Tuesday, June 27, 2017

BEAUTIFULLY UGLY MohanGaanz Published in VisualVerse


I am too hard on myself. Maybe I should have listened to my mother. I think her as a hindrance. I skip my training periods. I could not go back now because it is my wish. Yes, I felt ready as if I knew all I ought to know. I felt confident rather over confident as if I learnt all I ought to learn. Thinking of my home, makes me smile. My home – you can never come to my home. My home is my mother. My mother is the ocean. I stay in her lap – a place where no one like you can set your feet on. I know I am to be kept track upon. I know I am monitored. But something pushes me to explore. And I come up. Since then, I have just been thinking about my life. How I loved to know what was above the ocean. I do not know what destiny has in for me. I come up, come out to see what is above, leaving the secured place of my mother’s lap. And then, I am trapped. I am attempting to come out of this trap. I am trying to use a bit more of force than I used to come up. Experiencing loneliness has not been so great to me. There is stillness. There is silence. There is darkness. There is fear. There is failure. There is ugliness. I have turned awful. I lost my beauty. I have not lost my faith. I have not lost my hope. Waiting for one lightning, just a streak of lightning that can illuminate my world and I can swirl to the birth of sunlight and death of darkness.I am not going to repent. I am not going to brood over. I know, I fall out of place. But, I am glad that I have life which most of the others do not. I am glad that I can try. I am glad that I want to try. I want to go back to the ocean bed. I want to share the unflinching love. For, I know, how love is important. For, I know, how painful is loneliness. For, I know, how good it shall be to be kind – kind to strangers. For, I know, I can be home if I try.

Published in VisualVerse - Vol4,Chap8

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Orphaned without a warning!

Dr.(Late) Raj Kailash Mohan
It was a sweet little world with just two of us in it. No one else could comprehend the very essence of it. Of course, most of us have a sibling and we must realize not every sibling sibling bonding is just the same. But, our kinship was different throughout. I can bet, even our parents were never able to predict our actions and reactions. We had feuds over everything micro and macro stuffs, valuable and silly things, words and silence. Underlying, was a strong bond that remained unshaken by calamities of any sort. Everything seemed just so imperfectly perfect. When I turned 24, I was away from home. I was working. It was the first birthday of being away from home. I am not so-home-sick-much-pampered kid, honestly. But, deep in my heart, I was feeling I am missing home. Self respects or to put it right, the fear of being teased by family (in a very funny lighter sense, though) withheld my thoughts from sharing with them. I went to office. There was a birthday celebration. I returned home. My land lord was kind enough to organize a minibirthdaycakecutting at home. I ran into a long-time family friend or technically my fathers student who said, she was the one to receive me home when my mom brought me home from hospital who hosted a birthday dinner. Everything was a surprise. And when it was close to midnight, he knocked my door. When I opened the door, he was there, standing with a naughty smile and a cover that had my new birthday dress. Stepping in, he gave me a hug and in his usual tone, happy birthday lusu!

Despite being siblings, hugging each other was not so very common among us both. At least, not after our teens. It was the first ever hug I remember to have received from him ever since I stared remembering things. And, that was the last time he hugged me for lifetime. It has been more than two years since he left the world. It has been more than two years since I am orphaned without a warning. After that Thursday night, my life, my goals, my world changed completely. I understood I cannot escape the reality. It was so clear that I lost the light of my life.  But I am trying to keep him alive in my memories. I am trying to keep him alive in my actions. I am trying to keep him alive in carrying out my responsibilities. I am trying to keep him alive by showing kindness to strangers. I am trying to keep him alive by living upto his expectations. I am trying to keep him alive by following what he taught me. I am trying to keep him alive by writing about him. I am trying to keep him alive even though I failed to save him from the clutches of death. 

He would be 24 this 23rd  if he was alive. I only wish, I hugged him on his 24rd like how he hugged me and told him, Happy birthday stupid brother!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

When the Nightingale speaks . .

Music is the greatest equalizers of all. As an art, it can enter any place where the other art definitions lack. It is enchanting, blissful and enjoyable. Music touches the soul, heart and body. It is so good to see many young musicians, who excel in different forms of music. One such person, is this pretty lady, Ms. Janani Rajan, known for her vibrant smile and incredible talent. Her dedication to music aspires many budding musicians to the path of glory and bliss. 
Janani Rajan in one of her performances

Granddaughter of the renowned of mridangam Vidhwan (late) Nerur Murthy, Janani has been introduced to music since birth. Her musical journey began during her 3 years of age when she started Sanskrit sloka recitals taught by her mother. She initially learnt Carnatic music under the guidance of Smt. Usha Padmanabhan, Sri.Madhusudan, from Bangalore at Chirantana (Davangere).She is a disciple of Smt. Sugandha Kalamegham. “When I was six years old, on a Vijayadashami Day, Smt. M. S. Subbu Lakshmi gifted me a Shruthi box. It was since then I started singing or learning music seriously.”, Janani recollects. She is a recipient of the ‘Gana Bharathi’ award by Thaambraas during her Arangetram. She has participated in various competitions and won several prizes for her talents. Her performances have been aired on many radio and TV channel shows; she also performs at temple festivals and functions. 

The only daughter of The Sundararajans, takes pride in gloating about her joint family. “I still live in a joint family set up. My cousins and their parents, we all live together. My father is an entrepreneur and mother is a teacher.  My paternal grandfather, PV Sathyam was with Venus Pictures – the yesteryear famous production company and later he had his own production unit, “Chitrakala”, Janani traced her ancestry for us.
Janani and Dr.Sowmiya Srinivasan - Vaanavil Vaazhkai Movie Still
She has sung and acted in a lead role in “Vaanavil Vaazhkai" - India's first musical movie directed by composer James Vasanthan. “After the release of Vaanavil Vaazhkai, my dad took in charge to coordinate with the people whom I work for. My parents had always been a big support to me. When I was approached for Vaanavil Vaazhkai, I was told that apart from singing I need to perform as an artist in the big screen. My parents were Ok for singing but very reluctant to let me act. I had to be on the best of my persuading skills to convince them. I can never settle for anything lesser than success,” the young nightingale, was ready to catch up with me for an interview over the phone.

1.What do you think are the important skills/attributes to be successful in this field?
It is a good question. Just teaching or imparting knowledge or gaining it from gurus can’t happen just like that. The voice, singing capability and stuffs should be identified and we must definitely practise. The present-day youngsters or at least most of them, lack the elderly guidance – the grandparents especially, to identify their talents at home. For, any kid to identify their talents and interests, initially is a herculean task. And after this initiation, the traditional guru-sishya parampara learning from musical gurus, a regular practise without any excuses are mandatory. If one choses music as his/her career for lifetime, concerts/gigs/ shows are the survival options and without rehearsals and planning, one can’t head to the stage. Additionally, I would say, one needs patience and will power and yes, presence of mind, too, are some of the important ‘must – have’ qualities
2. What is your opinion about remake of classical songs?
Yea, this is a classical question most of the musicians from a traditional Carnatic background, faces. This has two views. Acceptance and rejection! According to me, I like it and if it goes along with the story and the musicality of the Kriti is left undisturbed, yes, the remakes are good. In malayalam film a song called ‘Ksheera Sagara Shayana’ has Devagandaari Kriti. Many of the thayagarajar Kriti, Swathi thirunal Kriti are used in many movies. Suppose, I pick a Kriti and play drums while singing it or if I am going to sing only sangathis or just the jathis, it is not the right one. The Carnatic music has its own mirugas or the nuance that should not be altered. Alaipayuthey song (kannada raagam) was composed by Uthukadu Venkata Kavi. But it became popular after A.R. Rahman used it in his movie Alaipayuthe. And, I would say, Rahman sir has to be definitely appreciated for not changing its originality!
3.  Sometimes, being a full-time musician, you may not earn your bread and butter always. Do you have any back up plans? Why?
 It depends. If your career is just music and only music alone, you should take it up seriously, visit places and earn for your living. But the initial phase, will definitely be a tough one. Reaching a level to demand your pay from the right employers for your brilliance in performance, takes time after which there shall be no looking back. Contemporary successful Carnatic musicians like Ranjan Gayathri or Vijaya Siva did face a lot of struggle to reach their current successful position. There is nothing like ‘Back up plans’ if you want to be to be a full-fledged singer. Earning bread and butter, if you look music in a commercial way, how we position ourselves with our talents matter. 
4.  Do men and women get equal opportunities and pay?
Gender inequalities do not occur, in present day societies. So, I cannot differentiate. I can’t comment about the yesteryears but the present-day scenarios are flooded with opportunities for the talented ones. However, having a good social profile, stablishing contacts in the initial stages are all required to get into lime light. I emphasize, if you have a very good talent and then a good social profile, it is helpful for your career. Self-promotion of songs/performances is very important to get noticed. I must say, pay scale is different for singers and instrumentalists.  Most instrumentalists are men, generally. Hence, one might assume that women don’t get opportunities or good pay. But, it is totally false.
5.   Contemporarily, how do things look, for new people entering the field?
Definitely, there is a lot of crowd in this field now. If the new comers or aspirants want themselves to be noticed, they have to be creative and extremely innovative. As I said earlier, patience and versatility, some extraordinary performances with a marvel in the performances are mandatory for the new people.
6.  If not music, what else?
Yet another classical question, faced always and often by the musicians. My parents, always groomed me in a way that, I should be self-dependant, I always stick on to their advice. I would have chosen tourism – cultures across the world – travel. If not, an entrepreneur. I am the only child of my parents and unlike typical India Tambram parents with a single child, my parents were also overprotective of me. I was not allowed to travel alone to long distances. So, my tourism study would not be possible though it interested me. Ultimately, if not music, owning an outlet and being an entrepreneur would be the possible option.

7.  What change would you like to bring musically, in the society?
We have lots of poets and Vagyakaras in India since age-old times. They have left us a treasure, at least, I would say so. From Andal, Avvaiyar, Meera Bhai, Bakth Ram to Bakth Tukaram till Thyagarajar Muthusamy Dekshithar or any contemporary Vagyakaras for that matter, their literary works like Thiruppavai, Thiruvembavai, Devaram etc are pearls of wisdom for a living and also for music. I like to spread the knowledge of music to the younger gen kids through my performances and music. Devotional musical pieces that were composed by poets during earlier days are near forgotten now days. I look upon Smt.VishakaHari as a successful person in this aspect. Her Hari Katha and Kathakalakshebams – the spiritual discourses have reached many young gen people.

8.  Who would you say is your inspiration?
It is definitely M.S. Subbu Lakshmi amma. I am a late born child for my parents. My parents were actually closely associated with her family. In fact, their home was built by my father and his friend – his work partner actually. My mother used to express her pain about not having a child and MSS amma used to ask my mother to chant ‘Vishnusahasranamam’. And my mom would even now say, I was born because of MSS amma’s good wishes and blessings. MSS amma passed away when I was ten and at that immature age, I was unable to understand her legendary nature but when I grew up to realise, I deem it a blessing. Her divinity and devotion overflowing in every song of hers is definitely an inspiration for me.
I know, I should say, one or two as inspiration or favourites. But sorry, my list is long!
Bombay Jayashree, Vishaka Hari, KJ Yesudas, TM Krishna, Thrissur Brothers in Carnatic field are some great musicians who would take me to a different level, I would say a mesmerized stage – a hotline with divine power, whatever! I don’t find enough words to express the positivity and divinity these people thrust in me with their musicianship. If I say about the legends in cine field, P B Srinivas uncle and P Susheela ma. These two pearls are the modest and humblest stalwarts I have ever seen. They have exceled to such an extent in an era where technological advancements were relatively less compared to the modern times.
If I should say a present-day artist, it is Chinmayi Sripada. I am always in awe, looking at her versatile voice. She performs all genres of music in such an effortless way.

9. Can you say about your projects?
I entered playback singing, dubbing artist and as a performing artist in “Vaanavil Vaazhkai”. My first recording was a ‘Acapella’ of P Susheela ma’s “Tamizhukkum amuthendru peyar”. I was the lead voice and Jithin sang it along with me. That was my biggest break so far. Recently I am performing many devotional concerts, stage shows and unplugged shows. I am not attached to any bands in particular and I am more of a freelancer now. I do gigs at college cultural events, as well. I am also a dubbing artist for an upcoming Tamil movie. I am also looking for avenues in playback singing.

Vaanavil Vaazhkai - Press meet and Audio Launch
PC: Iluvcinemas.com
Rapid fire:
   1.      Favourite Singer: Carnatic - MS Subbu Lakshmi, Cine - P Susheela
   2.      Favourite music director – A R Rahman
   3.      Favourite moment - When I sang my first duet with PB Srinivas uncle on stage
   4.      Un - favourite moment - The day I got to know the true colours of a so called close friend.
  5.      List five artists that You listen to, in loop: Kaushiki Chakraborthy, Sreevalson J Menon, Bombay Jayashree, KJ Yesudas, Chitra.
  6.      Five things you cannot live without: Music, my contact lens, lipstick, mobile phone, chocolates
  7.      Favourite food: Veg Biryani n Thayer saadham
  8.      Candid moment: The moment I saw my crush sitting in front of me in the audience side when I was on stage performing at an event!
  9.      Favourite quote:
  10.  Favourite outfit: Sarees and Palazzo – tees.
111 Favourite places: India – Kodaikanal and Himalayas
 12.  Favourite Ragas: Bhairavi, Surutti, Kalyani, Kharaharapriya, Saramathi, Durbari Kann, Thodi and Madhyamavati.
 13 Favorite Quote ; It is hard to be a woman. You must think like a man, act like a lady, look like a young girl and work like a horse!
Her favorite quote!

Wishing Janani, a very blissful career in the music field! The artist can be contacted for concerts at janani.raajan@gmail.com.

PS, Thanks Guhan Kumar for his assistance in drafting the script. Pictures are provided by the artist and credits go to the respective photographers