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Musically yours

Smiling her way through life, Chitra talks to SUBHA J RAO about what else, but music

IF SINGER Chitra's life had gone according to plan, she would now be teaching music to eager students in Kerala. Fortunately for her fans, music directors spotted this once-wiry talented teenager and got her to lend her voice to films.

But, success sits lightly on Chitra's shoulders. "I never expected to come to this field. It's all destined. My parents never pushed me into singing for films. It just happened. But, having come here, I guess I have managed to contribute my bit," she says, smiling. This, from someone who has crooned close to 15,000 songs in all four South Indian languages, besides Hindi, Bengali, Oriya and Punjabi. The singer was recently in town to receive the `Vocational Excellence' award presented by the Rotary Club of Coimbatore West.

Chitra is not being heard as often as she used to be. Ask her if she is cutting down on her assignments, and the singer says: "No. Nandana (daughter) happened after 15 years of wait and I wanted to take things easy. I did not travel till she was six months old. Even now, I have to sneak out for recordings without her knowledge," says the proud mother.

A mother speaks

In the intervening period, the only person who got to hear her was Nandana. "I took everyone's advice and sang bhajans and chants for her when I was pregnant so that she would feel the positive vibrations," she says, bashfully. One thing constant through the interview is her smile. It never leaves her face.

Ask if her daughter changed her outlook towards life, and she says: "I feel whole now. She is the centre of my universe and I have little time for anything else."

The singer, who struck gold with Piya Basanti, her Hindustani album with Ustad Sultan Khan, at a time when private albums were not doing too well, has finished recording for its second part, which is to be released soon. In between, she also cut Sunset Point with Gulzar.

Controversies seem to keep a safe distance from Chitra. How has she managed that? "I am scared of controversy. I don't want to be in a position where I have to keep explaining my actions," she says. Her reaction on receiving news of the National Award for Sindhu Bhairavi is still vivid in her mind. "I was in a concert with Jesu anna (K. J. Jesudas) when the news came. He announced it on stage, but I did not believe it till I saw it in the papers the next day."

Though Chitra has sung a range of songs, melody continues to be her forte. "That's because I love melodious songs; I identify with them."

Introduced by Ilayaraaja in Tamil, she went on to sing for a host of composers, including A. R. Rahman. How different was it working under the maestro and the new-generation musician? "With Raja Sir, the orchestra is set beforehand and he teaches you how to sing a song. Rahman, on the other hand, will let you sing and then set the orchestra. He also retains all the takes and chooses the best one," she says.

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