Sharing a common platform
Tamil we speak at home in Delhi is completely different from Chennai dialect -MATHANGI
My mom tells me I could identify ragas from the age of two-and-a-half years -MAHATHI
PHOTO: M. MOORTHY
If Western music helped Mathangi find a place in film industry, it was a Carnatic krithi that fetched Mahathi the debut performance. Their singing career began with music directors of entirely different genres. But the dissimilarities end there. From their rhyming names to successes in anchoring shows on television and consistency in rolling out melody, they share much in common. With warmth, Mahathi and Mathangi step into camaraderie talking about training, career, music and life, as S. AISHWARYA tunes in.
Mathangi: Did you notice? We both are sporting the same shade of blue.
Mahathi: I know. It looks as if we have choreographed it for photo sake [giggles]. I suppose singing wasn’t on the agenda for you initially.
Mathangi: Singing was an accident for me. I was into ad films when Deva sir was looking out for a new voice for his movie ‘Chocolate.’ Film music was alien to me. Though I was trained in Carnatic and bit of Hindustani, opting for films didn’t sound a great idea to me initially. Yet, I tried and luckily, it worked. It must have been easy for you, hailing from musical family.
Mahathi: For me it was more of a systematic training right from my childhood days. My mother was a flautist and the whole family was into Carnatic music in some way or the other. My mom tells me I could identify ragas from the age of two-and-a-half years. My repertoire of ragas increased constantly and my mom initiated me into formal training under Padmabushan T. N. Seshgopalan. I used to lend my voice for Christian choirs in schools.
Mathangi: They must have kept you quite busy. But how did you land in films?
Mahathi: My mom took me to a December music season. It was a concert of Mandolin Srinivas. I’ve been singing Madyamavathi raga at the end of my kucheris. So when Srinivas played the raaga, I told my mom “it’s Madyamavathi. The concert is about to get over and let’s go home.” The organiser who overheard it was surprised to see me identifying ragas at such young age. He wanted me to give a live demo at the academy. I was so young that I didn’t even realise it could make me so famous. I was in papers all over next day.
Mathangi: Amazing. So the early celebrity status made things easy for you?
Mahathi: Not really. My film music career didn’t start immediately after that. It so happened that I met Raja (Ilayaraja) sir to seek his blessings when a couple of awards came my way. He wanted me to sing a krithi and called me for recording right away. God, I can still feel the butterflies in my stomach (laughs).
Mathangi: Raja sir is quite unique. Every music director has a style of his own. And I take it as my learning experience. I ask a lot of questions, which I think helped me learn things on the job. Every time I sing to one director’s track, I carry the knowledge to the next recording.
Mahathi: Wow. That’s a cool way of putting it. You are so right. All the music directors have made us comfortable.
Mathangi: I’m very much obliged in that sense. I had hardly been to a recording studio. I’ve seen people doing jingles during ad films, but I myself never tried putting on a headset. Probably my earlier job had groomed me in a way that suited anchoring. ‘Sangamam,’ a talk show with singers that I anchored for Star Vijay did well perhaps because I tend to talk a lot.
Mahathi: I love talking too. The ‘Aaha Paadalam’ show in Podhigai was such a hit that people still ask me about it even though the show ended two years ago. That helped me change my slang.
Mathangi: I know how difficult it is to tweak our slang for the camera. It happened to me too. I was brought up in Delhi and the Tamil we speak at home is completely different from Chennai dialect. My posture, language and diction was carefully monitored and corrected by the crew. They spoon-fed me all the way. I usually tend to keep a low profile and was media shy. The programme gave me an identity and name. [plays with her coin-sized ring].
Mahathi: My co-anchor had been a great help. Raghav and I gelled so well that we never stuck to the script. Most of our conversations were impromptu. The music show of Ilayaraja sir gave me the biggest mileage. I was on my way for Diwali shopping when the in-charge of the show asked me to anchor the show. Actor Parthiban was the co-anchor. I was dumbstruck.
Mathangi: That happens. Later we’ll feel blessed for accepting the offers.
Mahathi: Hey you know, our names frequently get mixed up?
Mathangi: Yes. [laughs]. Many of my songs carry your name in the albums and your songs will have my name. People confuse our names with Malathi too.
Mahathi: I know. Credits of many of our songs have been swapped. Remember we both were the guests for a same show and anchors kept mixing up our names? [Both break into giggles]
Mathangi: But thankfully, the confusion ended with Super Singer. We have been judging individually and people finally began to identify us with our faces. [They part with a handshake].
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