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Nithyasree chats with srinivas

`Music has a spiritual quality'

It was after "Oo la la la" which won a lot of accolades — Srinivas


Resplendent in a deep pink pattu sari, Nithyasree Mahadevan's eyes light up when she talks about her legendary grandmother, D. K. Pattammal, in a business room at the Chola Sheraton. "Music is keeping her young. She looks frail and tired only till her students arrive. Then she's a totally different person. Even now, she teaches complex Dikshitar kritis with the same alertness as she did 10 years ago." Then Srinivas arrives, all set for Take Two. The song "Minsara Poove" from the Rajnikanth-starrer "Padayappa" is the common factor between the two artistes. Nithyasree's playback debut song "Kannodu Kanbadhellam" is said to have captured the heart of Sachin Tendulkar. Srinivas is a name to reckon with in playback singing, having rendered over 550 songs in all the South Indian languages and Hindi. He recently turned composer. The two artistes exchange notes about their respective careers. Savitha Gautam records their tête-à-tête.

Srinivas: So, have you taken a holiday recently?

Nithyasree: No. We (my husband and I) hardly find the time. Anyway, I travel so much that every time I visit some country, I do some sightseeing. What about you?

Srinivas: I take off now and then with my kids. Tell me, being a classical singer, do you feel it is important to be a playback singer?

Nithyasree: I think it is important for me. Why? Because playback singing is challenging. You have to keep in mind so many aspects — the actress, the situation and the audience. Most important, I enjoy playback singing. What about you? You were working when you decided to become a playback singer. How did you manage?

Srinivas: Here I must thank my wife, who stood by me. I can say with confidence that she is my first rasika.

Nithyasree: But at what point did you decide to give up your job and take up singing as a profession?

Srinivas: It was after "Oo la la la" from "Minsara Kanavu" that I won a lot of accolades. I took the plunge after that. I must thank A. R. Rahman for that. What was it like working with him?

Nithyasree: Great. I remember I got a call one evening asking me to go to his studio. I had no clue why. Anyway, we went there. After about 10 minutes, Rahman came out, gave me the lyric, told me I had to sing it, and disappeared. I was quite scared. After a while, he came back and asked me to sing it in five or six different styles, occasionally asking me to change a note here and there. Then the song was recorded, without any background score. I realised how good it was only after I heard it later. What about your experience?

Srinivas: I too think he's simply great. Most important, he gives his artistes a lot of freedom to experiment. And he's the one who set the trend of introducing new singers.

Nithyasree: True. In fact, it is thanks to him I got a chance to sing with Lata Mangeshkar. I cherish that moment. Tell me, how do you exercise your vocal cords?

Srinivas: I usually sing the notes; I try sustaining them for as long as I can. Actually, I just sing, be it a ghazal or a song or just a raga. In fact, that's how I started composing. Some tunes would come to mind and I would improve on them. (He has two Malayalam films on hand as composer) I have always wanted to ask you. How does it feel to be the granddaughter of a legend?

Nithyasree: Great. I am very proud of my lineage. D. K. Pattammal on one side and mridangam vidwan Palghat Mani on the other.

Srinivas: A great combination of melody and rhythm!

Nithyasree: (smiles) Yes. But there was pressure too. You have to live up to a certain standard. So, I was being observed carefully. But things have changed now.

Srinivas: Coming back to films, what's your opinion on the trend of importing talent from Mumbai?

Nithyasree: To be honest, not too good. They are not able to get the accent right and that hurts the ear, especially in music.

Srinivas: I completely agree with you. I think there is no melody in films today. It is all dance-oriented. I think melody must come back. At least one melodious number is needed in every film.

Nithyasree: Also, thought-provoking lyrics are not heard too often these days. I too feel a little more importance should be given to melody rather than rhythm. See those time-tested classics. They are still fresh in our memory. Will the songs of today be heard 40 years later, one wonders.

Srinivas: I think they will still listen to the songs of the 1960s and the 1970s. See the remix scene. Finally everybody is listening to remixed R.D. Burman numbers. Today, I think people want a hit for just two months.

Nithyasree: You can't blame anyone. There are so many factors involved while making a film — money, audience preference, etc. Srinivas, are your daughters musically inclined?

Srinivas: The elder one surely is. The younger one has not shown too much interest as yet. I think they have to make their own decisions.

Nithyasree: Are you a spiritual person?

Srinivas: (Thinks for a moment) I used to be 15 years ago. I am not into rituals and all that. But I believe in a higher force. And you?

Nithyasree: I too am not ritualistic. But I like to read books on spirituality. I find fulfilment in music. Music is, by itself, a spiritual experience. It helps you cope with anger or depression. It lifts your spirits and makes you happy.

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