A few years ago Kapil Bansal was taking a walk whistling to his heart's content, when a police constable stopped him and told him to stop “this uncivilised behaviour”. But on Sunday, when Kapil whistled ‘Chinna mani kuyile' through the mike, the packed hall of audience applauded in appreciation. Like Kapil, many whistling enthusiasts took their turns to pay a tribute to playback singer S. P. Balasubrahmanyam by whistling their favourite tunes sung by the playback singer at a programme organised by the Indian Whistlers' Association, Chennai Chapter here on Sunday.
As Kapil reached the end of his performance Shwetha Suresh standing in the corner of her stage took deep breaths as she geared up to perform ‘Vandal Mahalakshmiyae'. “Oh! This is one of my favourite songs,” remarked V. Azhagiri who seemed to be relishing the performance. The crisp and perfectly modulated renditions kept the enthusiastic audience tapping their foot to all the tunes throughout the performance.
But for most of the performers, such recognition is usually quite rare. For those in their 60s, memories remain afresh of how their parents often hushed and admonished them at the mere attempt to whistle a tune. “Sometimes, even convincing people to attend these programmes is difficult, since it is still considered a taboo. But whistling need to be recognised as a professional art form,” says Dhivya Soundari, a member of the IWA.
The SPB hits that have been often rendered by male singers were whistled by the women. “It can no longer be considered a Romeo act as women are equally good whistlers,” said the compere for the night who introduced the youngest whistler in the group, 14-year-old Pooja Chandrasekhar. A patron of the association actor Y. Gee Mahendra whistled a tune and was honoured at the event by S.P. Shailaja.