A prodigy who shot to fame with her innate ability to identify Carnatic ragas as a toddler is now a prolific Carnatic musician; an award-winning playback singer who had a dream debut and continues to sing in Tamil, Kannada and Telugu films. She is also a hands-on mother of a two-and-half-year old boy and a reality show judge. Mahathi happily wears all these hats. She is now a permanent judge on the music-based reality show for children on Kairali TV, ‘Gandharva Sangeetham Junior’, along with composer Ousephachan. The singer talks about her career, her connection with Kerala and much more. Excerpts:
On ‘Gandharva Sangeetham Junior’
(Laughs) Amazing kids. The experience is mind-boggling and I am happy that most of the contestants are serious about music. I was pleasantly surprised to see them emoting at all the right places even at such a young age. Moreover, the participants have become emotionally attached to the judges. Some of them even want me to bring my son to the set!
Well…, I was probably the youngest judge on a reality show! I was 20 when I was on the judging panel of the reality show, ‘Super Singer’ on Vijay TV and continued to be a judge in all the seasons.
On aspiring singers
When you talk about up-and-coming singers, let us not restrict ourselves to reality shows alone. Be it in Carnatic music or playback singing, there are a few singers who want instant fame and money. They are happy with the easy route to success and don’t mind even if it does not last for long. Now that social networking sites are popular, everybody has a say on whether your song is good or bad. However, there are still a good number of talents who ensure that they get the basics right, improve their performance with regular practice and are patient with music. It is important to remain level-headed, simple and willing to learn. Even if I do not have a hit for a long time, I do not feel dejected, and keep myself occupied.
Carnatic music vs film music
My father, Thiruvaiyaru P. Sekar, is a vocalist and a disciple of M. Balamuralikrishna. My mother, Vasanthi Sekar, is a flautist. Being born into a musical family, I was groomed to be a Carnatic musician. And I am happy that I am counted among the young Carnatic musicians around. I enjoy both Carnatic and film music. However, my focus has always been on Carnatic music because it involves a lot of dedication, practice and perseverance. It takes a lot of effort on your part to perform for two hours or more, whereas, these days, anybody can sing a film song!
Also, I am doing whatever I can to promote Carnatic music through our academy, Mahathi Academy of Music and Dance, started by my parents 10 years ago. We teach Carnatic vocal, Bharatanatyam, and instruments such as violin, mridangam, flute, keyboard and guitar. Our keyboard and guitar classes are affiliated to the Trinity College of Music in London.
Also, next week I am bringing out a CD, ‘Divine Gems’, showcasing popular semi-classical songs in Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada and Telugu. The orchestration has been done by Rajkumar Bharathi, great grandson of poet Subramania Bharathi.
Her Kerala connection
I was born in Chennai, but came to Kerala as a toddler since my father had a transferable job. We have stayed in Palakkad, Thiruvananthapuram, Thrissur and Kochi, before I got my first song [her playback debut was for Ilaiyaraja] and we moved to Chennai. I am comfortable with Malayalam and still write my songs in Malayalam. My husband is from Thrissur, but born and brought up in Chennai and cannot write the language! Unfortunately, I have not sung many songs in Malayalam. It is quite sad given that I am pretty fluent in the language. Well, each industry is different from the other and may be I will get to sing more songs in future.
(‘Gandharva Sangeetham Junior’ is aired on Fridays and Saturdays at 6.30 p.m.)