"I'm proud to have broken the stereotype that South Indians cannot sing Hindi songs as well as the others..." An exclusive tête-à-tête with the Indian Idol 5 winner Sreeram Chandra.

It may just be a sweet coincidence but the first song Sreeram Chandra Mynampati sang on stage (in his school assembly) was Lata Mangeshkar's Vande Mataram.

On August 21 he became the first recipient of the Lata Mangeshkar Award. "It feels so good for an upcoming artist to be encouraged this way," he said. Definitely his win in "Indian Idol 5" was no coincidence. This 24-year-old from Hyderabad is the first South Indian to win the contest. What worked in his favour was his self-confidence and hard work.

"Indian Idol 5" saw him treat the audience through the country with scintillating performances. He has also in various Telugu reality shows before his appearance in Indian Idol.

Music knows no language. "I am an Indian first and then a south Indian. I'm proud to have broken the stereotype that South Indians cannot sing Hindi songs as well as the others," he says.

An engineer by training, he followed his passion and opted for music as his career. His music dreams began young; in school he started by joining the choir. While in college, he started training in music. "My journey and struggle has begun in the industry but I believe I can do well," he says. He has already recorded a song with Shreya Ghoshal for Salim Suleman Merchant. His “Indian Idol” win has given him a contract with Sony BMG and an opportunity to work with Yash Raj Films as a playback singer. In an exclusive chat with NXg, Sreeram talks about his “Indian Idol” innings and life hereafter.

How does it feel to be called ‘Sreeram, Indian Idol 5, desh ki aawaz'?

I feel very happy. The audience has received my hard work well and voted to help me win. I will strive hard to improve myself as a singer and as a human being as well since I represent India. As my responsibilities increase I'm encouraged to work harder, put in more effort to meet people's expectation.

Your favourite moments on or off stage at “Indian Idol”.

Obviously the moment when I was announced as the winner is my favourite. I enjoyed the complete experience as I got to learn so much in these three-four months.

All the judges were very nice, their comments on and off stage were very valuable. All the celebrities who came paid me wonderful compliments. I'm a very good listener and a quick learner, so I improved with each episode.

Which has been your own favourite performance?

The ‘Breathless' and Aankhen seedhi lagi, the Kishore Kumar number, are among my favourites.

Who is your guru? Who has inspired you the most in terms of your music?

Haripriya ma'am is my guru. Initially I used to listen to songs and try to reproduce them but I realised that knowing about it in depth and learning its intricacies would help me develop my skills. I learnt Carnatic music under her guidance for five years and that has definitely helped me to emerge as a versatile singer. But without my family's support I would have never achieved so much.

You must have toiled hard in the last four to five months. How many hours did you spend daily in riyaaz?

I used to practise for around 10-12 hours every day. We got to talk to people back home for just 20 minutes a week. My dad used to tell me that people back home enjoy my songs and they all wished I would win the title. This motivated me and also increased my determination to do better and not to let them down.

It has been observed that reality show stars vanish into thin air after sometime. How do you plan to survive?

Many good singers have carved careers for themselves through reality shows. For example Abhijeet Sawant, Manali Thakur and many others came up through the platform of reality shows. I believe I possess the qualities of a playback singer and I will stay focused on my work. Moreover I enjoy singing so much that I am never under any stress.

What would you like to say to your fans, especially the girls?

I love you all and thanks for loving me. It has helped me come this far. I would like to perform for all of you and keep entertaining you. I started this journey just to win hearts and would like to continue to do so.

Now that you are back home, how do you plan to celebrate?

I have already started celebrating! While coming from the airport I interacted with all my fans, and am enjoying myself with my family and friends. Went on a thanks giving spree, received the prestigious Lata Mangeshkar Award. Just having a good time!

Your advice to youngsters?

Follow your heart; chase your dreams; do what you are passionate about. Like Aamir Khan says in “3 Idiots”: “follow excellence and success will follow you”.

Kruti is a II year, B.A. (Hons) student of Mass Communication and Journalism in English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad.

Sreeram's favourites

Song: Vande Mataram (A. R. Rahman)

Genre: No specific one

Movie: Titanic, Edward Scissorhands

Sport: Football, Basketball

Hobby: Playing video games

Hangout: Goa

Cuisine:- Big foodie so likes almost everything but Chinese and Italian the best.

Turn-ons: Optimism, humility

Turn-offs: Hypocrisy

Previous winners

2005: Abhijeet Sawant

2006: Sandeep Acharya

2007: Prashant Tamang

2009: Sourabhee Debbarma