Singers Sujatha and Shweta Mohan on playback singing, stage shows and deriving inspiration from each other. Priyadarshini Paitandy listens in
When Shweta Mohan is not hitting the high notes, she is busy crunching numbers for her Security Analysis assignment as part of the MBA she's pursuing. For her, a degree in management is no cakewalk, as it requires her to shift focus from the blur of tinsel-town to academics. Having made her playback singing debut at 19, she is now a veteran of 40 movies, and is determined to complete the course. With acclaimed singer Sujatha Mohan for a mother, Shweta took to music naturally. But Sujatha, who has nearly 4,000 songs to her credit, wanted Shweta to strike a balance between art and academics. Says Sujatha: “This field is not very stable; so, I wanted Shweta to pursue a career in the corporate sector. In fact, I didn't want her to take to singing because it calls for a lot of sacrifice such as not talking too much or too loudly, and not eating ice cream. I wanted her to enjoy life…”
But once Shweta started singing, her music credentials were apparent. In fact, the careers of both mother and daughter began on a similar note. Sujatha embarked on hers with Ilaiyaraaja in “Kavi Kuyil”, while Shweta's first song was for Karthik Raja, Ilaiyaraaja's son, in “3 Roses”. Shweta's latest release is ‘Boom Boom Robot Da' from “Endhiran” that she recorded for A.R. Rahman. “I have sung numerous hits for Rahman, and it's nice that even my daughter is singing for him. Life has come a full circle,” says the contented mother.
The duo derives inspiration from each other when they perform together. “Earlier, I used to be nervous while singing in front of my mother. But now, I feel confident when she's around,” says Shweta. Sujatha feels that she has learnt to accommodate to the ways of the new generation. “There is a strange sense of calm when I am performing with my daughter. I have changed after Shweta joined the industry. I am a perfectionist — I have to be punctual, and everything has to be on schedule for me. But now with her, I have learned to relax.” Shweta protests, “But I am also punctual, amma.” “Yes, but I am anxious and you are laidback and that's the only reason I get angry with you,” Sujatha laughs.
The mother and daughter will next perform in Singapore for Onam. Shweta considers live shows a pleasurable adrenalin fix and enjoys the motivation that comes from the audience response. Recording in the studio, too, gives her a high. She believes that the whole process of being part of creating a new song and the fact that people will hear it for the first time through her voice is awesome.
With two accomplished crooners in the same house, is there any sense of competition seeping in? Far from it, if one is to believe the two. “Jayachandran Sir wanted mom to sing the Malayalam song ‘Kola kuzhal'. I sent my demo to him. He liked it and I ended up singing it. So, I stole a song from my mom and also won an award for it,” grins the 24-year-old. Sujatha beams too. “I wanted her to sing it. I actually want her to get the kind of songs that will be remembered for many years.”
In spite of being a voice to be reckoned with in the Kerala film industry, Shweta is still finding her feet in Kollywood.
Apart from rehearsals and recordings, there is more to look forward to with Shweta's wedding in January. The bride-to-be had even composed a song for her fiancé for their engagement four months ago. Blushing she adds, “The song is called ‘Music in my Heart'. Ashwin [her fiancé] and my father are my biggest critics.”
And what about compliments? Says Shweta, “I sang a song composed by M.S. Vishwanathan and written by Sreekumaran Thampi. Thampi liked it so much that he sent me a copy of one of his works.”
Adds Sujatha, “For me, it's when I get asked ‘Are you Shweta's sister?'”
So, who is the better singer? Mom has the last word on that. “My husband likes my singing more. My mother too prefers my style. But, I love Shweta's singing,” declares Sujatha as she reaches out to Shweta for a hug.