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Raga of success

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SLOW AND STEADY: Madhu Balakrishnan prefers to wait patiently for the right opportunities.
SLOW AND STEADY: Madhu Balakrishnan prefers to wait patiently for the right opportunities.

K. PRADEEP

Playback singer Madhu Balakrishnan has slowly but steadily made a name for himself in the South Indian music industry.

Ironically, I have more hits in Tamil and Kannada than in my own language.

Madhu Balakrishnan is not in a hurry. Unlike many other young singers, Madhu is prepared to wait patiently for the right opportunities. And very often this patience has been amply rewarded."I have always been like that. I have been like a boat flowing along with the tide. I have learned to put absolute trust in the Almighty and hope for the best," says this popular singer who has some important assignments coming up this year.

Forthcoming songs

At a time when Malayalam film songs are at a premium, Madhu still manages to get his regular `quota.' He has completed recording for forthcoming films such as `Bharathan,' `Valmeekam,' `Arunam,' `Abraham & Lincoln,' `Anjil Oraal Arjunan,' the Malayalam songs in `Ajantha,' which is being made in four South Indian languages, and Satyan Anthikad's new Dileep starrer, which has music by Illayaraja. "It was not easy to establish an identity in Malayalam. Only after the State award for the song `Amme Amme... ' in `Vaalkannadi' (2002) did I get some sort of recognition. Ironically, I have more hits in Tamil and Kannada than in my own language."Incidentally, Madhu made his film debut in Tamil when he was studying Carnatic music at the Academy of Indian Music and Arts, Chennai. The film `Uzhavathurai,' was Vijayakanth's 125th film. "I was recommended by T.V. Gopalakrishnan, the founder-director of the Academy. It was a duet with K.S. Chitra and the song came out well. Then for about two years I sang in a few Tamil and Telugu films."But even before all this Madhu had had his voice recorded for a Christian devotional album. "I had also sung a `sloka' in a Hindu devotional album that had music by Jaison Nair. Years after this, Jaison and I worked together in the film `Anachandam.'"Like it happens to most newcomers, Madhu's first Malayalam film `Sisiram,' (1996) did not see the light of the day. The songs went unnoticed. Since then, Madhu has been singing regularly with some of his recent songs such as `Chembakame... ' (`Kakkakarumban'), `Chentharmizhi... ' (`Perumazhakalam'), `Kishna bolo... ' (`Gourishankaram'), `Kuttanadan... ' (`Kazhcha') and `Kanaka sabhathalam... ' (`Udayapuram Sultan') becoming chart busters. But Tamil is where Madhu has a string of hits to his credit and a tremendous fan following too.

Lucky break

"I owe a lot to Illayaraja Sir and Vidyasagar. I still remember my meeting with Illayaraja at the Mookambika Temple in Kollur. He had heard me perform at a ganamela where he was one of the guests along with Swami (V. Dakshinamurthy). Later, I was told that Swami had told Illayaraja to listen to me and also asked him to give me a chance in one of his films. A week after we met at Kollur, I got a call from Illayaraja Sir to reach Chennai. I was to sing all the songs in the film `Bharathi' but certain prior commitments came in the way. I ended up singing two songs. But singing for the maestro certainly opened doors."It was Vidyasagar who gave Madhu a firm footing in Tamil films. "He gave me my first big hit. The song `Kanaa kandenadi thozhi... ' in the film `Parthiban Kanavu' set the ball rolling for me. I have also sung for music directors like Yuvan Shankar Raja, Karthik Raja, Imman, and Subesh-Murali." Some of his songs have become such a rage that his fans, especially from Sri Lanka, have organised live shows and special radio programmes. The focus on recordings has given Madhu an edge when it comes to devotionals, television serials and other albums. "These albums have helped me greatly. Not just to bolster your career, they give you the flexibility, a chance to sing a variety of songs and a whole lot of satisfaction. But today even this industry is being threatened by piracy."Madhu wants to try his hand at music direction. " But I fear that such a move might ruin my chances as a singer."


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