Monday, April 28, 2008

My Paramakudi - My Hometown

Got to know a lot of interesting things, my roots and also realized that the ASI should visit there soon. Have some interesting pictures as well. Will post as soon as I can wheedle sometime.
I had a concert this weekend at Madurai with Anuradha Sreeram, Vijay Yesudas and Harish Raghavendra for Vasan Eye Care celebrating their 25th hospital. Finance Minister P Chidambaram was the chief guest. The concert was a super time cos more than the action on stage, these are the times when we share some time together. Harish and Vijay are super good mimics and have enough to say to keep your ROTFL for hours together. I had to be reminded not to laugh so much because sadly enough it affects the singing voice. After the concert we returned to the hotel and went to Meenakshi temple the next morning and headed straight to Paramakudi. It so happened that I dreamt of a Goddess more than a decade ago, she told me to come and visit her. The only thing she did not do is give me her address. Only said that she is near Madurai. Ever since we have been searching and looking at several places, several towns, several cities, with no clue so far. Someone told me about a Goddess some 20 kilometers from Madurai. We decided to hit Paramakudi first anyway and drove into our hometown - Thiruvarangam. Mom had an idea that it was a very small village spanning say one or two hundred acres but once we went in is when we realized that it spanned more than a 1000 acres. The village belonged to my family until the Zamindari act was passed. My granddad was extremely close to the then Ramnad Raja - our ties with the family continues to this day - mom told me stories on how the Raja family would not call my Granddad by name as a mark of respect. They either referred to them as 'saami' or gave them nicknames. My grand-dad was called Kurali Iyengar. There is some weird story of how while they were playing cricket thatha fell down like a kurali vidhai kaaran, hence the name Kurali Iyengar.
On the way to Thiruvarangam, asking for directions, we stopped at another village, I forget the name now, the Pujari in that temple asked who we were and once Mom told him, he said "then you must be the odamaikaaraas of the village" and gave us the directions. The people in Thiruvarangam remembered our family only too well.
Once in the village there was a swayambhu Kaali temple. The priest there seemed to know quite a bit.
There is a Ranganatha Swamy temple which had been razed to the ground by the Nawabs and the people there asked us to do something to bring the temple back. A lot of times they have dug in the area and have found something or the other. The locals say that everything from the idols to the Golden chariot remain buried there. The temple originally stood over a sprawling 18 acres and the locals pointed us to where it was and the area is a bushy karuvelankadu now. They also showed us where our house once was. There is an arasa maram as a mark of where our house was situated.
If there is one thing I hate about all the different rulers India has had, its how they had systematically razed so many of our beautiful structures to the ground. None of the architectural brilliance or the brains can be seen today. The imagination, the execution. I wonder how that wisdom did not get passed on, or was it the irreverent youth who failed to see the value, the wonder that was India?
When the locals told us "indha graamam ongaludhu dhaane" (This village was yours) that is when it started sinking in. Several times Paatti had spoken about the village. Talking of the life there and how it had been. I guess when a family loses 1000s of acres it definitely does pinch. My Thatha was in the army at that time (he was also part of the freedom struggle, produced a movie which never saw the light of day, started a paper and so many things I have heard), he gave up his post and rushed back to settle the dealings of our land in Thiruvarangam. The family had the property and cultivable lands in Thiruvarangam. The children of the family had their primary education in Ramanathapuram for which there was a house in the agraharam area, then one more establishment for higher studies in Chennai. The family had to eventually move to Madras with the Zamindari abolition bill. When the people of Thiruvarangam in spite of so much time having passed by , said "inda gramam ongalodaduthane", we felt as if someone punched us in the gut.
While it felt really good during our brief visit to the village, as we drove back to Madurai airport the heaviness in our heart could be described. Nothing like setting foot on your own soil. But if you do, nothing can ever describe the way it pulls you to it. I am now in the process of knowing the history of that place, my roots and God willing, Lord Ranganatha willing, its time to bring the temple back. Lots to be done.
And I miss Thatha more than anything else now. Wish I had heard all this from. And wish he was here.

P.S.: At the Hindu Cinema Plus party Mr Vikram kept calling me "Paramakudi" or "Paramakudikaari". I was pretty embarrassed. I requested him, rather begged him not to mention that in public. For one, there are two super people that I know, who belong to Paramakudi, at least as long as filmdom is concerned. Padmashri Kamal Hasan and Mr Vikram. I said I'd rather not stake my claim so early, would love to make a greater name and then bring speak about it more. That was when Mr Vikram told me to assert that I was Paramakudi. He took it upon himself to tell quite a few people that we were from the same hometown. I guess now that I have been there, it doesn't feel all that weird anymore.

Airtel Super Singer 2008 - In Singapore - and answers to some questions

It is true that entries have been called for participation in Singapore. I verified that with the producers. But I have no idea on the where, what and how questions.
I do not know the last date for the submission of entries. If you want to take part why wait for a last date huh? :)
Is it essential to know classical music? That is not part of the rules and regulations. So I guess the answer is no. allows you to upload Mp3s as well and it is an additional mode of applying other than Audio CDs/Cassettes. It is to facilitate applying this time I would presume.
I do not know the basis of the selection process as long as the initial entries are concerned.
As for the dates of the walk-in auditions and venue, it will be announced on TV.
I have received several mails from the US and Canada asking if we could conduct a Super Singer there. It will be brilliant to do be a part of that, but I guess there are several factors involved. And again I do not have the answer to that question.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Airtel Super Singer 2008 - Entries

Can be sent to
Executive Producer
Airtel Super Singer 2008
PO Box 8484
Chennai 600034

Hope that answers all the questions on where to send the CDs.

Friday, April 25, 2008

The Hindu Cinema Plus Party

Happened yesterday at the Taj Coromandel Ballroom. Most of the who's who turned up. Yesterday was also the day of two Kollywood Weddings. D Imman got married yesterday and so did actress Sneha's brother. Director Shankar, Director Sundar C, Mr Dhanush, Mr Vikram, Mr Madhavan, Mr Nasser, Mr Prashanth, Arun Vijay and his wife, Sandhya, Ramesh, Jeeva, Prasanna, Naren, Aparna and so many others. Mamathi (Chari) was the Emcee. I caught up with her after ages. She 'adopted' me some years ago :) I met a lot of the people behind the Hindu Cinema Plus whose names I had only read along with the article - Malathi Rangarajan, Krithikka Reddy ...
Entertainment was also on the cards.
Sethu mimicked a few artistes and that session was quite hilarious, that was followed by Sivakarthikeyan. Karthik sang 2 songs as well, Nila Kaaygiradhu and Mitwa. I guess the whole segment was planned for 45 minutes.
The designer Chaitanya Rao was also there. The opportunity helped me to verbally thulp him because he was supposed to get design my threads for the Filmfare awards performance and his schedule did not work out in a manner that he could do it for me. Actress Aparna have similar views on some things. Though we catch up only such do-s its always a great time. Its one of the typical girl times..
Mamathi got into this mood of asking people questions.. She asked Sandhya that if someone had to build a temple for her, every temple has sub deities, who would she choose as her sub deities. She was smart enough to say that has to be decided by the one who builds the temple. Then even though I frantically shook my head signaling Mamathi to stay away from me , she cornered me with the same question. Who would the sub deities be in Sandhya's temple. I came up with a a very unimaginative "I would like to sing for her, so let me be", I pretty much bulbed.... Aparna said "Not me".. Mr Prashanth chose Vyjayanthi Mala to be his heroine, if there can be one like her if he had to star in a Hollywood movie.. and so it went. Over dinner Mr Menon of Fitness one gave me some tips on fitness and somehow Chaitanya was at the receiving end from both us. Mr Vikram joined us a little later.

Vikram has started his own official website where he is going to start blogging soon. I have heard that Madhavan blogs too but I have not really seen it myself. One of the biggest celeb blogs is definitely Aamir Khan's.

And I guess I will have to blog about this in fits and starts when I can wheedle some blog time. Stay tuned *

Monday, April 21, 2008

The A R Rahman Changing Notes Concert

Venue : St. George's Ground, Poonamalee
Had the good fortune to be a part of this concert .. Right after the Sharjah concert and the rehearsals happened on 19th night, when everyone had driven down to rehearse straight from the airport. Except for those who were in Chennai, everyone was super tired and sleep deprived.
The concert had Shivamani ji, Hariharan ji, Shankar Mahadevan ji, Blaaze, Nithyashree ji, Sadhna Sargam ji, Madhushree ji, Neeti Mohan, Javed Ali, Naresh Iyer, Benny Dayal, Karthik, Darshana (who sang her Maduraikku pogadhedee for the first time on stage), Rayhana ji, Ishrath ji, Tanvi, Sayonara, Aslam Khan, Aslam Mohammad, Dr. Narayan and yours truly.
The crowds were one of the best we had seen in recent times and almost about 50,000 strong. Super charged. Only yesterday must have been one of the sultriest in recorded history and the facial tissue business would have had record sales thanks to us.
My first song in the show was Munbe Va, there was a lot of trepidation as long as singing this song was concerned, but it turned out OK. Thank God. It was one of those times that I saw Srinivasamurthy uncle give me a wide smile right after I sang.
Some of the songs that were performed: Jaage Hain, New York Nagaram, Varaha nadhikkarai oram, Dil Se, Pray for me brother, Athiradee, Vaji Vaji, Jashn - E - Bahaara, Girlfriend, Mayya Mayya, Rubaroo, Khwaja mere, Endrendrum Punnagai, In Lamhon Ke, Style, Ellapugazhum, Chaiyya Chaiyya, Barso Re, Madhuraikku Pogadhedee to name a few. Kannodu Kaanbadhellam, in a very special presentation with Nithyashree, Palanivel sir on the Thavil, a Nadaswaram and a mridangam vidwan as well. She presented a short classical intro before going on to Kannodu. Sadhana ji sand Main Vaari Vaari and Udhaya Udhaya as well. Later Sivamani ji and Palanivel sir gave a thaniavarthanam. Steve on the guitars had a solo performance as well which lead to Girlfriend.
Hariharanji taught the audience a thing or two about notes. He sang sa, then ri, traversed the octave, went into bundles of four notes and then goes extempore which has the audience screaming every time.
I absolutely love the way Shankar ji performs. Wish I could have a fraction off his energy.
A lot of people in the audience held up pictures of Rahman sir and one particular (hopefully) hand-painted one drew my attention. The adrenalin, the energy, the reaction that the audience everywhere and anywhere gives out whenever they see Rahman sir enter the stage and just before he sings, and when he hits the notes that no one else can reach. WOW. The best thing is that its infectious. Most of them I was screaming from the backstage only to be reminded, each time by mom that I have to sing and I should not scream all that much. More often than not, the fan in me takes over. No matter how many times I sing for Rahman sir, I am always excited like I am singing for the first time. I know, of the few things that wont change in me, this would find its place on the top of the list. I thank God, count my blessings each time I am singing for Rahman sir. There are lakhs and lakhs and many more all over the world who want to sing for him, nay even be in the same square foot as he stands in. A lot of the fans that come to his concerts I have realized, are worshipers.
I remember the time as a 10 -11 year old that I had decided in my mind I should sing for Rahman sir. It was quite a stubborn will and God was kind enough to fulfill that wish for me. And of course so many more.
Loved being part of this one and I pray for more. What more can I say?
Actually there is one more thing that I can say. I have been noticing that I am probably writing pretty much the same way as long as describing concerts are concerned.
Also I have to add that I am getting some repetitive comments on "Ji".
It is not possible for me to not append "Ji" or "Sir" after the great names that I mention in my blog. Yep, it might be the thing to do when you report about something, but I cannot and will not eschew the very basic mark of respect. There is a certain something that Classical Musicians do. When a musician takes the name of either his/her Guru or other musical stalwarts in public congregation or even in humble company of 3-4 people, they always touch their ear. Its a gesture asking for forgiveness for mentioning their name. Such gestures are going out of practice, some of the beautiful things in our culture. Which is a sad thing. Every musical tradition, especially when that is principally handed down for generations together, along with the notes, the attitude and some behavioral practices that a musician must adhere to are taught, and it must be religiously and respectfully followed no matter how times change. To those of us who hold on to it, me in this case, are subjected to ridicule. Unfortunately, "respect", "strict" "traditional practices" seem to have become bad words. If I touch the feet of an elder, that is not supposed to be cool to do either, but sorry I beg to and proud to differ. I have been brought up to do so in. In my family and in scores of others youngsters are taught to touch the feet of elders whenever we see them. When we were kids the elders gave us one rupee when we did that. Positive reinforcement of good behavior; that is what it is called. The habit sticks on for life.

Also, I have come to realize that a mother like mine is very rare creation. I treasure her, worship her in my heart of hearts and I want her to be part of my good times wherever I go. Be it a movie, the beach, a show. Whatever. I don't know why it is considered unnatural to have my mom with me. I love my mom's company. And thankfully I am in a profession that allows me to have my mom with me wherever I go. She is the architect of my career, my life. She is my guide. And I need and want my guide with me. For the decades that she will be with me. So in this case, even though there are some nitwits who intentionally hurt both my mom and me, saying this and that. I am slowly learning not to care for the opinions of nitwits. Its difficult. But I am learning. I am not Buddha that negative comments have the same effect as water on duck's back. But I intend to cultivate to be dispassionate for compliments and negative comments. I don't want to call such comments criticism because critics make a note of certain minuses that can be converted to pluses. Some things that we might fail to make note of. Thats what genuine critics are. They help us stick to the pursuit of perfection.

Anyway coming back.........
This is not a newspaper report where personal sentiments of the writer don't come into play. I am a singer who writes about things that happen to me and I can't be dispassionate. And I think its impossible for me to be dispassionate in some things in life. I am extremely, madly, passionately in love with singing and music. And how can I just take a reporting tone on it?
That said, I will probably hold back writing about concerts so much henceforth.
Like they say, somethings are better left unsaid. Or in this case, unwritten.

---This post is now over---

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Airtel Super Singer 2008 - Coming soon!!

This time for people who are over 16 years of age, able to speak/sing in Tamil language and born before 10.05.1992 will be eligible to participate in this competition.
If you want to take part, this year you can also audition online right here.
To all those who are checking in this time, Godspeed to you...
Whenever I have more information, I shall post it here. Watch this space

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Malayalam song recordings are the longest sessions that I have ever logged. The sessions usually last 4 hours on an average.
Even if one syllable goes wrong in a line of singing, there is no adjustment, there is no "its OK." We will have to redo the line. Even if it takes a lot of time, they make sure that the pronunciation is perfect and there is absolutely no compromise.
And so far apart from one song for Sri Kaithapram Vishwanathan, which was not a Malayalam song, I sang Enna Thavam Seidhanai for Thilakam, and one Christian Devotional song, I have sung mostly for Sri M Jayachandran. At that time, he told me that they rarely ask Non Malayalees to sing Malayalam songs. And that he wanted to see whether I can sing Malayalam properly. Thereafter I have recorded about 8 songs or so for him.
My first ever song was for Swandham, an album for East Coast Vijayan, for Sri M Jayachandran. He wanted me to sing this particular solo track - Poonkuyile - in this album.
Right from taking the pains to teach the language and to make sure it comes in the recording, he devoted a lot of time for the sessions. I have absolutely enjoyed singing for him every time. One such song (Karthikappoo) that I recorded for him was from the movie Bharathan which released last year. I went to record a song for him last evening and it was only now that I could ask him, a year after the movie released, about the name of the movie.
I guess after Kannathil Muthamittaal, this was my second song with Sri P Jayachandran.
There are a couple of title songs for Serials that I sang for him, one started as "Ah Amma" and the other was "Padayaatrayo Janman parayu sakhi". I don't know the names of the Tele serials though. But I hope to get these two songs from him soon. They are beautiful compositions and I was lucky to be a part of them.
Karthikapoo is now in my audio blog. Excuse the quality, I could not find a better version. Probably if and when I go to Kerala, I have to make a note to get the CD there and upload a better version.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Vallamai Tharayo

It is one of those rare occasions that singers are invited to the audio release, at least in Chennai. I was invited to the audio launch of Vallamai Tharayo that happened this evening at Rani Meyyammai Hall. The hall was aesthetically decorated and everything was meticulously planned - and most importantly - executed.
Madhumitha, the director of the movie, is as old as I am, and she got to know me through a very good common friend. She wanted me to see whether I would suit this track and she finally got my number and I was only too glad to know that I was to sing for Bharadwaj Sir. It has been quite a long while since I sang for him. I sang first sang for him in a movie called 'Oru Murai Sollividu" a duet with Unnikrishnan anna and another was a duet with Harish Raghavendra.
Madhumitha explained what she expected of me from this song and what was going through the heroine at that point in the movie. Something that has never been done before.
Madhumita has been a part of the POC 3 crew, she had interned with them for a few weeks and she was explaining how everyone and anyone is given their due respect and given enough chances to prove oneself. I guess there is no bracket of a 'woman' director as long as Hollywood is concerned. Madhu did not have anything to say whether being a 'lady' director was a tough thing here in Kollywood, coming to think of it, I never got around to quizzing her on that. Maybe I should.
I was lucky enough to get some time to rehearse the song before Bharadwaj sir came in to the studio and once I finished he said that I sound radically different from the last time he heard me.
When I first met him, or rather, the Pre-Airtel Super Singer days, I was a timid girl, who hardly spoke. How I transformed into someone who talked shop in front of the camera, God knows, and I guess Pradeep (Milroy Peter), Vijay TV should know. But of course I have no idea how he decided to select me as the anchor of the show. Anyway...
This evening, Sri Vikku Vinayakaram and Sri P B Srinivas were among those who were honoured. Sri PBS received the first copy of the audio.
Though a lot of us have grown up listening to old songs, it sometimes requires some kind of an 'aha' moment for a song to come to us, in a rush and its surprising how we suddenly perceive a certain magic in it that we had previously failed to notice. One such moment happened to me when I heard Kalangalil Aval Vasantham. As PBS Sir was going up on stage, the AV immediately showed Gemini Ganeshan and Savitri on the screen. And Wow. Whatta song! And what a singer PBS was... its good that somethings and some voices cannot be repeated. Like PBS or P Susheela ji. Truly inimitable. And it will be great if it remains that way. Maybe musical clones are not the most wanted thing. But then hey, what do I know....
I also met Anuradha Sriram, Srinivas sir, Harish Raghavendra at the event. As soon as we entered, we followed protocol and I gave quite a few video bytes. I truly wish this movie turns out to be a super success for Madhu.
The only thing I could not do for this movie was dub for Chaya Singh. I gave it a try, they almost zeroed in on me but then at the studio I somehow felt and knew I won't be able to get it right. Somehow I felt something was missing in me. And when I told Madhumita, I was so glad she understood.
Beautiful days are ahead.
Oh, by the way, the song is in my audioblog.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Car Loans - Reliance and reliability

Just a suggestion for anyone who is going into car loans, from the several options that you can choose from, I would give Reliance Car loans the thumbs down. A very good friend of mine has had a harrowing experience recently and the agents that were dealing with her at one of the premium car showrooms in Chennai were not reachable on phone for any clarifications. Although I can't go in detail about the whole thing, I hope this will serve as a note of caution for whoever is looking at or considering car loans.

We happened to try out the Reliance phone subscriptions ourselves and that was a personal horrid experience when they sent us bills in 6 digits and also found bills sent to us for numbers that did not belong to us but were registered in our names. By the time we clarified everything and got out of the royal mess, my mom was almost having panic attacks because she would rather dissolve into thin air than have any questions on our ethics.

That said use your discretion if you are considering Reliance for your car loans. I have no idea about the other services they offer.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Simran Thirai - Maarum Yugangal

I recorded the Telugu version of the song today and was able to get the proper version from Ramesh Vinayakam sir.
I am also trying to get the video; I have not able to lay my hands on so far. I hope it will come soon to this blogspot.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

4th of April

Quite an eventful day I would say. The Tamil Industry was protesting the attacks on Tamil theatres and organizations in Karnataka. And since I am a member of the Dubbing Union, (A dubbing artiste has to be a part of the Union) I was sent a message and given a call to compulsorily attend the protest. So I landed up at the MLA hostel, where there was a huge pandal and I must say everyone was there. And around the time I reached, Superstar Rajnikanth landed up too, so all speculations of will-he-wont-he were laid to rest. I had to sign the register, they were really taking attendance and thereafter I walked up to the front, where Mr Cheran was kind enough to call me in and ask me to take a seat in front of him. I stayed there for a while and came back home.
I spent the evening at a very special gathering of the Rotary Club of Madras Midtown at Taj Connemara. Director Vasanth was being awarded the For the Sake of Honour Award. Sri Mani Ratnam and Sri K Balachandar were the GOH. And the US Consul General Mr David Hopper was also one of the dignitaries. This was the first time I heard Mani sir speak for at least 7 minutes. And it was surely a treat. None of the people present there expected him to speak much and the way he responded to incessant mobiles ringing off their rocker "I like the tune.. I really do" was brilliant.
On that note, I seriously cannot understand, whether people just forget, even after announcements are made to place the mobile on silent mode, even people sitting in the front row, have the ring tones are blasting level. That was absolutely the most jarring thing, quite literally last evening. Mobile after mobile going off. I noticed the same thing at the press meet of the K M Conservatory.
Another thing was people walking in and out of the hall when someone was talking. It could have been discrete except for the fact that the door of Taj Connemara's ballroom had a way of banging.
Apart from these issues which could have definitely been avoided, 3 hours just flew. As the evening drew to a close, we rose for the national anthem and the best part, I don't know if anyone has noticed this before, but I saw Mr Hopper singing our National Anthem. And honestly I was absolutely exhilarated. To say the least.
Except for a couple of do-s to attend this evening, I am totally looking forward to a weekend of regaining lost zzzzzzzs.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

I had taken a video of my grandmother on my phone sometime back, (We have a Sony ericsson P1i) and when I transfer it to my laptop, it gets saved as an MP4 version and I am no longer able to hear the audio. It plays perfectly on my phone though. If it is any help, I have a Macbook Pro.
I have shot 4 clips which might probably total to about 5 minutes. And these are small somethings which I would like to save for posterity.
Would someone please help me on how to make it work?

After going through all the comments, I realize that I forgot to add that VLC doesn't work.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Another post on anonymous commenting. Its a sincere request to people who post anonymously, especially when you (if you are one of the anonymous commenters) have taken the time to come to this www and leave a comment, please leave at least a pseudonym.. Its getting tough and sometimes even tiresome for me to refer to anonymous after anonymous and post a reply.
Please leave a name, it will be easier for me to write in a note of thanks as well.
I hope its not too much to ask for.