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
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

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