As Mani Ratnam’s Ponniyin Selvan (PS:1) opens in cinemas, singer Sanah Moidutty is elated to have fulfilled a dream — of being part of a Mani Ratnam-A R Rahman project. That too, a period drama mounted on a grand scale with some of the best actors and technicians in Indian cinema.
She has sung the track ‘Chol’ in the Malayalam version of the movie that has been released in five languages. This is Sanah’s third project with Rahman. In 2016, she sang for the composer for the first time in the Hindi film, Hrithik Roshan-starrer Mohenjo Daro, and the Tamil movie, 24.
“I got a call from his studio saying he wants me to sing a track in Malayalam. And when I heard it was for Ponniyin... I was thrilled. I have been a big fan of the Mani Ratnam-A.R Rahman combo and have been looking forward to working with them one day. And this call from his studio came out of the blue. In fact, after meeting Rahman sir in 2016, I have been working hard on the lessons that I learned back then.”
‘Chol’, with lyrics by Rafeeq Ahamed, is picturised on the characters Kundhavai (Trisha Krishnan) and Vaanathi (Sobhita Dhulipala). The stylised yet melodic track is like a conversation where one of them is asking the other about the man who has stolen her heart. “There are different layers to the song. I sang them separately before it was all blended to become what you hear now,” says the singer, adding: “It was recorded in Mumbai and I didn’t meet Rahman sir during the session or after that. In fact, once I sang the number, there was no word about the status of the song for quite some time. After the audio launch, an acquaintance told me that my song sounded beautiful. Since the track list hadn’t come out then, I was not sure till then if the song was there or not,” says Sanah.
Sanah's has been brought up in Mumbai though her parents hail from Kerala
She sings in Malayalam, Hindi, Tamil, Marathi, Punjabi, Telugu, Bengali, and Kannada
She has worked with composers such as Vishal-Sheykhar ( Gori Tere Pyaar Mein), Sachin-Jigar ( Meri Pyaari Bindu), Amit Trivedi ( India's Most Wanted), Ghibran ( Maara) and Simon K King ( Highway)
The singer points out that language is not a barrier for today’s audience and listeners, be it in movies or music. “That is a huge change. You don’t categorise a project as regional cinema anymore. When a film is dubbed into multiple languages, due importance is given to all versions of the movie and the music,” she points out. ‘Chol’ is rendered by different singers in the five languages — Rakshita Suresh (Tamil), Shreya Ghosal (Hindi), Sireesha Bhavatula (Telugu) and Sivasri Skandaprasad (Kannada).
Although she has roots in Kerala, Sanah has not sung much in Malayalam. However, 2022 has been different. “Besides Ponniyin..., there was Anandakalyanam, Ullasam and Varayan, which were released this year. My next Malayalam project is Dear Vaapi for composer Kailas Menon,” she says.
Trained in Carnatic, Hindustani and Western music, Sanah has gone viral with her renditions of cover songs and has also successfully explored the social media platforms. “It is important to understand what works for each platform. One has to adapt to the changes. A few years ago YouTube was big. Now it is Instagram reels. After some time, there will be something else. While you have the long format on YouTube, on Instagram there are just a few seconds to grab viewers’ attention. So it is all about tailoring your content according to the medium. You have to connect with the viewer in the first few seconds itself! That is something I am learning.”
Asked about if it has been a struggle for her to make a mark in the industry that is flooded with talented artistes, Sanah says, “I won’t call it a struggle. It has been a journey during which I have had to reinvent myself as a musician. It is a learning curve. I really enjoy what I do. If it doesn’t work, I take the lessons and if it works, I don’t get carried away. I keep learning about what should be done and undone.”
Sanah is now working on original compositions. She has already released a single, ‘Kangal oya’, which she composed and sang in Tamil, Malayalam and Telugu, for Sony South Music. Her next original number will be released soon.