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From the playback world to classical

Sunanda, who was busy in the playback singing circuit some years ago, has turned to classical music now. She tells K. PRADEEP about how the change of track will help her

PHOTO: H. VIBHU

CONFIDENT Sunanda is quietly rebuilding her singing career

With his first few films itself A. R. Rahman had the whole nation swinging to his tunes. The Tamil film `Kadalan,' turned huge money grosser mainly on the strength of its music. There was one song, a female duet `Indirayo ival sundariyo... ' sung by Minmini and Sunanda that was on everyone's lips. This was one in a string of hits churned out by the demure Malayali singer, Sunanda.

Since she made her debut in 1984, for five to six years Sunanda was one of the most sought after singers in Tamil films. She then suddenly disappeared from the scene. The talk was that she had migrated to the United States. The irony was that this Malayali voice was very much in Chennai waiting for a call.

"I had got married by this time and used to go to Calcutta, where mu husband was posted, once in a while. When he was sent on a deputation to Libya I did go there for three weeks. But otherwise I was always in Chennai where my parents have settled. During this time I did have occasional recordings, for albums. This kind of thing happens in the industry. And once there is a break it becomes tough to come back," says Sunanda who has now moved seriously into Carnatic music.

"My `arangetram' was at the Sree Poornathrayeesa Temple, Tripunithura, in 1978. I was studying at that time under Raja Rao and Thulasi of the R.L.V. Music Academy. Her first film song was with P. Jayachandran, who had given her a lot of encouragement. The duet, `Kaadal mayakkam... ' from the Bharati Raja film `Pudumai Penn' (1984) composed by Ilayaraja was very popular when it came out. "I was introduced to Ilayaraja Sir through a friend of my father's. He made me sing and I remember singing the then popular light song `Odakuzhal vili... .' and also the Swati Tirunal krithi `Rama Rama... ' He listened to me carefully and gave me a few tips on how to render the octaves. After three weeks I got a call from him. The song by Vairamuthu was given to me and the recording took place after a week's practice."

Tamil hits

That song did well and Sunanda went on to sing in many of the films for which Ilayaraja composed. Some of the duets like `Vellamanam ullamacha... ' with Malaysia Vasudevan in `Chinnaveedu'), `Aanandam pongida pongida,' both solo and duet with K. J. Jesudas in Siraiparavai, `Sollu sollu... ' with S. P. Balasubramaniam (`Senthamizh Paattu'), `Semmeene semmeene... ' with Jayachandran in `Sevvanthi', and a few fine solo numbers like `Poove sempoove... ' (Sollathudikkidu Manassu), the happy version of `Shenbagame shenbagame... ' (Enga Ooru Paattukkaran), gave Sunanda a niche in Tamil films. She also sang for A. R. Rahman and S. A. Rajkumar, who came onto the scene after Ilayaraja. "I knew Rahman as Dilip. I had sung many jingles for him. There was so much freedom to improvise when working with Rahman." Even before all this Sunanda had lent her voice for a Malayalam film. "That was for a National Award winning documentary `Nokkukuthi' by M. Govindan. The music for this was by Dr. Ramesh.

It was Jerry Amaldev who introduced Sunanda to Malayalam films. The film was `Adhyaayam Onnu Mudal' and the song `Akku thikku..... " Some of the popular Malayalam film songs that Sunanda sang were the female version of `Deva dundhubi saandralayam... ' (Ennennum Kannettende-Jerry Amaldev), `Mazha mazha pudumazha... ' (Onnum Onnum Padinonnu-Raveendran), `Thulasi tharayil... ,' `Poovittu poovittu panden manassil nee,' (Pradeshika Vaarthakal-Johnson) and many others. Sunanda went on to sing in three Hindi films, `Rang,' `Sambandh,' and `Girafdhari,' under the baton of Nadeem-Shravan. "They had listened to my voice and approved of it.

But I had to go through all the formalities like a basic voice test. They asked me to shift base to Mumbai. I found no reason to do so as I was doing reasonably well in Chennai."

Despite this voluminous work Sunanda suddenly found the offers drying up. "Maybe I did not know how to go about the whole thing. And I, with two kids to manage, must have lagged in keeping touch with my contacts. I'm now slowly trying to put my career back, piece by piece."

Making a comeback with the focus on Carnatic music, she is training under Sangeetha Kalanidhi T. M. Thyagarajan and K. R. Kedaranathan in the true Semmangudi `baani.' the response to her concerts has so far been very encouraging.

Sunanda has come out with some innovative albums. "There is one called `Nitya Praarthana,' which has slokas for the entire day right from waking up in the morning till going to bed at night. I was also part of a novel experiment with Thiruvizha Jayashankar on the nadaswaram and Valayapatti on the thavil. I also hope to make a, return to the film circuit if the right offers come my way."

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