A singer, dubbing artiste and a television personality…life's going at warp speed for Sunitha. In conversation with Neeraja Murthy
Singer Sunitha enters a coffee shop at Banjara Hills and is instantly the object of much head-turning. Her swishing maroon and blue silk sari and matching bangles and jewellery couldn't outshine her radiance. As she quickly retreats to a quiet corner, we couldn't quite agree with the singer when she sang Andanga lena, asalem baalena, nee eedu jodu kaanana… in Godavari. It only takes a question – ‘Does she look, sing or talk beautiful?' from us to get her smiling ear to ear again. “My voice is beautiful so I look beautiful.
Because I look beautiful, I talk beautiful. It's all inter-connected,” she says softly like a spiritual guru as she puts her buzzing mobile in the silent mode.
Sunitha happily unfolds and draws similarities of her life with the mythological story of Prahlada. “Like bhakta Prahlada, who heard about Lord Vishnu even before he was born, musical notes flowed into my life when I was in my mother's womb,” she says.
She remembers her mother's passionate determination to conquer the odds and give her daughter a chance to embrace her destiny. “Sometimes I would be angry as I was not being allowed to have fun. Once my singing teacher told me he would hit me on the knuckles if I did not complete the recital. My mother was anxious as I had not practiced.
I have good memory and on the day, I sang my heart out and my mother was shocked,” she says. Another shocker came in the form of her Standard X results. “We searched for my name at the end. But I got a first class,” she says with pride.
The same pride enveloped her when she got an opportunity to sing a solo at the age of 16 for Gulabi! “Imagine a teenager's excitement when she is selected for a special song. The icing on the cake was that the movie was being produced by Amitabh Bachchan Corporation Limited. I hoped to see Amitabh Bachchan but was disappointed as he didn't turn up,” she says. Ee velalo nuvvu emchestuvuntavo was on every young girl's lips as the number introduced a new song bird to the Telugu film industry.
As luck would have it, Sunitha did not really cash in on the success of the song. Her philosophy, ‘my-work-should-speak-not-me' didn't really fetch her a rocking singing career and she took slow and steady steps to make her mother's dream come true. However, opportunities came in the form of a dubbing and television career. “I never thought that I am a singer and that I should not dub or appear as an anchor on television. I looked at them as opportunities and a way to prove my talent,” she says.
As Soundarya's voice in Choodalani Vundi, she made a mark for herself and the movie opened new avenues and earned her special appreciation from directors like Bapu. “I dubbed for Sneha (who introduced Sunitha to others as ‘I am Sneha and she is my voice') for the movie Radha Gopalam directed by Bapu garu. He was so was happy with my performance that he gave an autograph – ‘Saraswati Putrika Aasheeshulu Veerabhimani Bapu.' Imagine a director like Bapu garu appreciating my performance. I felt as if I received the National award,” she says with a smile. Now, she is waiting for such an autograph from another stalwart director K. Viswanath. She has dubbed for Manjari Phadnis in the yet-to-be-released movie Subhapradam to be directed by the ace director. Dubbing has given her immense satisfaction. “It is the toughest job to do. You have to enact and be somebody with just your voice. Dubbing is like giving a life,” she says. Sunitha juggles her personal and professional lives with a smile and positive attitude. Married at the age of 19, her life revolves around her two children Aakash and Shreya. The routine of singing a song to her daughter before she goes to sleep is strictly followed even now. “The downtrend of success is rumours flying thick and fast about you. There was news that I have divorced my husband and that I turned a producer. People spread false information hoping to make you weak. It has made me strong.” With a fit body, (“I don't exercise or do yoga. It is all in the genes”) she carries off the sari with utmost elegance. “I know that I look good in a sari,” she says with a mischievous smile.
She found a new home in television with her musical shows and when she is not singing or dubbing for films, her stage shows keep her occupied. “People can look good or have a good voice. But not everybody can sing. The power of music is a divine blessing. Look at Balu garu (S.P. Balasubrahmanyam) and his different roles as an artiste.
He has shown that one person can do many things,” she says.
She is content with her life and hopes all her future dreams (singing more songs in all regional languages and opening a music school a la Kalakshetra in Chennai) will come true. “I want to dub for Sridevi and Soundarya. But, Sridevi (whenever she decides to act again) does not need a dubbing artiste and Soundarya is no more,” she says with a tinge of sadness.