repeated urging from Pinky, and the concert becomes a 10-week hit.

A side plot involving Pinky and her city slicker mother (Lillete Dubey) and the villager Appa Rao(Dharmavarapu Subramanyam) with his buffalo Annapoorna add comedy into an otherwise serious and thoughtful film. The film was photographed by Rajiv Menon and edited by A. Sreekar Prasad. Music was composed by Mani Sharma.



Shabana Azmi was trained intensively in Carnatic music by Ranjani Ramakrishnan before she was allowed to sing during the film.[2] The house used for her character's home is a historic zamindar country mansion and estate near the West Godavari village of Kulla.


The film received mixed reviews, although the actors generally earned praise for their portrayals.[3]

One film critic wrote that, "Morning Raga is one of the most innovative and fresh films to come out of India in recent years". Others criticized it for having a mangled storyline that was as contrived as the rock-layered carnatic soundtrack.


Tr. # Track name Artist(s)
1 "Mahaganapatim" Bombay Jayashree
2 "Thaye Yashoda" Sudha Ragunathan
Ranjani Ramakrishnan
3 "Mathey" Sudha Raghunathan
Kalyani Menon
4 "Pibare Ramarasam" Kalyani Menon
5 "Samaja Varagamana" Gayathri
6 "Todi Alaap" Kalyani Menon
7 "Remembering His Violin" Gayathri
8 "City Interlude" Instrumental
9 "Alaap Jam" Nandini Srikar
10 "Coffee Shop Montage" Sunitha Sarathy
11 "Charminar" Veena
Rajesh Vaidya
12 "The Chase" Gayathri
13 "Jagado Dharana" Bombay Jayashree
Nandini Srikar
14 "Mahaganapatim Jam" Bombay Jayashree


  1. ^ Ramnarayan, Gowri (31 October 2004). "Music as a metaphor". The Hindu.
  2. ^ Mahesh, Chitra. "Morning Raga". The Hindu.
  3. ^ Sen, Raja (28 October 2004). "Not a very good morning!". Rediff.

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