Sunday, January 22, 2012

Flipping pages

Happened to read posts that I wrote when I had begun blogging. It's interesting to see what we have written at times and to go back and perhaps reflect on the decisions and the thought process we'd have had. And especially when such logs are in a public domain for all to see.

There was this phase where I wrote absolutely random prose on nothing in particular. But perhaps if I had not blogged it here I would have totally forgotten. Books get misplaced. Papers get torn. And devices are exchanged. Seems like the internet is the place of ever after.

However the exercise of changing this space into a proper website has been a work in progress for aeons. Wonder if I ll get this done this year at least. Ah, well. Resolutions....!!!

Thursday, January 19, 2012


A learned, wise man once told me to dedicate everything I do and every note I sing to the Goddess Saraswati. For me, it is actually difficult to imagine the form of any one God/Goddess when I think of the creator. More often than not my God is formless. Yes I love many of the rituals and practices associated with my culture that has been passed down to me by my family, question some, but over all I am happy for the cultural identity that I have. 

Once when I went back to this gentleman and was telling him about a struggle that I was going through, he said only one thing. Dedicate it all to the Goddess. She shall watch over you and though Saraswati might come across as a calm, peaceful Goddess, Saraswati would actually dance the dance of destruction on the ego of the one that causes the pain on her devotee. This of course stands true in the case of the devotee as well.

As they say a lot of this wisdom I have heard from mom but when it comes to me again from a different soul, its is reaffirmation and a case of dejavu. And of course, the "why didn't I practice this when mom told me a long while ago"?

On the previous post, I happened to ask that question to know what general opinion is like. At least as a dipstick opinion poll, if you may. There are some people who say no celebrity can exist if there are no fans. I had always honestly wondered what that means. In my humble opinion, a fanboy is someone who perhaps, religiously follows an artiste's work and more often even blind to any inconsistencies and worships the artiste. In our culture, especially in south India, this is not an unknown concept where the fan doesn't merely stick pictures of his favorite actor in his room, or the wallpaper/screensaver on his mobile device, watch the movies (at theaters mostly). But he is also the guy who will stick his body with a million needles and walk on fire if his favorite actor's health fails. Eat food from the bare ground. Get coconuts broken on his head. And we all know about all this. Of course this isn't the definition of a fan. There are definitely others who admire their favorite stars' work in a more peaceful fashion. But to me the ultimate fan was the kind who I saw everytime a Superstar film released. I thought it was stuff of legends until TV Channels showed it. And of course when he was going through a rough patch with his health, the kind of prayers and everything else was amazing. Of course, beyond south India, the actors of the North say no one gets the sort of adulation that stars in the south get. I am drifting, but coming back...

I was also told that it is my business to learn to sing, keep learning, singing and go about on related work. Everything - awards, praise, encomiums are all incidental. The only thing that will last is the art. I will only be a practitioner who will also eventually be lost in the sands of time or become the drop in the ocean. 

To me, I shall humbly state that (in my case) only the sadhaka or the practice of music exists. Only music exists. Criticism, praise, compliments, fans, awards, money is all incidental. And one day I shall also cease to exist and become a statistic. That is all there is to it. 

As for criticism or taking any, my greatest critic is my mother. Each of her words in relevant situations have been like a bitter pill but she has poured it down my throat and the taste will last a lifetime. This doesn't mean I disregard any criticism from others but based on my own personal life experiences only the words of my mother ring true "Azha azha solluvakka tham manusha... sirikka sirikka pesumaam ooru". As of now, my mother is the truest genuinest well-wisher.

Her words are honestly for my own good, my improvement and evolution as an artiste, musician, a woman, a human being. She wouldn't hestitate to slap me across the face to drive a point if there were ever a day that it had to come to that. To her I am Chinmayi, her daughter and perennially, a student. To the world, I can be anyone. Based on individual and various perceptions. I can be held responsible for what I do, but I can't be held responsible for what someone thinks of me. They are responsible for their acts/opinions.

To some I might come across as someone who doesn't accept views, but to this day every comment on this blog is co-vetted by my mother. I know a lot of people get very uncomfortable with this fact. But in the Indian culture there is nothing wrong in this. I love this in the culture in my home. For those who have not been able to have this sort of a comfortable equation with their family/parents, yup, it will be difficult to digest. Hey, I have a great mom who is a friend. Many allow access of their personal accounts to friends, but don't trust family or parents in particular in some cases. It is sad. The family is usually the last to know about an issue. Friends are the first to know. Of course everyone's family set up is different so I shall abstain from commenting further. As I myself have said before, the wearer knows where the shoe pinches.

Today there are more people who are envious of me that I have such a strong and capable mother as Mrs Padmhasini than for whatever meagre talent that I have. 

I thank those who are kind enough to wish well for me. I thank those who criticize with genuine intent. I thank those who only wish ill for me too, because I derive joy from equipping myself, becoming more successful and going higher. They give me the proverbial fire in the belly. Thanks to them complacency has never crept up on me. There is always some challenge around the corner and I am grateful to God for that. I am grateful for my life, the opportunities, the composers' kindness because THEY are truly the ones who have kept me surviving as a playback singer.

And as for the post on criticism below, I'd like to clarify that I - as one of the so many million voices in this country and with the right to free speech as everyone else - disagree on then those who criticize with a malice. On those who don't know what it takes for someone to bring their work of art to the public. Of course no one wants to learn or know the other man's struggle. I criticize the one who just blabs and never attempts to learn the intricacies of the piece/work he criticizes. The one who is actually feigns expertise but honestly knows nothing.  It is easy to talk. Tougher to walk the talk. Which is why in this country or, more so, in this world of so many billion people, only few are artistes. Creators. Only few have it in them to blaze new trails. Some follow them. Some criticize them. And the creators exist because God wills them to. And they'll exist despite anything and anyone. 

And with that I end this post. Thank You for reading and God bless.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Just asking

Does an artiste exist and prosper because of his talent/expertise in the art
or because of fans?

Would love to know your opinion just to see what common viewpoints are like.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Criticism and otherwise

OK. Since there are some questions on this particular paragraph in the previous post and tweets that I have posted which might sound similar to this. 

One of the things I feel is missing today, in this era of super-fast attempted comprehension and hence I believe what has actually been communicated in black and white is being happily misinterpreted. People are in a hurry to read, in a hurry to understand and in a hurry to interpreter in their own words. Not much reading. Not much reflection is happening. I realized I was speed reading and missing the point once in a while and realized I would read anything, be it a tweet or a newspaper when I can devote those minutes to reading the written word.

Now coming back to the paragraph that I started off about at the beginning of this post

"I ll tweet, maybe blog about issues closest to my heart, raise funds and spread word for causes. And might even go support Anna Hazare and sit on a fast. But that is all. If you are one to say, "Oh, if you can't change the system by joining it, don't complain". If you say that, Would you accept it if I say, for example, "Dont criticize a film or say that it is bad or a song is bad unless and until you can compose or come up with something better."

The question was "Would you accept it if I said you cannot criticize a film?" I didn't say don't criticize. I am nobody to tell anyone don't criticize. In the same vein, I would also say that it is in my purview to accept something as criticism or, to put it plainly, brush it aside as bullshitting and I think the sense of faux satisfaction that a layman turned 'critic' gets by just word-lashing someone in the name of 'constructive criticism'. 

I am brought up to take criticism. In my entire life I have hardly heard even a fraction of the compliments or praise that the next contestant in a reality show today would have heard. I have been raised and now also proudly belong to a school of thought which believes a talented child should not be praised on the face and that it would lead to the child stagnating. (This is an entirely different topic - my mom is the right person to blog about this - And then I have the special talent of meandering here and there before I come to the point on most of my posts. So, if you are not new to my blog, you would probably smile and say 'yeah'. Or if you hate my guts, you'd curse me and read on anyway :p)

Now for this question of criticism and taking it.

I guess blogging and tweeting and everything else has opened the floodgates of brash expression, on a not so new platform. Everyone is proud of being outspoken, 'honest', straightforward and similes thereof. A lot of people are wannabe journalists. A lot of people are wannabe critics. 

That said, I am also the person who sometimes has wondered about the expertise/scholarship of a present day critic even in a reputed newspaper. I wonder what they base their opinion on. Not of the truly learned critic of a different era. 

I humbly believe that watching every film that releases and having an opinion does not make someone a critic. So here you may ask, OK Miss I-refuse-to-get-down-from-my-high-horses, what is your exalted opinion on what a critic should be?

I haven't defined the perfect critic yet. But I think they are someone who is as honest (what am I asking for?), free of personal bias (what am I asking for, again?), has to be an expert on the subject (IMHumbleOpinion) especially the third point if they are going all out to denounce someone or something and if they are, they must justify why they are doing it.If I were reading that piece it would definitely finally rest in my mind whether I accept the reasons or not. We are all judges of something or the other at various points in everyday life.

I have taken advise from the people who I know only want the best from me and of me. My mother always said, "azha azha solluva tham manusha, ooru sirikka sirikka paesum" I know that, I realize that too.

I know that the very same people who might compliment me today on the blog or on twitter or organically might actually believe a piece of crappy gossip, repeat it in various places and hold me guilty until innocent. The benefit of doubt will never exist for someone who is in the public eye. I even say that if anyone were to see me in an accident and bleeding on the road, I would probably bet one of my prized possessions that most even if they recognize me, would only drive past. Because who would want to go get caught up with the police and the hospital and the responsibility that comes with it? Someone might call the ambulance but thats all. Because ultimately, none really cares for anyone except the family (if you are lucky) or the ones that truly love you. Everyone else are passing clouds.

That doesn't mean I am not grateful for the love and people who wish me well from wherever they are. The good energy that comes my way or the people that genuinely pray for my well being. 
But just looking at all this with a sense of detachment. Life remains a lone journey. Sometimes you might have people who might travel a certain distance with you but that's all there is to it. 

As for why I don't talk about other music albums or films -

I don't even mention which movie I watch or which album I have heard these days because people ask me for my opinion. And most people don't want to accept it if I said I liked the album. Or a film. It is the age of sensationalism and people wanting to become news-makers (by making up news at times) and news-breakers. A good number of average tweeters and bloggers today wants to compete with no less than the NDTVs and CNNs of the world in 'Breaking News'. 

I guess like everything that goes through growth, peaks and rattles or whatever and then settles, this obsession with wanting to share everything and wanting to opine on everything under the sun will soon hit a saturation point on the social media.

I don't think blogging is journalism. Just like how a diary cannot be called a book or a piece of literature. A weblog is a weblog is a weblog. Call it whatever. Host it wherever. It is a personal opinion. Some blogs might have research, might have supporting data for the veracity of the claims. But then, hey, if I change this opinion in the future and you see a post which might be contradictory to this, don't kill me. Man is supposed to learn, evolve and change. 

I also find it absurd when people ask "You said this then, you changed your mind now" Or "this model said she wont act. Now she is acting". Or some such thing. So what? Is it the end of the world? Their life. Their choices. Their mind. They can maintain it, change it, not change it, whatever. And again, its their life :)

Coming back, even if I don't like something that has come from an artiste/book after having become involved in this industry, seeing how people struggle, how much a director or every technician goes through, anyone who has their heart in the right place would never criticize publicly. It doesn't mean artistes don't get negative comments or that people in the industry only keep praising each other. Na. On the contrary, I would daresay that most of the people that I have met in this business of films are happy enough to discuss what they liked/didn't like about each others' work of art over a cup of coffee or a phone call. Just that they don't let the general public know. And at the end of the day, everyone doesn't need to know everything. :) No? :)

And likewise, it makes perfect sense for me to just make a call/send an SMS or an email to someone if I had a problem with a certain thought. I definitely can let them know straight away instead of making a huge scene about it with total strangers. I somehow believe in the idea of praise in public and criticize in private.

P.S.: To those who might follow me on twitter and may even point out that a friend of mine is doing this or that, if I disagree with my friend, I ll do it in private. Never in public. And I ll never let a friend down in public. Loyalist that I am :)

Monday, January 02, 2012

A year that whooshed by

It seems like yesterday that 2011 was born.
Being a part of the US/State Dept Global Women's mentoring partnership, meeting amazing women from all over the world, attending the Fortune MPW Summit, winning the Nandi award, singing some truly beautiful compositions, to learning so many essential lessons in a world that is changing every moment and every day. 

I was surprised at winning the Nandi award for dubbing in Ye Maaya Chesave. Never in my life had I imagined that I would win an award for dubbing. But Ye Maaya Chesave was an amazing break for me in Telugu films. 

Attending the mentorship program, meeting women in the list of the Fortune MPW, getting to listen to, speak to people who created, sustained or grew phenomenal organizations was an experience to cherish for a lifetime. My mentors Joan Amble and Denise Pickett remain in touch with me.

Launching the Chinmayi Sripada app was another thing I am proud of. An idea of Naveen Varadarajan to launch what he called the first celebrity app. It had 25,000 downloads in about 3 months. And was in the Top 25 within a week. With that I became the first musician to launch an app made for all iOS devices. The android app has been stuck for weeks. But then I guess it will release when it has to. And with that we ll release content specially made and exclusive to this app.

The year made me realize and learn a lot of mob tendencies which is highly rampant on a platform like Twitter. (And as a platform twitter does nothing to control abuse or trolls). It is truly an art to communicate effectively and succinctly in 140 characters. Its open to interpretation. And honestly, people want to understand only what they want understand. With pre-conceived notions. And a space where there are a lot of trolls and those who abuse. Especially against women. If I ever had the power to pass a bill for abuse against women especially on social network, I would raise all my hands and attach new hands too. More women are abused and blackmailed with the help of social media. More threatened. Maybe so are men. But if you are a parent and are reading this, don't run to ask your daughter/sons to delete accounts. Instead ask them to watch what they say and who they add. And the saying is perhaps true : Don't trust anyone that easily.

At a photoshoot, a photographer told me that perhaps 'celebrities' should remain aloof and not attempt to communicate or let their ideas be understood or come down to the social media. Because most don't want to understand. It made sense, but then I was perhaps one of the first few from the film industry to start blogging quite a while ago. My posts might have been sporadic. I have used this space to rant, reminisce, log random thoughts. I am not regretting this space or my interaction in the social media. But clearly, as I have learned, it is a double edged sword. 

There are really no friends here. Everyone is of some sort of a utility value. Maybe that is true of life in general. And that is all there is to it. If you are lucky to have a good, supportive, positive family and a good set of friends, then you are exactly that. Lucky. Of course, the social media is used for good purposes too. To network, raise funds for charities, spread the word on causes and so much more. 

A lot of times I have probably been vocative about various issues especially on twitter. And so many, have, in all their gullible glory, asked me if I am going to join politics. How many of us discuss the goings on over a cup of coffee? Or over lunch/dinner? A phone conversation? The social media, in this scenario, for me is an extension of that. 

I was talking to a friend the other day who was saying that we are in an age where everyone believes he can be a leader. This, of course, can be a good thing in a way. We have had generations of young men and women who have been suppressed by various factors, society being the greatest of them all, in forcing hordes to take the beaten path. 

Aeons ago, those who said the earth was round were burned on the stake. Women who had the gift of healing were labeled witches and burned on the stake. Women who were intelligent were again burned on the stake. If you were special, you had better keep quiet. The society and - to be blunt - the mediocre, average or low IQ people - forced you into being and becoming one of them. One wasn't allowed to be special. The politics of the corrupt minds and those in power has been as old as the stars.

Coming back, everyone thinks and believes he can be a leader. Why help someone else? A man who can be a great orator need not be a good leader or an administrator. Each one has a specific role to do. I draw the example of great singers, actors, writers, artistes of the pre-independence era who were active in the freedom movement. They propagated the message of freedom. They inspired men and women, girls and boys in every corner of the country to stand up and fight for the vision and dream of a free India. Various leaders arose. Many of them killed by the British. Each of their efforts was the proverbial drop of water in the pot. 

One man survived as the leader of them all. It was destiny. India was free.

Today our country is in a sorry state. All of us, in all our capacities need to be speak and tell ourselves and everyone else to love our country truly and work to see, if the mammoth dream of a minimum-corruption India is possible amongst a lot of other things. I wonder if accountability would be the one cure, for starters. There are tons of issues to grapple with. India needs intelligent minds to handle so many sectors and areas. Micro management is more important than one central management.

I speak of things that I feel most about. My country is definitely one of them. Spreading the message of human trafficking is one of them. Keeping our roads and cities and town clean is one which I did as an RJ. Promoting the philanthropic spirit that our country was once famous for is one. An equal, non-discriminatory, caste-free society is one, for, no country that discriminates against its own people has been known to prosper. There are so many dreams that I have for myself too like anyone else. 

But that is about it. This life is for me to be a singer, a life in pursuit of being a musician par excellence, maybe even a serial entrepreneur considering I started a couple of other ventures this year.

For example Javed Akhtar, Shabana Azmi, Lata Mangeshkar have all been nominated members of the RS. But would you or I call them politicians? Or artistes? I would safely say for myself and maybe for a good number of the readers of this post that they ll be artistes first. Forever. Lata ji produced movies, composed music, acted too. But she, forever, will be the nightingale. SPB sir sings, dubs, hosts, produces, composes, directs and whatnot, but he will forever be a legendary singer. 

As much as my little sparrow sized brain can understand, being a politician means having have to stomach, swallow and bear a whole lot of insults plus putting your life at risk, never being able to trust anyone... the list is endless. More so for women. I admire the woman who has the guts and the nerves of steel to be in politics. And more importantly, the sharp intellect and having her wits about her all the time to outsmart tons of others with the sheer dint of intellect and brains.  Ah the joy! :D

I ll tweet, maybe blog about issues closest to my heart, raise funds and spread word for causes. And might even go support Anna Hazare and sit on a fast. But that is all. If you are one to say, "Oh, if you can't change the system by joining it, don't complain". If you say that, Would you accept it if I say, for example, Dont criticize a film or say that it is bad or a song is bad unless and until you can compose or come up with something better.

There can only be a few leaders. If everyone becomes leaders who ll follow? Very few have the talent and the brains to run a street/city/council/state/country. Everyone cannot. 

The very same friend said, if you have the pressing feeling to help the country, first start with yourself, then your family. If you have succeeded there, start with your extended family. Then your street. Your town/village. Then the city. Then the state. The country. The world. Most of us wont get past the first couple of points. Because there would be so much to do there itself.

And the thing is, once the first two in the list are have a tick mark next to them, there begins a domino effect. Everything will automatically change for the better. 

Life has been good to me so far. A mixed bag yes. But predominantly good. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger. I have emerged stronger. And I realize with each passing day, out of sheer comparison and by looking at the world around me with a clarity in vision that each passing day of experience gives me that my mother is definitely my greatest asset. She belongs to the category of king makers. Visionaries. I am not saying this because she is my mother. But because, I humbly state, that I am objective enough to look at her with the point of view of a third person. And I realize all the more that I am plain darn lucky.

To parents, keep a watch on your children. Explain, talk, converse with them and get them to understand. The world is becoming crazier. Make sure your kids/siblings are with in the right company. Know who your kids friends are and encourage them to meet at your home. Be doubly sure about who you/your kids/siblings marry. There are more psychopaths out there than you can imagine. Oh, but yes. the world is still a good place.

For couples with young kids teach them about the Good touch and the bad touch. Tell them to be brave enough to talk to you about an adult who touches them inappropriately. Whether you have a son or a daughter. A fair number of boys I have met have been abused by their own family members and have been afraid to talk about it. Unfortunately we are a country that victimizes the victim. (Note: If you can please read this book called Half The Sky)

May God bless you, be with you and if you come across difficult times, turn to God. No matter how angry you may be with anything. Scold God. Throw things at God. Do whatever. (I am saying this to myself as well). And yes, have faith. It definitely does move mountains. If you are an atheist, I don't know what to say... Umm.. May be ask for help and guidance from a greater force (coz lets face it, you - the atheist - cannot be the most powerful thing in the world :p) May you be healthy and happy.

May 2012 truly be the emergence of a whole new world and a time of beautiful times for the good. Tathaastu.