Saturday, December 24, 2011


Why so many comments to the Lord Rama posts are anonymous. Just curious, is it about laziness of not leaving a name, even if it were fake, because you never know who is behind an ID these days, or is it only behind a curtain that people can speak their hearts and otherwise they dont have the guts to do so? Just asking. Not intended to hurt any of the commenters.

Ek Deewana Tha

Here is the theatrical trailer and I am, once again the voice of Jessie.

However I have not sung in this film.
And with this I have spoken for Jessie in Tamil, Telugu and Hindi (A little bit of Malayalam as well)

Monday, December 19, 2011

Response to the comments on 'Questions....'

The comments section was really expanding and hence I thought it would probably be better to post here. It was amazing to read the various comments and cements the notion that discussions of this nature cannot be trivialized on Twitter. Huge lesson learned this year.

To Mr Ramesh: I am not sure if I am that important a person that the youth in general would follow. However if that were true, I would prefer that youngsters make decisions based on rational thinking. As long as the questions are answered properly, and as long as the mind that questions is after knowing the truth or the relative truth as the case may be, is brought to a state of stillness then that would be the true democracy that Hinduism has also practiced through the ages. Sant Jnaneshwar, Ramanuja, Madhvacharya and Adi Shankara have all argued and debated about the scriptures at various intellectual congregations.
I would suggest that you read this book called 'Am I a Hindu'. And also suggest you read the ACK titles of the sants I have mentioned. You ll see people have always questioned. And the true seekers have always accepted new knowledge instead of being imprisoned by dogma. 

Mr Srijith/Pavi/ Mr Trivedi/Mr Telkar: Loved your comment. Thank you

Suchi: Will read that book. 

Anusuya: The operative word is 'cosmic' ocean as you have mentioned. If you can, do read this book called Am I a Hindu. It should answer a lot of the questions you have. I loved reading it. 

Saturday, December 17, 2011

My questions on Lord Rama

Now before anyone pounces on me with pre-concceived notions, (based on reactions I have seen on Twitter) as being blasphemous, anti-Rama, Anti-Hindu or any such thing, here is a disclaimer, at the beginning. This is a post, voicing out questions that I have had, in the quest of finding the answer. 

While I have the questions I am also aware that
- Our texts have been translated and interpreted in various ways by various people and Sanskrit (Valmiki Ramayana which is my point of reference here) being the complexly beautiful language that it is, a single statement could be interpreted in several ways, based on whatever little I have read in my short span of literacy and living.
- My questions may provoke arguments, incite anger, irritate or any other simile to that effect one may deem correct at the point of reading this post.
- The reader may be firing on all cylinders which may eventually lead to emotional outbursts on the comment section.
- I can be labeled Anti Hindu as said earlier
- People may say I hurt sentiments. To this I can only say that questions have almost always hurt someone or the other. But that has never deterred an inquisitive mind
- having been given the 'celebrity' tag, enough people tell me to measure my words a million times more. I always wondering a million times more than who? Because I am not meeting too many people organically or virtually who measure their words at all. If Twitter is anything to go by profanity, abuse and vulgarity is pretty rampant in the name of Freedom of Speech.

Anyway if I think up of anymore disclaimers I shall add that as a P.S.

Though the questions that you may see below are not something that have risen suddenly, I base these on the books that I have read. Amar Chitra Katha initally. Some other books and translations. By oral tradition as well which is one of the most important traditions of our culture. The Karna Parampara. Or rather I should say the Story of Ramayana. I confess I have not read the treatise in Sanskrit. If you have a suggestion on any work on the Ramayana I should readthat may state the reasons and the hidden meaning for various actions, given in English, please do let me know. I am happy to expand the horizons of my mind which I think, to the end of my days will always be limited in some way or the other. And my quest- among the other quests that I have - will be to bring down one limitation after another.

I happened to be dubbing for Sri RamaRajyam in Tamil for the character of Sita and as I dubbed I guess the questions I have always had kept bobbing up and I knew I had to blog about it. Sitting in Hyderabad after a pretty long session today and having some time on my hands, I figured I had deliberated enough before writing about it.

Sita seemed to have gone through only misery from the time she married into the Raghukula. More so Urmila, the wife of Lakshmana. But then I guess I will have to write about Urmila another day.

Coming back to Sita, after Rama, Lakshmana and her return to Ayodhya. After her Agni Pariksha which Rama thought was necessary to prove to the world that Sita was above blame and not for his sake, because he knew Sita was peerless. Rama becomes King. Sita is queen. Then comes the famous washerman who is said to have driven his own wife out of the house saying "I am not Rama to take back a wife who has lived in another's house".
Rama is informed of this and he decides, in the interest of the kingdom and his Dharma as a ruler first that he must banish Sita, who is with child, back to the forest.

Without delineating on the story further, since I assume, you the reader knows it, I have only these questions of Lord Rama. I dont mind it if He were to condescend and answer them to me in my dream or something (:p), so that I may understand. Or in any other way He may deem right which definitely does not involve suffering. (You know we must be careful what we ask of God or in the name of a wish, the problem sometimes that it will come true, as some famous quote says)

1. As a husband of Sita, who was peerless and blameless, the pativrata, he sent her to the forest again, without telling her what her crime was. She receives punishment, but he doesn't deem it necessary to tell her himself what has wrought this situation. Though there is an explanation that his heart would have broken if he had to break the news to Sita who was to become a mother, I can come to terms with this reasonably about him not informing Sita of the goings on.

2. Lakshmana is ordered to drop her in the forest. Just drop her and return. She is not invested in the care of any sage or an ashram. She is not entrusted in a safe haven. She is not even offered a decent dwelling to take care of herself or her unborn child/children. She is just left high and dry. She faints and then according to the legend, Sage Valmiki finds her and takes her to the hermitage where Luv and Kush are eventually born.

3. Rama, does not even attempt to find out if Sita is safe, whether his children are safe. Or if they are even born. But just deserts her because a washerman questioned her chastity, if that would be the right word to use here, since I cannot think of a safer word now.

4. Finally an exchange of arrows happens between Rama and Luv and Kush. Rama not knowing they are his sons. And Luv and Kush not knowing Rama is their father. Until Sita comes and stops the exchange of arrows. Rama is introduced to his sons but still refuses to take Sita back but is OK about taking his sons back. Question here is, if Sita were questioned, would the sons not be questioned too? Wouldnt some washerman ask about how Rama could declare one fine day that Luv and Kush are his sons? However I have no idea what happened after Sita decides she has had enough and returns to her mother Bhoomi Devi. 

5. Even if not a husband, as a ruler, if he had to suddenly remove Sita from the status of the queen, did he not fail in his duty as a ruler to provide for a safe haven for his subject?

I made a mistake of asking these questions on Twitter and I have realized that Twitter is no space for serious conversations with rank strangers. But then I ll write about this in another post. Deserves it. Or at least I feel like writing about it, deserving or not :)

Is there a reason other than
1. Sita chose to suffer
2. Rama is the all-knower
3. Sita sacrificed
4. Rama sacrificed 
5. You have to have faith and the answer will come to you.

and explanations to that effect? Is there a reason as to why Rama behaved in such an unjustified way?

I am questioning the human being that Sri Rama chose to be because he chose to suffer all that a human being would suffer in a lifetime. That's all. Vishnu is my favorite God. But then so is Shiva. I cant claim to know the creator Mr Brahma much. There isnt enough written about him except that he makes a special appearance in stories that concern Shiva and Vishnu or their progeny. But I like Shiva and Vishnu.

If you can give me an answer, or can point me to a book or a link that can give me the answer I would be happy. Please don't point to a godman though. That is one thing I am not interested in :)

Sincerely and humbly


Saturday, December 03, 2011

Another post with a title block

I am invariably asked to sing at all the dubbing sessions. Recently its been chotta chotta/saarakathu.At the dub session today, the director asked me to sing Deivam thandha.., and he said you will always be the Deivam Thandha poo. And he said it moves him to tears each time. That's the genius of that composition. A lot of people asked how did you sing with such emotion/pain? I guess mom had gone through enough in life and I had watched it silently, that sadness was usually my default emotion. Nothing ever exhilarated me. Except maybe the first calls from Rahman sir's office. 

I never understood why Rahman sir chose to give such an amazing composition of his to a 15 year old novice.When I recorded for Mr SJ Surya (If you wanna..) just before the session was to begin, he asked "What have you sung before?" and he gawked when I said Deivam thanda poove.. He asked YOU??!
He said he expected the singer to be at least in her 30-s. Not a teenager. People used to ask what did you think of during KMI. Nothing. I didn't think of anything. I didn't know about emoting for the mother in the film. I didn't know who I was singing for/situation for Kannathil Muthamittal.  So yes, I knew nothing. And I guess I am glad I didn't know anything. Rahman sir knew how to make magic happen without saying much.

I was only concerned about singing well. I had no clue if my voice would be retained. Actually, even today when I record, I never know if my voice will be retained. People might change their mind. Which is why I dont talk about the film I have recorded for until it releases. 
I am thankful and grateful to the grace God has shown to me/us (mom and I), the opportunities that composers gave me.However,if you think people will welcome you just because you are talented, please Know that it is otherwise. No one lays out the red carpet. People will make your life tough. Attempt to make your life a living hell. Succumbing or succeeding would be the only options. For me, how I succeed is imperative. At the end of my life, I know I'll be known for never bending in my values. That's how I can make mom proud. And myself. 

The past few years of professional life have given me unparalleled experiences. The rosy path was probably 5/100th.  (If that fraction is mathematically wrong, I am sorry, fractions were never my thing. For that matter.. maths wasnt my thing after 7th std. That was when my 100s started their downward journey :p )

In some film that I forget the title of, the elder lady of the house says "Response under pressure is the best judge of character" Today when people are trying to express themselves in 140 characters, I am wondering if I can judge them based on that or just watch the space. If someone could be judged that way, then a lot will fall into racial/sexual abuse category. 
Yesterday I was listening to Mr N Ram of the Hindu and he happened to mention that a Gentleman from somewhere met him at his office and he added "I will not reveal who because I do not have his permission to do so". While I listened to Mr Ram, the more I felt that I am meeting less and less people who have their basic etiquette, ethics, values and more than anything else, their manners in place. 
And today people are racing to be the first to say, I met him/her. S/he said this/that. Without even checking first. Many a time, I have admonished - and I use the word admonish, because that is exactly what I did - those who publish gossip. Or publish news about someone without verifying first. What is with this sudden wannabe I want to be a news-breaker disease that people are into? Is it the quest to feel important, if only for a few minutes?

Why are people not able to debate on issues without bringing up unnecessary and totally unrelated parameters today? My mom always told me that disagreement / fights are on issues and not with the person.

Recently someone told me that they didn't want to have children because the world is a terrible place to bring in a baby. And I understand where the thought is coming from. If you had to really look and observe the world seems to be disintegrating at a very rapid pace. Sooner or later, some like minded people might form groups and decide to be by themselves like in the 'Village'. Anything is possible.

However, though this post may have started somewhere and head somewhere else, it is just a random log of various thoughts that decided to present itself in my head.

A lot of times, in despair have I turned to my mother and asked why is it that God is using us for his entertainment? Everyone who seems to be on the opposite end of honesty and ethical seems to be doing so well.. and way better. But maybe, as I had blogged earlier on the same lines, I would not have been able to be any other way. But then I still ask God the same question. That he seems to be punish the just more than anyone else and that there has to be an end to this 'testing'. What else can one do anyway? And at times it is not even God. The question goes out to the Universe, to Whomsoever it may concern.
I guess I ll take a lifetime and the time after this lifetime to know for sure, why I was born this way. And was to have lived this way. 
And, with my mom's blessings, it would have been a lifetime that spoke of unbending principles.
I shall look forward to my epitaph.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The believer

Usually is someone optimistic. Or so I think. Has hope. Someone who believes in the nicer side of things. The truer side of things. Or people. But more often than not the believer is the one who gets sorely tested. Till he is, well, quite sore. 
The ones who care zilch for things like values or ethics seem to have easier, less testy times. Actually none at all. But then that is a third person's opinion. I would never know what someone goes through.

But more often than not, if I scream out to God it is asking whither fairness? Whither justice? And how much longer will it be before the 'deivam ninru kollum' happens?

The only time I probably forget is when I sing my heart out. And I did so in Cochin and I am grateful for that experience. My mom was happy with what I sang and that happens very rarely. She is not one to compliment. 

Trials tribulations and sometimes just excreta happens. And that, I figured is my life.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Attending the Fortune MPW summit

Was an amazing experience. I met Joan after my mentoring program during this summit though we have been in touch throughout. I have no idea when I ll see her again but hanging out with her and meeting all the amazing ladies I did was super duper. 

One of the first ladies I met was Baroness Goudie, House of Lords. I guess I was slightly awed to meet her but she was so friendly. She said she had been to Chennai a few times. Also met Jami Miscik, now Vice Chairman, Kissinger Associates but was Deputy Director of Intelligence, CIA. Listening to her talk to my mentor and me over dinner was one of the best conversations I have even been part of in my life. And for all her accomplishments, she was simple and extremely humble. I would definitely expect someone of her rank back here to throw her weight around. Her simplicity humbled me. And she said in 2020 the things world leaders will be worried about would be water. Maybe like Shekhar Kapur says, if there is a world war, it would be for water. And it would be used a weapon to create social disparity. As if India is already equal. But the thought is scary.

This was the dinner before the summit where I also had a chance to listen to Rosanne Cash. Honestly, that was first time I had heard of her. The two days of the summit passed in a flurry of meeting people, amazing interviews and listening to some of the best opinions. Amongst the breakfast roundtables I attended, the one I liked the most was "Building a movement" by Catherine Coughlin of AT&T and Elizabeth Gore of the UN Foundation. Was amazing listening to the movements they started and the movements they have come across. 

Of all the speakers I heard in the summit I thought Indra Nooyi was extremely articulate and I loved the way she was so poised, the way she conveyed her thoughts with clarity and assertiveness. With a ring of honesty. No pish-toosh. No lah-di-dah. Met her after her speech and said hello. Took a picture. Perhaps the first time I went to someone I didn't know and ask for a picture.

Rosie O Donnell was a moderator for one of the discussions and she had the audience in splits throughout. I felt the audience visibly lighten up after her session. Loved listening to Glenn Close and there was a super short teaser of her upcoming film where she plays a man, was screened. She acted out how her character was afraid to look people in the eye, right there on stage. And it was amazing how she just transformed in that split second. 

I loved Chelsea Handler's attitude, the way she spoke about her team and her productions. Loved listening to Tyra Banks and about her journey from being a super model to studying at Harvard and creating Bankable. 

Somaly Lam, was successful in not breaking down on stage as she was being interviewed by the COO of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg. She got the first standing ovation of the summit. Read more about her extraordinary story and how she is saving girls from sexual slavery and human trafficking here. If you can donate to her foundation, even better. Her daughter was kidnapped by people who thought this would stop her from continuing on her mission. Her daughter came back to her, telling her to continue. She reminds me of Anuradha Koirala of Maithi Nepal. Women like these are beyond extraordinary and courageous. Shame on the those men for whom this industry runs. And the women who help run it killing girls and women emotionally and physically.

Listening to Regina Dugan the first woman chief of DARPA was superb too. The presentation she put together especially the ones across history who were the naysayers like Ken Olson "There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home" or Sir William Preece "The Americans have need of the telephone, but we do not. We have plenty of messenger boys" or "This 'telephone' has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us." was highlighted in her presentation. Throughout time there have been enough and more people who said "That is not possible" or "That cannot be done" and precisely as someone said, the person who says it cannot be done is interrupted by the person who is doing it.

Attending the summit once again gave me a new vision. Gave me new ideas. More than anything else, it seems like when women head an organization, there is so much more heart in the way they are run.

And before I forget, it was fun listening to Warren Buffet too. And to hear his thoughts on why it is fair that the rich in America should pay more taxes. 

Some other observations (some unconnected to the summit): 

1. LA, I hear is a very Vegan/vegetarian place. The food they served us during the summit was 90% vegetarian. I love the way the US (or at least the places/restaurants/offices I have visited in the US is sensitive to food preferences. No jeering no teasing as I have noticed all the time here. But then that insensitivity warrants a totally new blog post.

2. I have a feeling too much water is being wasted in bathrooms/restrooms in the US. Perhaps that can be better managed. On a different note, the Ritz Carlton and St Regis at Laguna Niguel are amazing places to stay. And no I am not being paid for this. I just loved the hotels. 

3. If I heard right, (correct me if this is not true) there was no rain water harvesting in LA. Which I thought was sad.

So much needs to be done in the world and for the world. But I think with the kind of women and men committed to change, the world might be a better place in the future.

And finally when I thanked Joan for the opportunity and said I have no idea how I can pay you back, she said one thing which I knew she would say - "Pay it forward" :)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit

In LA this year between October 3-5 and as a mentee of Joan Amble and Denise Pickett of American Express (FORTUNE/US State Dept Global Women's Mentoring Partnership 2011) I get to attend this amazing event. 

The event this year looks truly stunning and to be attending this event is a matter of great pride and honour for me. The support of Joan and Denise has continued long after the mentoring program was over and I am humbled by the commitment these ladies show.

Indra Nooyi of PepsiCo, Ellen Kullman of DuPont, Pat Woertz of ADM, and Anne Lauvergeon of AREVA, Ginni Rometty of IBM, Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook and Arianna Huffington of The Huffington Post Media Group. Also confirmed are Human Rights Advocate Somaly Mam, Singer-Songwriter and Author Rosanne Cash, Talk Show Host and Author Chelsea Handler, Dr. Nancy Snyderman of NBC News, and Meredith Whitney of Meredith Whitney Advisory Group LLC —plus Warren Buffett, are just some of the people who would be attending the event.

I should be live-tweeting the event and also blogging about it as and when possible.

Looking forward to this is totally understating it.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Its amazing how attached one can become to their pet. And within such a short span of time. I miss Joey terribly and wait to see him whenever I come back from work. So much so that I have begun blogging about him :) 
Its beautiful to have him sleep off on my shoulder sometimes, or on my hands. That's what he does most of the day. The remaining time he pees and poops. And then he chews on whatever can find. My ankles and toes and whosoever else's he can find as of now. 

I love him to bits and this birthday was definitely the most special of all because Joey came home. Was telling a friend that I miss Joe and he said that's the best and worst part of having a pet. 

Joey is now part of my family. I think he'd be way better than those who actually are supposed to be my kith and kin! :p

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


Tooooo much thought went into naming the birthday puppy and now we have named him Joey. Kinda rhymes with Chewy because thats what he does all day. Chew. Other than sleep of course.
He is amazing. Super cute and adorable.

And that is Joey for you :) Say Hello!!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Quite a day

Yes, I know. I am more actively tweeting than blogging. But at times the 140 character limit at a time doesn't help verbose expressions. So here we come back again to good old blogging.

Its been an interesting day recording for Dheva sir. Originally went into sing one song. But he ended up asking me to sing one more. One duet was with a newcomer called Aditya Ram and the other with the veteran SPB sir. The only other time I sang a duet with SPB sir was again for a film that Dheva sir composed for, several years ago. Which was again a Brother-Sister sort of a song. There must be something there :)

A few months ago, people closest to me knew that I was lamenting for a puppy. Like really, really lamenting. I want a puppy. I want a puppy. My mother had heard enough. And then finally I gave up. Because I couldn't find one that I liked. Even though I had visited a few people. Thought it was not written. And then a friend landed up at my home this morning with a basket. I was just waking up from a really strange and partly scary dream, which later, according to experts was a good thing after all to have a dream like that. So when I saw a basket with a furry thing that moved inside, I screamed. And my friend was weirded out. And then it hit me that I had a puppy on my hands. It was all a blur. Bathed it, fed it, went to office, left it with mom and went to the recording.

Once back I finally caught up on sleep that has been in serious short supply for days, if not weeks. I have been dubbing non stop. Recording songs was difficult as after the bout of a viral fever my singing voice took quite a while to get to form. And my first recording after almost 25 days happened 4-5 days ago.

And then the Mirchi Music Awards was slated to happen today and happen it did. I was nominated for the Best Female Playback singer. Didn't think any award will happen to me, and thought this pattern of not winning an award for an AR song will continue (of course barring the TN State Govt award, no other awards had happened right from Kannathil Muthamittal to Kilimanjaro). And interestingly looks like the jinx was broken, if there was a jinx. I always felt sad that I could never hold an award in my hands and thank Rahman sir for the song and the award. State Govt Ceremonies don't give opportunities for Thank-You speeches. So yes, I still haven't held an award for an AR song and given a thank-you speech. Someday. 

Also, on the other hand, I have been doing a lot of things. Working on starting a culinary venture. But want to have be a socially conscious initiative. So the background work is taking time. Also we have been getting a lot of genuine advice on red tape especially in this kind of a venture. And how much if such red tape is not encouraged, how a carefully built reputation will be ruined :)  Yes it might sound filmi but apparently it does happen.

Mom's life and mine has been an example, that we have never been asked to pay a bribe anywhere. I have been a known face only the past 6-7 years. I have never seen mom talk about anything like that. And I am sure this will continue even in my case. There is only one way to lead our lives and that was decided ages ago. If it doesn't happen the straightforward way, I'd rather let go of the idea.

Also launched the Blue Elephant Record Company today and that was basically because Dharan, Madhan Karky and I are working on an album. Have been talking to Karky for a pretty long while and Dharan as well. We should be ready with our single soon. After all, that's what we Dakshaa LLC and I launched the iOS app for. 

As for the app the Android version is getting tested and the little chinks and nicks in the iOS version will also be rectified in the update.

Until then this is Chinmayi signing off :)

Monday, August 08, 2011

From today - The Chinmayi App

The first iOS app by a musician across all iOS devices and also the first female singer in India to have an iOS App. The android version will also release soon. 

I had known the brain behind Dakshaa LLC, Naveen, virtually for a while and he is a serial entrepreneur. When I was in the US for the Fortune/ US State Dept mentoring program he told me to release an app. I, of course was apprehensive, wondering who would want to see an app released by me. He was good at convincing me and he is, as I see today from the response I am getting from the Press and Twitter, quite right. 

This will be an interactive App from the next update which will come in 3 weeks and this will also be the platform where I will release my own music or the result of any collaborations I am working on now. This app will also feature exclusive video content in the future. 

I guess this is enough said for now. I have been getting a lot of reviews and inputs from those who have downloaded it reading my tweets and I understand there are some who read my blog that also read my tweets. :)

So yes, this is the beginning of a lot of things to come :)

Here is a preview of the app

Friday, August 05, 2011

Nandi award

Announced today for my dubbing in Ye Maaya Chesave. 
I had never thought of dubbing before SOK. And never thought I ll get an award either for my first film in Telugu. 
This journey, too started from Rahman sir's studio when the studio engineer Karthik called me to test for Sillunu Oru Kadhal. I, in my opinion, had a very un-girly, un-sing-song voice. I was just the normal voice. Somehow Director Krishna decided this is the voice he wants for Bhumika Chawla and I am now 22 films old for dubbing in about 5 years. I continue to be surprised with this though. This was never something I planned. But then I wasnt planning for Blue Elephant since I was a child either.
But I can tell you that this path was not easy. And I also said I didn't want to be doing this at some point because some things were becoming too difficult to handle. I faced a lot of resistance. Not to mention a lot of envy. However, destiny took over. Things changed. And I am grateful for the opportunities. 
Vinnai Thaandi Varuvaaya and Ye Maaya Chesave are definitely one of the best films in my dubbing career. I love working with Gautham sir. Learned a lot of things from him. Especially subtlety in dubbing. 

Before Vaaranam Ayiram I was just plain scared of GVM. Had never been introduced to him before this film and I was always intimidated and iced out by him. But I am super thankful that he chose me to be the voice of Sameera Reddy despite everything. And then the voice of Jessi.
Had a great time dubbing this film at 7th Channel Studios as I had probably mentioned earlier and a major thanks goes to Mahesh Anna at 7th Channel for making me sound so good. Samantha was one of the first people to call me once the film released to say that people loved my voice. Love her sense of security and her heart to compliment in private and in public.Super happy for her that she got the jury award for YMC. Gautham sir won for best screenplay writer.
Hope I win one for singing as well though.. some day. 
For this Nandi Award, a big thank you to Gautham Vasudev Menon, Mahesh anna, the Jury, the one-of-a-kind-film-fans of Andhra Pradesh and team VTV. YMC/VTV will always be super special.
Other awardees - entire list here

Thursday, August 04, 2011

A lesson - well learnt

So many times have I received mails that ask about issues that I have faced with BE.

So here goes..
By agreeing to get some work done for a friend on the basis of an oral agreement. And then they refused to pay. Let go of the friend thereafter.

Two Malayalam linguists - A and A who showed us that sometimes its better to not trust the work of linguists on face value and always, always double check quality of work and references.

Linguists in India have a basic issue. Of not respecting deadlines. I have almost always faced that. Closer to the deadline - the hard disk will fail. Computers will crash. Accidents will happen. Transformers will burst. And an uncle will die. 
I heard the very same Uncle was serious in hospital twice from the same linguist. Poor uncle, he must be really accident prone. :)
Even worse they will never take phone calls. This was a very early lesson we learned and the basic reason why we chose to work with native speakers of all the foreign languages that we work in. As for Indian languages, I eventually go to know lyricists who agreed to translate for me. Thank God for them. But yes, we did slip in the case of A & A. And decided never to work with them anymore.

In other cases, I have met people who considered themselves our competition that they took things so seriously which gave me a crash course on how unethical business 'veterans' are. The things they do. The things that get done. We decided we'd rather not work with clients who don't respect values or ethics. In the bargain, we might have let go of some great names on our dossier, but I'd rather let our company be a reflection of who I am in ethics and values than be an also ran. 

I learn something every time. But more than anything else, a few years down the line, Blue Elephant will be known for values, ethics and the translated words that have gone out from our office to all over the world, helping businesses that work with us, to reach their goals and effectively communicate to the people they want to speak to.

Experience - The Feel of India

Don't know how I missed this album.
Its a wonderful album that I was a part of and got to sing an Abhang and a line in Raghupathi Raaghav.
Please listen and do buy the album if you like it.
It was composed by the very talented guy called Gopalakrishan

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Rock the Tabla - Cairo to India

Rahman sir told me to sing in a track for a collaboration that he was doing with the very famous Egyptian Composer Hossam Ramzy, many moons ago. And though it may be strange I got to know via a tweet that the album is set to release and Cairo to India carries my name in the credits. 

To be credited in an ARR collaboration is humbling for me. And a reaffirmation of what my mom has been putting into my singing and helping me grow as a musician and an artiste. The gratitude to Rahman sir keeps piling up though. There have been days when tears have flown freely due to various reasons. Anger has been one of them. Frustration another. Sadness yet another with regard to my career. 

But if there has been one person who has believed in me for whatever 2 pence I was worth, it has been Rahman sir. From the day of the recording of Dheivam Thandha Poove during my board exams to now, almost a decade has passed. But when I enter the studios today, I am still the child that I was. Time and again have I said, that he was our beacon of hope at the end of a dark tunnel, a ray of hope to a harassed single mom. And a girl who also had begun to question what's the point of living an honest life? Not to mention that the question hadnt been raised more in the recent past but the thing is I have been cast in a way. The die was made in a certain way. The mould cannot change neither can the impression. 

More than anything else, I live my life today, in gratitude for the food on my plate. All thanks to that first song that Rahman sir gave and continued to, when it was the era of the kuthu songs, when no one thought it was 'right' to make me sing a Kuthu song. Kept a wilting creeper alive through all those days.

Angels do walk the earth. The maseeha I know is Rahman 'anna'. The way I called him the very first time I entered his studio and he chuckled at that naive 15 year old. 

There is nothing that someone like me can give back to him or his family except wish and pray with all our hearts, like millions of his fans, that he be healthy and spiritually protected. 

And today I send my thanks to the God above for giving us hope in life. 
And if you are at this point where a lot of things seem hopeless, I wish for you that you may find the hope that I eventually did. My mom waited almost 50 years for that. I waited a mere 14. 
Eventually there is light at the end of the tunnel. 

Monday, July 18, 2011

It is white.
White as snow.
White as nothingness
White as the burst of light behind closed eyes
White as hunger
White as desperation
White as thirst
White as the soul
White as heat
White as the clenched knuckle
White as the shroud 
White as the heart that grieves
White as a prayer
White as salt
White as the teardrop.
It is white.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Malar Manjariyil - Composed by Sri Ousephachan

I refer to this post on the 13th September 2010. At that time I mentioned that I had a divine time recording for this composer. And the composer I was referring to was Sri Ousephachan. I recorded this song on my birthday and the experience is captured in that post. Figured I don't have to add to that.

This is the song
For the Film Karmayogi and here the duet version with Ranjith.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Sara Sara Saarakaathu

I got an opportunity to sing Vairamuthu sir's  Karthik Netha's lyrics after quite a while and this time, for the debutant M Ghibran whom I have known with another name all these years. Think its better not to state his erstwhile name so that there are no confusions. I have been singing quite a few jingles for him and he used to be studying abroad, come here, compose and go back.

I was very happy to know he got a break with Sargunam's film - Vaagai Sooda vaa. And more than anything else this was a deadly song. Super lyrics to say the least. I had a ball while working on this song. A song like this doesn't come to me all the while and am super glad that Ghibran chose me to sing this one.

And I wonder how a poet, a man, is able to suss out what a girl could feel at a given point in time and write lyrics. And maybe for the first time I heard Modaiketthan, a type of a keerai in a song. I know this one, and the director was surprised I did, when I recognized this one and giggled. Modaiketthan was a regular in my home when my grandad was around. He used to say its excellent for the joints. Especially if you had knee problems or maybe even back problems. Not too sure now if it was either or both. Modaiketthan Rasam vechu madakkathaan paakkuraen.. What lyrics. Kick everything :p

Ghibran is on Twitter @MGhibran. Do let him know if you liked the song and the album.

Update on January 2019: It was another one of the those open secrets that I got to know post #MeToo that Karthik Netha was actually the lyricist of Sara Sara Saarakathu. Those who were experts in sussing out the style of a poet said they would bet their bottom dollar that the style is not Mr Vairamuthu's.
However, since Karthik Netha himself did not speak up and neither had he asked me to share the story, I did not have the permission to share it
Here is an interview of Karthik Netha's
where he details how his work came under Mr Vairamuthu's name for the sake of a 'brand value'.

Here is a Dinamalar report on the same.
I thank the journalist for trusting Mr Netha. Thankfully they didn't ask him "why after so many years?". :) Of course, except Dina Malar I don't think I have come to know of any other magazine/newspaper cover the issue. Mr. Vairamuthu's influence and power is massive. How would you explain that he hasn't had ONE interview in all these days but there are channels and newspapers publishing his quotes on Climate change and IMPEX laws. Such is the way of the powerful.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

To everyone who commented to the post below, with all my being - Thank you.

If by God's grace I reach the goal I have set out to achieve, I know your sentiments and blessings would have played a part in taking me there.

Thank you.

Yours Truly.

"The Best Advice I ever Got"

When I was in New York my mentor, Joan Amble made sure that I got to go to a WNBA Inspiring Women's Luncheon. One of the best I had ever attended. Katie Couric was being awarded the Most Inspiring Woman award. In spite of the West claiming to be so progressive, or at least the US, in their 300 years of independence they have not had one woman as President. In India's independent 60 years we had our first woman PM 30 years ago. We have had various women leaders in the Govt. I understood why women's liberation was necessary in the west. Women still earn way less to the dollar compared to men there. Though India is still work in progress on several counts, women have rapidly come up the ladder.

Listening to Katie Couric on that day, the first solo female anchor of a weekday evening news program on one of the three traditional U.S. broadcast networks, was an inspiration. I had a gist of the challenges she had to face. Those who went to the luncheon that day got her latest book - The Best Advice I ever Got - Lessons from Extraordinary Lives)

I get to read her input at the beginning of every new section and its almost as if everything is speaking to me. A lot of singers, musicians, songwriters, actors, head honchos, billionaires and the who's who that contributed to Katie Couric's book have excellent messages to share. 

At various points we think those who are successful have it easy. Or that they got there easily. But let me tell you, even those born with the proverbial silver spoon need to work their seats off to maintain the silver spoon. Only if they are smart enough, they ll turn it to gold. 

Today I get messages on Facebook that curse me anything ranging from a horrible accident to death to I will have a miserable life or anything on those lines, just because I don't accept a friend request. And this usually comes only from men. Sorry if it comes across as sexist, but I have to say it as is. No woman has cursed me because I didn't accept a friend request. Others think its OK to be profane on Twitter to a celebrity. And again this is men. I sometimes worry what sort of fathers these guys will make. So many spew venom at my mother because they know she's the reason why I got here and will go where I want to go. I get a range of other emails too but its unnecessary to talk about them and the really weird people behind those any further.  

As a female singer,  I face several challenges that I have to overcome with the able guidance of my mother. Not alone, thankfully. I am not going to be spelling them out. But I know the path I need to take to get to my goals. It might be a tad slower than most others, but if God is kind enough and if I have divine grace I might actually get there. 

Several men and women have had to go through terrible times, poverty, hunger, malpropagation and even worse experiences and finally end up triumphing. But someday I hope to stand as an example that someone who took the straightforward, righteous path can be at the pinnacle of success too. 

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Who do you want to be today? What's in your mind when you start the day? What's your first thought? 
Do you go through the day keeping your eyes open? Seeing, looking and observing? Hearing listening and registering? What is the last thought in your mind when you end the day? Do you think that there is more to life and living?
As we grow ad observe the life that happens around us, we come to realize that there are not too many absolute truths or absolute lies. Things are not black or white and that they are mostly gray. And perhaps we derive clarity depending on how dark or light the shade of gray is. 
But there might be times, if we listen, will reveal to us the truths we want to live by. And we being wired the way we are - which is usually, to follow the pack because it is the safest thing to do, wondering if our near and dear and even the not so dear would approve - decide to ignore these insights. And thus let the magic slip right between our fingers.
After a point, like the wise say, these magical opportunities decide to find a better medium of expression, reveal themselves to those that will work on them and manifest them into reality. Someone once told me that ideas float around in clouds. And though several may see them, some might identify them, only one or two might actually have the guts to work on these ideas and bring them to the fore. Who is the first mover, is the million dollar question. How many times have we heard some people say, 'Yep, I had the very same idea"? 

During my mentorship program, I was mostly listening and observing. Every cell in me listened, observed and learned. Thank God for that opportunity. A lot of my talented co mentees in the program who came from Libya, Egypt and Palestine had to speak about the turbulence in their countries to most people, they were constantly asked questions because everyone was interested to know what a 'real' person said, to see how different it is from what the media was feeding them.I met truly inspirational people at various events like the WNBA Luncheon, or a Fortune Most Powerful Women gathering, or at the board room of American Express at the WFC, or the cabins of the various women who had given me time from their super hectic schedules to talk to me, understand who I was and how they could help me, Joan Amble and Denise Pickett, my mentors from AMEX and AMEX Open, I have come to know even better that opportunities present themselves to us each day. It truly and really depends only on us on how we want to make it work, if at all. Possibilities are endless. And this entire trip reinforced the belief what my mom inculcated in me, to be genuine, honest, no bull-crapping and to be closest to the truth as absolute as it seems to me. 

Even though the experiences and life in general might lead us to question and even decide against such a path, which is definitely difficult, but its all well worth it. Insofar as the life I have seen so far, I have had my own share of experiences, some of which I wish you the reader dont ever have to go through. Even more so for the ones that my mother had to face. 

Inspite of what everyone may or may not tell you, this life is yours. You can be all that you want to be. Everything you want to be. We are at most time, everything that others want us to be, isnt it? So its not really beyond us to not be all that we want to be. 

Grab every opportunity. It doesnt matter if you didnt succeed. And then again, the definition of success is very fluid and is not set in stone. The dictionary's first result of success is : "the favorable or prosperous termination of attempts or endeavors". 

So there you go. Give your own personal definition to success. Or just dont define it at all. May it rise beyond definitions. 

Most of the time, my mother and I were advised a lot of things. The ones closest in my memory given to me - "Don't talk. Dont host a TV Show. Dont host a radio show. Thats too much talking for a singer. Dont blog. Dont tweet. Dont be accessible to people. Make yourself rare. Behave like a celebrity. Put up your price. Dont do dubbing. Concentrate only on music. Dont think about Blue Elephant and sell the company. Quit Business. Get off Facebook. Stop tweeting...." Tired? I usually hear stuff like this on a daily basis. Sometimes I do think that being simple and humble got me nowhere and it did lead to a lot of people taking undue advantages. I did my duty. But they didn't do theirs. Anyway, I cannot change from my core values. 
Mom had the wisdom and courage to decide against all of that. The question I hear the most " How do you manage your time.. you are doing soo much??!" Honestly the one answer I can give - my mom. She has, without spelling it out, let me be everything I wanted to be. And more. Her insights and her unshakeable guidance is why I am here today. And will be all that I want to be in the future as well. Everything which will be firmly rooted in the ethics and the truth I have grown up with.

So... who do you want to be today? And how do you want to get there?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Day 2 in Corporate America

So here I am sitting at the 30th floor at the World Financial Center, AMEX office.

I have been meeting amazing women and a couple of men too, who are nothing less than hugely inspirational. One of the things I really liked was this conversation with Mr Ira Galtman, Corporate Archivist of the American Express Company. And as I walked into office today, I saw this book "Becoming American Express". This is a company with quite a rich history. And as Mr Ira said, there are not too many companies who can claim to be in business for over 160 years.

One of the best events on Day 1 at Amex was the lunch with Joan Amble, my mentor, at the 50th floor which has this most amazing view of New York. And as the gentleman who served us our lunch told me, he would whip something up "fit for a queen". You bet I felt like royalty that day.

Walking across, meeting various people who are leaders in this company and the community that they affect, its been enlightening.

Its true when they say you learn a lot when you travel. And you probably learn a lot more when you talk to people.

Sitting in India, we have this glorified view of women in western countries that they have it all figured out, all worked out and everything is easy as, to us, thousands of miles away, the west is made of so many progressive countries. But for the first time, I have come to know of the challenges that women here face. How the women here are forced to leave illustrious and promising careers just to save their marriages and take care of children. And when, unfortunately the man, during a mid-life crises or whatever one might want to call it, leaves her for the cliched younger woman, she is left without the man that she believed would lead her remaining life with, without a career and basically with little direction about where to head in the future.

I hear, its quite rare, but not impossible, to have an American husband supportive of his wife's thriving career. Many talented women have left the workforce because the men have told them to. And they just decided to do it that way, inspite of the void they feel. Or they simply take the highway.

In comparison, I am beginning to think that men in India don't seem to have so much of a problem with their working women - women have been in the fields along with the men (and I mean the agricultural field), girls outperform boys each year at school exams (I am not sure about what happens at university) and unless of course, the women starts making more than her husband or is in a higher position than him, there isn't too much of a problem.

We had a woman Prime Minister about 30 years ago, which most nations cannot claim. And some nations aren't even getting close to that. Its true that I have mostly met only women achievers so far. And their journeys are incredible.

I just heard a speech (It's a Jungle Gym Out There) of my mentor, Joan, at UCLA and she ended that with "Success comes from knowing that you did your best, to become the best".

And of the many things I will take back from these amazing women and this amazing lady who is now my mentor, this is something I am going to paste on my wall.

Listen to her speech here and I wish for you that you be able to learn a bit of what I am learning with her right here, at Amex.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Week 2 - New York

I have probably not had a week this hectic in recent times. With everything planned to the last minute and the last detail. 

Learned a lot about how events are organized. Events or entertaining , as such in India is nowhere close to any of what happens here. In spite of the kind of people I have met and who they are.... some of them are on the Fortune Most Powerful List.. but they come on time. They respect other people's time. While in India, there is an ongoing battle with everyone to do anything on time. Forget award ceremonies, thats too much to ask for in India I guess, but I still do not understand why most channels cannot start their shoots on time. Anyway. Cannot but help compare it with what we are used to.

On the other hand, our mobile phone services are better. There are just way too many dropped calls here. Domestic flights are way better. And in a way I think we Indians are comparatively more polite and nicer on the services side and are willing to help or assist.

Also, talking to the other mentees who are a part of this program has been quite an illuminating experience on cultures, thought processes, people and their perceptions. And also, no matter where women are, which country, which culture, we can all connect instantly. And I guess it makes sense to have more women as policy makers and in politics. I somehow believe the world will be a better place that way. 

I have also been meeting mostly women the past few days who are key decision makers, high level policy advisors ( We met the Policy Advisor to the First Lady at the White House), women who are campaigning for change and yes this country needs a lot of work too. A lot of us outside of America think this place is perfect, but not quite. I met Michela English over lunch yesterday and was totally amazed by her work and the facts she showed us. is the President and CEO of this organization. You might want to take a look and I learned so much from her in those two hours.

Other observations -
Washington is way smaller than I imagined. Most roads are single lane in the city
Roads in Chennai seem wider :)
Traffic is held up here as well when an important politician passes. We were held up for about 10-15 minutes in DC. So maybe we in India should not complain. It happens in developed countries too :)
Amazing subway system and the officers at the Information desk at the subway are super helpful.
And meeting so many women and actual doers in politics I wonder how much longer before it all happens in India. And I wonder how much longer we will have excuses. How much longer the really educated and visionary enter politics. How much longer......

Monday, May 02, 2011

Week 1 - Washington DC

I realized I wouldn't have much time to look aroundWashington, which seems smaller than how it is made to look on the screen. Decided to visit the Smithsonian and look around a bit before coming back for the welcoming dinner organized for us. And I finally met all the other mentees yesterday over dinner and also Chris Miner, Managing Director at the US Department of State.
The CEO of Vital Voices addressed us telling us we got here after a really competitive selection process.  I have the embassy in Chennai to thank for this. All this seems bigger than I imagined. Meeting women from Egypt, Pakistan, China, South Africa, Ghaza..Most of us are still learning to say each other's names correctly :)

Talking of names, my last name is being pronounced in the most interesting ways here.

Today we head to Panel Discussions at the US State Department and the White House.

I thought, some day I would be performing at these places sooner or later but never imagined to be part of panel discussions with some of the most powerful women in the US State Dept .. ever. My Blue Elephant is quite a lucky vehicle :)

Listening to the women at the introductory dinner, their challenges, how they have grown to be who they are, their dreams for the future, was more a time of bonding than just mere introduction. Vital Voices has an interesting thought of "Invest in Women Improve the World" and I cannot agree more. Every lady who has been selected as a part of this mentoring partnership somehow made a silent pledge to just not help each other but also each others' communities. The world is as small or as big as we want it to be. 

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Another milestone

One that I did not hope to reach let alone cross.

I am among 3 women selected from India and 35 women from all over the world who will participate in the prestigious FORTUNE/U.S. State Department Global Women’s Mentoring Partnership Program this May. 

I am being mentored by two amazing ladies at American Express and American Express Open. 

I was nominated for this program 2 days after I was awarded the SAARC Women Entrepreneur Council award for achievement in a niche industry. When I filled in the nomination papers I wasnt too hopeful on getting through and when I knew, more than a month and a half ago that I had, I was surprised and didn't know what hit me.

Only those closest to me knew about the goings on. I was also insistent on following protocol and the US Consulate in Chennai was kind enough to organize a press meet in their premises to announce that they are sending me for this very prestigious program which would last all of May.

I saw the agenda and the plans that have made for me and all the other 30 women from all over the world. I can only gape. 
This is most definitely a brilliant opportunity and I only have God to thank for the grace. 

"The Fortune/U.S. State Department Global Women’s Mentoring Partnership connects talented, emerging women leaders from all over the world with members of Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Leaders for a month-long internship program.
The program begins with an orientation in Washington, D.C., where mentees meet with senior women leaders in government, business, academic, civil society and the media. Participants are then paired with one of Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Leaders from companies like Time Inc., Google, Inc., and Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. in cities across the United States. At the end of the mentorship, mentees reconvene in New York City to collectively reflect on their experience and discuss future leadership opportunities"

I am going to be on a learning spree, from other mentees, the people that I would meet and more than anything else, my mentors who I already spoke to yesterday. Two really amazing ladies and I cant wait to meet them and learn from them.

If you are in India and know of a woman who you think can be nominated for this program, contact the consulate in your city. There are several other programs for writers, artists, political leaders, to name a few.

More than anything else, I gaped to read the names that have been on this program from India before. I am one of the three from India and the first to go from Chennai.

Hoping all this would lead to a lot more women coming to know of this program and get such opportunities too.

Pictures from the press meet yesterday - here

Monday, April 11, 2011

Thoughts at a terminal

That I punch out on my phone.... I decided to go to the reflexology space at mumbai terminal that I loved at first session a few years ago. Found their therapy really good. Its only now that I could revisit as I had time on my hands at a domestic terminal after ages. 
I requested a 30 min session and was introduced to my therapist........ Who happened to be visually impaired. A multitude of emotions happened simultaneously and I was briefly overcome by them. I also felt guilt for a little while. But then here was an organization who were thoughtful enough to employ a differently abled person. My therapist herself was an independent, self supporting individual. How many times I have heard people say that we need to be an inclusive society that would not only be compassionate to those less fortunate but also create environs that could give them a feeling of self worth and maybe, even pride. But then I m probably getting ahead of myself. Most of our arenas for entertainment are not built or designed sparing a thought for the differently abled. We rarely see a lift with buttons that also have braille. Ramps are missing in most theatres. Concert halls dont think of reserving areas for those on wheelchairs. Beaches and Parks- am not sure if its possible for someone on a wheelchair to access these without anyone's help. Public transport and stations...less said the better. 
Its normal for us to feel compassionate for those who are not as fortunate but we ll have to remind ourselves to not confuse it with pity and worse still, express that emotion. 
And with that I couldnt help feeling proud for this lady who cant see but she is in the workforce, a tax payer and incredibly good in her work. 
If only more organizations would come forward to be inclusive, it d be an ideal world. 
Dear 'My Foot Reflexology' - Well done and keep it up. 

Friday, April 01, 2011

Kadhal 2 Kalyanam

I got to sing for Yuvan Shankar Raja after a very long time. This song was recorded a few months ago and I still remember how I mustered my guts to speak to Yuvan ji at a college event, several years ago telling him I would like to sing for him. Within half an hour of him leaving the venue, his manager called and asked me to come to the studio. And that is how I recorded Pudhu Kadhal in Pudukkotaiyilirundhu Saravanan.
But for this song, Idhu Kadhalai, I have Mr Milind Rau, the director of this film to thank for the opportunity. I was introduced to Milind on the day the audio of Kannathil Muthamittaal released many moons ago. He worked with Mani Ratnam sir as an assistant starting with Kannathil... I also remember giving a short performance of about 45 minutes that day for a select audience. But then that's a different story. 

Milind gave me clear instructions on what he expected to wanted to be conveyed in the song. And I prayed that it should come through. It was one of the first times that a director was giving me a brief so in a way I was quite worked up. Benny had recorded earlier and like any other song I have recorded, I was not sure whether my voice would be retained. I waited for the audio to release and felt good to see my name there. Benny called the other day saying its good that we have had a duet after a very long time. It ll be good to perform this live. Love the song 

Have heard from so many people how very difficult it is for a first time director no matter how talented they are or who they have worked with earlier. As I have blogged before I admire the gumption of filmmakers and the faith and belief they have in their dreams. This is wishing Milind the best for his directorial debut. May his dreams come true. 

As for me, I am slated to perform with Benny later this month ...Looking forward to that. 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

In Dubai for the first time

For the Hari Udan Naan Grand Finale. The show, conceived and executed by Subhashree Thanikachalam's Maximum Media decided they would hold the Finale in Dubai. The winner gets to win a world tour and also gets to cut an album with Hari ji.
Almost 13 years after singing in Saptaswarangal, I get to go on a trip with her. And more than anything else singing in this show is special for me. Also since one of my favorite people, James Vasanthan is also there, it promises to be a fun trip. And also special for the reason that this is the first ever time I am stepping in to Dubai. Looking forward to it.

On a totally unrelated note, I looking for western corporate wear. Any suggestions on where I can look for these in DXB?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Buying Amar Chitra Katha

I had a couple of comments asking how to buy Amar Chitra Katha. You could by the entire collection here at the online store of
I have ordered several titles from time to time whenever newer titles released. You could order the complete collection, which technically should contain every title of theirs, but you may verify if it really does. Nonetheless, they are bringing in older titles that have been out of print. So you may need to check once in a while. The comics are also available in other Indian languages.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Just a mundane post. Nothing spectacular. Not that I think that I write spectacularly. There are some good things going on and not so good things going on. With falling sick and recuperating and performing at the Music Academy with a recovering voice for Women's Day its been quite a time. We were all given 15 minute time slots to stick to. Which in retrospect I wonder if I should have exceeded it :P

But I loved singing numbers I have never sung on stage before. And I met a lady today that she was glad I sang something that she didn't expect I would sing. And I finally felt gratified. I believe the audience expected me to break into Kilimanjaro and Maiyya Maiyya but the concert being for charity, I felt delicate asking friends and other professionals to perform for me that day. Going into Charukesi and a Punjabi folk song, a Thumri and then finally finishing with a Mira Bhajan it was good fun. The one thing I haven't figured is how to get the engineers to give me perfect monitors on stage. Most of the time I can't hear myself sing. And I don't like the in-ears either. Anyway the issue with the monitors happened only around midway of my 15 min slot. So was pretty confident starting out. 

In between all that watching a lot of things happening around me and with people I know. And I there is a certain placidity in me that I wonder if its normal. Just watching as if it were all not even a movie. I get very involved with movies. But.. anyway. 

One amazing thing has happened professionally which I shall post soon about and how things came to pass. 
Looking forward to that experience and am prepping for that mostly. In other news, I began reading Ponniyin Selvan, something my mother has been asking me to read for ages. Blue Elephant is moving into a new office when the time is 'right'. So until the naal and kol comes together that'd have to wait. We also dubbed a 3 hour video from Bengali and Hindi to Tamil and for the first time, not being behind the mic and getting someone else to dub was an altogether new experience. Inasmuch went without sleep for 3 days, ended up hoarse at the end of it all. Slept for 24 hours with a break to eat after that marathon. There was no way we could have met an insane deadline if we didn't work that way. Anyway.......

Since I have already begun searching for words, time to end this one here.

And oh, I bought a lot more the ACKs I was missing. Now if only they came out with the ones that are not in print. Please People-taking-care-of-Amar-Chitra-Katha, bring out the missing titles. I shall complete my collection and rest in peace. :)

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Nadunisi Naaygal

Delayed but as they say, better late than never.

NN was another wonderful experience of working with one of my favorite directors to work with. I went in for an audition as usual and Gautham sir decided to use my voice to dub for Sameera Reddy. Once again after Vaaranam Ayiram. At the outset however, I did not know or realize the rupture of my voice that I was signing up for  :p

Watching some of the scenes at the studio sometimes the team would watch my face for reactions. And I guess at some point they were making fun of me :p but as usual working with Gautham sir and his team was brilliant. The best thing is I get to see Gautham sir act. Not once but a few times for each scene that I have to dub for. Needless to say he lost his voice too, I noticed though I do not know, for how long.

After the last session of dubbing, my voice split. I had a concert coming up and I knew there was no hope of singing unless I limited my activities to only breathing for the days leading up to the concert. I had 6 days to go and my voice was gone. I told them that I wouldn't be able to come in and dub and they had a deadline to meet for the release. But despite that, Gautham sir understood my commitments and the priority that needed to be given to my concert which was a solo act that I had to pull off for 2 hours. I managed to do the concert and well enough based on the tweets and mails I got. But thereafter my voice headed to splitsville. Its taken an entire month to get back to normalcy and I did my first recording after this break a couple of days ago.

I remember I picked up the phone and hoarsely say "Hello?" and people would say ... umm.... May I speak to Chinmayi? :)

I might never strain my voice this to dub for a film again. My singing voice and my voice itself is way too precious to me. But it was all well worth it. And more than anything else, I wonder how many people would have accepted to my not turning up to dubbing because I had a concert, except him. 

Thanks Gautham sir!

Monday, February 28, 2011

Anant Pai

Several months ago I had written of Mr Anant Pai, a man I had never met but whose work has had a profound influence on my thoughts, my love, respect and devotion for this land, my respect for those who laid down their lives for this country. Boring history lessons would have never made me realize the quantum of work by Bhagat Singh, Deshbandhu Chittaranjan Das, Savarkar or of the Tatas and Birlas, of scientists and finally that which I love the most - stories from the Puranas, Upanishads, Jatakas, Mahabharata, Hitopadesha, Ramayana, folk tales and faiths of the world. A man whose team and illustrations and language gave me a command over English far beyond my age when I was very young. Comics which told me faith could move mountains. That God hears our pleas. That all are equal in the eyes of God. In Tales of Yudhishtra, Lord Yama in disguise questions Yudhishtra if a Brahman is made by conduct or learning. Yudhishtra's reply that a Brahman becomes one only by conduct and not by birth was imprinted in my mind. 

The practices at home, the way my grandfather and mom led by example further established these stories and they became a way of life. So many times have I heard my mother say that it is hard to come across a true Brahman today. Only he, she used to say, that walks in the path to know Brahman, the Omnipresent, Omnipotent and the In-dweller of all beings, the Supreme, is the Brahmana. Brahma-charya. To walk in the path of knowing the Brahman. If we had to follow the varnasrama, being classified by what we do in our professions in today's world, we would all be known by different names. When we sit down to watch our thoughts and what we think about, everyone would probably have to wait for a thought on high ideals to come by. Maybe for a long time. Forget meditating on God. We mostly meditate on the idiotic driver on the road or how we got irritated or countless other things. That's the way we all are and that has become the rumdrum now. 

Over the years over and over have I read these comics. I used to have a 100 titles initially, a lot of which are out of print. Out of the initial 100, I have only 30 left. The others were borrowed and never returned. But I built the collection again, scour the website every once in a while and I see they are systematically bringing out titles that were out of print, one by one. And now I have over 300 though at various points in time I have read all their titles. I ll have to wait for the others to be printed and complete my collection. I remember the feeling of blood rushing through my veins as if I were witnessing the Independence struggle myself. Or suddenly praying to Krishna or Vitthal with all my heart after reading the ACK of Kanakadas or Jagannath of Puri. 

Of kings and queens, tyrants and benevolent men, Gods and Goddesses, Saints and Reformers, Thinkers and Industrialists, Freedom fighters and silent revolutionaries. How easily they communicated some of the most complex ideologies so that it could be understood by a child of 8 in those blurbs. And how easily the comics reveal more and more meaning at every read even to an adult.

Legend has it that Anant Pai began ACK when he saw that children could answer questions on Greek mythology during a quiz but did not know who Sita or Rama were. Or maybe the question was who was the father of Rama. And in the ACK titles he went back to the very origin of origins and where it all started. The Gita. The Mahabharata. The Ramayana. Jesus Christ. Zarathrushtra. Mahavira. The various Sikh Gurus. And how in breaking ancient wisdom to speak the language that can be understood even by young child, I knew from then that God is one. But then as I grew the world wanted to teach me different things. Of divisions and castes and creeds. What the ACK team could do in 40 pages or less most exponential books could not. How he taught so many Sanskrit words and simultaneously taught us the meaning of those. Mantradrashta - the seer of the mantra from Shunahshepa as he was referred to by learned sages of that age in the ACK Title of the same name. This title is currently out of print. But should be available at libraries, if someone hasn't already stolen them. :p

As said by Mr Narayanamurthy in his book A Better India, A better world, we seem to be a country where reservation is not on the basis of merit but caste. Someone on Twitter said the other day that no country can prosper by discriminating against its people. And to this day the caste card is played even amongst the educated masses and we fall prey again and again. The light of education does not reach so many sections of the society. While many starve, the immediate thought is to fill this stomach. Who cares about education?

Thinkers like Narayanamurthy ask us to give back to the society. India, once known for its charity is now bereft of charitable people and philanthropists. Perhaps we have given up. Given up on the system, whatever is left of it or the lack of it. Everyone would rather run away from this country and come back when they have children, so that they can grow up in this 'culture'. A lot of others prefer not to do that as well. 

Today we realize more that there is no freedom of speech in this country which is a fundamental right for the citizen of India. So we dare not opine and keep quiet. Even if children do, they are promptly asked to shut up. Informed of dire consequences. And the more I talk to people and the more I listen, the more I keep my eyes open, it all looks as if there seems to be a greater force which seems to benefit if we all decided to be divided on the various reasons given to us. History is refreshed and hate is bred  anew. Suddenly blood will boil and people would be urged to take revenge on ancestors who would have long known the truth that we are all one. We come from the same source and go back to the source. But in between the entire tamasha happens. And we the educated, shall keep quiet. Not even dare to think and even pray that good shall happen to our people. We, however, are trained to say that this country will go to the dogs. Or indha naadu uruppadavae uruppadaadhu. And translations of it in the hundreds of languages and dialects spoken in India. 

I know my limitations as a human being and also know of my strength. Everyday I send out a prayer to the Gods of the Universe, with no name or form, to help my country and its people. To help the people of this earth. If you, the reader, is sniggering here, please go ahead and may you be happy if that brings you the joy. 

But in the words of Anant Pai and all the characters that have spoken to me through his ACK, God does listen and God does answer prayers. And I know there are countless praying similarly in various tongues for the same thing in various parts of the world. And in knowing my limitations and my strength as a single human being I pray to that one God asking for deliverance and a better future for the children. God could turn his back on Brahman priests and turn to face his devotee Kanakadasa at Udupi who was lamenting the fate of not being allowed to see him, at the back of the temple. Now we all have to see the Lord through the very same window. Of Lord Ranganatha refusing to open the doors because a Brahman priest had assaulted the "untouchable" of Tiruppan. And unless the priest carried Tiruppan around the temple and brought him to the Lord he wouldn't open them. Or of the divine trance of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Or the divine love of Mirabai. How God helped the ones that loved him with all their heart and came to them in the form that they wanted to see him the most.

Anant Pai passed on a couple of days back. But his work is Amar. Immortal. 

I wish I could have touched your feet Sri Pai. But it was not to be. I send my salutations to you. You awoke an entire generation from the slumber of ignorance of its cultural ethos. The light shines bright. And it shall continue to. 

Rest in Peace.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Dhaivatam in Pantuvarali

"Music colleges of those days had their own advantage of covering a quantum syllabus. But the quantum also had its detrimental value. Like for example “ The 72 melakartas”
I have heard Vaaddiyars (theory masters) (a raga is divided into Purvanga and Uttaranga. Purvanga is shadja to pancham. Uttaranga is Pancham to taara Shadja). having a peculiar way of educating students that “Purvanga of this mela and uttaranga of that mela.. combine them and you get this melakarta”. The students became very happy that they have learnt a new raga just with this one sentence of information. The students would start experimenting with all their half-baked raga knowledge, singing the first half in one chaya and the second half with another chaya. Thus several mongrels of the melakartas happened. I have seen students having such confusions in the musical movements of Pantuvarali and Purvikalyani. First and foremost, in Patammma amma’s class, (D K Pattammal) I realized the beauty of the Dha occurring and how enticing the Panchama varja (varja means absent) prayogas could be.
After the Swara pallavi (known as the miniature varnam, without a sahityam. We have said elsewhere that this is the amanat of Telugudesam) the musical form, Varnam is the real essence of any raga. This particular varnam in Pantuvarali, just brought tears in my eyes while learning. The beauty of the form, the piece, moved me. Immediately after that she taught Dikshitar’s kriti, Visalaksheem Vishweseem. While Pattamma amma sang phrase after phrase, you could see the pristine pure Puryadhanasri prayogas. Afterwards there was no confusion. Each note and its placement in different phraseologies was crystallized. It was a unique experience. When Pattamma amma arrested a musical phrase at Dha. It was a divine experience of how pure a note could be.
Learning from the stalwarts was indeed an experience. Similar experiences on purity of notes and the applications that could move you was with Brindamma or with Sri Vishwa. Every note that emantated from his flute brought a reality of pure naada binding us in an intoxicated thrall. With Yadukula Kambodi or Aahiri or Sahana or even Todi, one realizes how they should sound when you listen to the stalwarts. At this point, I am reminded of Brindammas statements - "Sangeethatha pathi paesaraaahalaame? Paada vaendiyadhudhaane? Paesardhukku enna irukku?” Talking about music was strictly prohibited. No doubt was explained in words. And everything was inferred and sensed by the teachers and clearing of doubts were by way of music alone. Never by words.  'Once the tanpura was on the sound in the room has to be only music and not words at all' was the dictum.  When someone with a theoretical knowledge was flaunted in front of them, they used to politely say “Avuha ellam meththa padichavuha”. It had a tremendous velocity and sarcasm. They also never believed in teaching music resorting to verbal explanations or by means of diagrams and statistics"

To be continued…..

P.S.: This post is in quotes and as dictated by mom.