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S.R. Ashok Kumar
Chitra, playback singer.
`Chinnakuyil' Chitra's latest recognition is in the form of a national award for the best playback singer (female). But then national awards are not new to her. Chitra looks back on her singing career this week.
I am from a family of musicians. My father Krishnan Nair, also a singer, was my first teacher. I did post-graduation in music in the University of Kerala. I also took training in Carnatic music from K. Omanakutty, a professor in the university. I got the Central Government's national cultural talent search scholarship for vocal classical music from 1978 to 1984.
It was music director M.G. Radhakrishnan who gave me my break. "Attahasam", "Snehapurvam Meera" and "Nan Ekananu" were my first few films. I performed live concerts with K.J. Yesudas in India and abroad and that was a turning point in my career. Veteran music directors such as Ravindran, Shyam, Jerry Amaldev, Kannor Rajan and Johnson also helped me move up in my career ladder. I was given the title `chinnakuyil' for my song in the film "Neethana Antha Kuyil." The song was composed by Ilayaraja. It was Ilayaraja who made me popular in South India by giving me chance to sing some of his best composition. I have also sung for M.S. Viswanathan, K.V. Mahadevan, Keervani, Vidyasagar, Bharadhwaj, Chakravarthy and Hamsalekha. In Hindi Anand-Milind, Nadim-Sharavan, A.R. Rahman, Anu Malik, Rajesh Roshan and Vishal.
I have sung 12,000 songs in Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada, Hindi, Oriya, Bengali, Bhaduga and Punjabi. As an exclusive artiste for Sony Music, I released two Hindi pop albums "Piya Basanti" and "Sunset Point". I have also sung the `Enchanting Melodies' (Padms of Swatithirunal) and `Krishnapriya' (Keerthans on Lord Krishna).
I have been honoured by four Southern states. Till now I have received six national awards (a record for any female playback singer) for "Sindhu Bairavi" in 1986, "Nakhashatangal" (1987), "Vaishali" (1989), "Minsara Kanavu" (1996), "Virasat" (1997) and now for "Autograph" for 2004.
I have bagged 13 Kerala State awards, 3 Tamil Nadu State awards, six Andhra State awards and two Karnataka State awards, besides 30 from different social, cultural, corporate and media organisations. I am happy to say that I am the only singer from India to perform live in the House of Commons, London, and also the first Indian female singer from South to perform live in the Royal Albert Hall.
My favourite singers: Hindi--Lathaji and Ashaji with Mohamad Rafi and Kishore Kumar. In the South--S. Janaki and P. Susheela, K.J. Yesudas and S.P. Balasubramaniam.
If you want me to choose the best among the national award song then I would say first is the best. The composition was from Ilayaraja and it was "Sindhu Bairavi". Among the three best from all my songs then I would say is `Varmukelae' from the film "Mazha". The second is `Ethetho Ennam Valarthean' from "Punnagai Mannan" and the third is from `Khanahai Kiya' from Bombay.
I wish that God allowed me to sing till I am capable. My husband Vijay Shanker manages my recording dates and our cassette company. My daughter Nandana, aged two-and-a-half, enjoys good music.
The recent award winning song Pa. Vijai's `Ovvoru Pookalumae' from "Autograph" has inspiring lyrics. Director Cheran sat through the entire recording. He took more care to see that the song came out well. In fact, I had to redo two lines as people were not satisfied that part. Today wherever I go, people demand that I sing this song. If there is no orchestra they would ask me to sing at least four lines of the song. When I came to know about the national award I personally thanked director Cheran and director Baradhwaj.
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