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From passion to profession

Meet four Chennai-ites whose passion brought them fame. GEETA PADMANABHAN writes...

So many people think that they could never make a living doing what they feel passionate about, but the truth is that the world will value what you have to offer if you truly value it yourself, said passion-to-profit guru Walt Goodridge. Are you doing what you're supposed to, not what electrifies you? Think you can opt for a passion-centred lifestyle? Be a passsionpreneur? Others have gone and done it. And you know them.

Achuthan Kudallur

ACHUTHAN KUDALLUR " Education was the worst thing that happened to me" PHOTO: N. SRIDHARAN

"The magic of creation always fascinated me," says artist Achuthan Kudallur, drawing mental abstracts of his Palghat village days. Simple magnetic attraction was more of a mystery than a cold natural fact in school. A degree in mechanical engineering might have settled him in a staid job but a family crisis meant a diploma in civil engineering.

"I felt like a counterfeit coin," he fumes. "My education was the worst thing that happened to me." He moved to Chennai, checked into a lodge, got a surveyor's job and went for evening AMIE classes. And hated all of it.

He took to painting to counteract the monotony of drafting irrigation projects. And one day, he visited the Madras Art Club with a friend. The friend came away unimpressed, but Achuthan had found his calling. He joined the club and soon was exhibiting with S. N. Venkatraman, V. Jayaraman and Dhanushkodi. With those of teachers P. B. Surendrananth and Anthony Doss, his works went to prestigious art galleries. But Government rules in the 1970s did not allow him to sell his art. He quit his job and began his long uncertain trudge to recognition and returns.

"An artist's life is not easy," he reminisces. "Banks won't give us credit cards or loans and people won't rent us houses. But Nature helps when human beings give up on you."

He's happy he has developed a signature approach. Today it's probably de rigueur for swank offices to greet visitors with a colour-splashed Kudallur canvas. After Sotheby's Indian sale in London listed his works he can truthfully say, "I have arrived."

Sujatha Rangarajan

SUJATHA "I was a kind of early blogger" PHOTO: R. RAGU

He could be the man behind the Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) from Bharat Electronics, Bangalore, Abdul Kalam's batch mate at St. Joseph's, Tiruchi, hold a DMIT, Electronics from Chennai. But to his legion of rapturous readers, he is simply, Sujatha. To those who have devoured his 200 short stories, 50 novels, ten stage plays and countless Q&A columns, bought his 15 books on science, applauded his film scripts for "Roja", "Chellame", "Kannathil Muthamittal", "Mudalvan", "Ayitha Ezhuthu" and "Anniyan", it matters little his name is Rangarajan and he's a member of the Linux Tamil PC movement.

Boredom at remote airports where he was technical officer pushed him to write - "a kind of early blog". Ghostwriting for friends and constant reading in both Tamil and English were enough to take those tentative steps in composing short stories. "Of course, I got rejected but I fashioned a style of my own and re-wrote constantly. I optimised my talent." "Being a scientist saved me from romanticism," he says, admitting it also restricted his range. The passion to write found expression "but I had the sense to hold on to my job."

Now he indulges in "how to" tomes and creates content for e-zines. His happiest contribution is coining Tamil words for computer jargon and promoting modernisation of Tamil. "I have a vested interest in it."

Kala Krishna

"Mine is not a puppy mill," KALA KRISHNA

Majestic German Shepherds (GSDs) watch you from the walls, gorgeous silver and crystal trophies crowd the display areas. The magnificent specimen that greeted you has just stopped barking. You couldn't guess in a million years Kala Krishna, a successful GSD breeder, was once a white-coated researcher at Smith Kline French and Bush Boake Allen. Dogs were always part of the household, but her passion for embroidery and smocking led her to open a children's boutique in Chennai. She then moved to Yercaud and bought Kennel Club registered GSDs as guard dogs. Her romance with canine companions revived.

But GSDs are high-maintenance. Why not have a litter, Kala thought. Her stately looking, sleek-coated dogs were ramp material. In 1992, her Alsatian brought home the first championship trophy. Her dogs have since hogged so many shows that participants "want me to retire from competition. But it's great fun participating, showing and winning."

For 12 years now, she has bred GSDs with impeccable pedigrees making sure they go to genuine breeders and dog lovers, often as far away as in Goa, Shillong and Chandigarh. The phrase "a dog's life" has a different meaning in her backyard. The seven adorable month-old puppies are in a large, spotless, air-cooled pen with bowls of `aquaguarded' water. She has pro handlers but won't hesitate to take her dogs on walks. "Mine is not a puppy mill," the university basketball champ would like you to know. "I have high bloodlines and I microchip the pups. My husband and I take separate holidays to protect the stock value." Selling around 15 pups a year to break even is "more of an expensive passion than a profession." A GSD Club in Chennai is her next goal.

Ramani Bharadwaj

BHARADWAJ "If you think, you can" PHOTO: R. RAGU

Background music or music in the background, it went parallel to Ramani Bharadwaj's education-for-a-living course. After a stint with AIR, Delhi while in high school, his musical journey split his time between day classes for BSc and evening classes at Sangeeth Siromani. He could sing, but would he ever call the tune? "For that you must be able to experiment," said Subbudu, the music critic, and Bharadwaj stepped into the Delhi School of Music and a Centre for Hindustani Music, even as he pursued his CA.

CA gave him a solid livelihood but he couldn't silence his musical nagging. With no opening for commercial music production in the capital, he moved South to Chennai in 1986. He joined Ashok Leyland and "started doing the rounds". His savings went into devotional compositions, and when he saw his name on albums something snapped. Three days after he got married, he had balanced his last account.

He had no work. "I owe a lot to Janaki Raman, JTR Services, and R. K. Swamy for advancing funds and faith," he says. For eight years he did ad jingles for radio and TV, made title music for HansaVision (remember Nimmadi?), then composed music for a dozen Telugu and Kannada films before Telugu producer Satyanarayana trusted him with "Kaadal Mannan".

Luck joined him and chart-busting became an annual ritual. "Most of my films have been memorable hits, spread over the years," he preens. You can hum tunes from them all — "Pooveli", "Amarkalam", "Parthen Rasithen", "Pandavar Bhoomi", "Gemini", "JJ" and, of course, "Autograph", "Ayya" and "Vasool Raja".

He has gone global with the score for "The Legend of Buddha", the animation film, and is certain he'd be one of the foremost film composers. "I always felt, if you think, you can."

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