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Singer with style


A penchant for songs.

ANNUPAMAA DIDN'T know how good her voice was, until other people told her about it. "I had no real ambition to become a playback singer,'' she told us, when we asked her about it.

She used to take part in college competitions during her days as a student of Mass Communications. That set the scene, though she didn't think much about it at the time. As a copy trainee in an ad agency, she had a chance to participate in an "Ad Utsav''.

``I did very well in that. Then I started singing jingles for ads. I sing because its fun, and because I enjoy singing,'' she continued.

Annupamaa had come down to Coimbatore as a special guest at "Confluence 2002'', the South Zone Inter Commerce Meet organized by the Commerce Association of GRD School of Commerce and International Business. When the organisers told us she had a few minutes to spare before she went onstage, we jumped at the chance to make good use of the time... and to hear her story in her own words.

``I got a call from the Indian Institute of Mass Communication in New Delhi, but abandoned the course after two weeks, and came back,'' she said. She'd already done a few ads, and had been to an audition for film music... but the best was yet to come.

She got a call from music director A. R. Rahman. "They told me it was just a track. Then I realised it was for a film,'' she said. Though born in Chennai, she'd been in Delhi for something like ten years, and was at home in both Tamil and Hindi.

Remember the song "July Maatham'' in "Puthiya Mugam''? That was her first film song, which won her a number of fans. Soon after, came another hit: "Konjam Nilavu'' in "Thiruda Thiruda'', where she effortlessly exhibited the full range of her amazing voice.

There were different kinds of singers, she told us. "First there are singers who get trained and then come into the field. Then there are those who've grown up untrained... but learnt by listening... like my own style.''

We asked her what her experience was... singing in such a wide variety of languages. "Guess I have a knack for languages,'' she said, and listed them: "I've sung in English, Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam... that's for film songs. I've sung ad jingles in Marathi, Bengali and Assamese... even French.'' Still, when she didn't have the spoken vocabulary, she didn't attempt using the language for ordinary speech. To get the flow of the language, you had to live in the place for some time and absorb the accent. That was her experience. `You need to have a passion for singing,'' was her advice to youngsters who wanted to have a go at becoming a playback singer. "Practice to evolve your own style and sing from your own heart... feel and sing''. Annupamma hasn't stopped with the song needs of cinema. She's diversified into pop, country, rhythm, jazz, and rock and fusion styles.

By A. A. Michael Raj
Photo: K. Ananthan

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