Every artist would love to be a gypsy in spirit, says TM Krishna

Carnatic musician T.M. Krishna   | Photo Credit: Amar Ramesh

TM Krishna believes in making a strong statement. Last year, the musician presented a concert outside a church, in an effort to make Carnatic music a symbol of communal harmony.Clearly, he likes experimenting. He has done it again with ‘Venpura’, a song from Tamil film Gypsy, which marks his debut as a ‘playback singer’. In an email chat, the musician explains why it took him so long to sing in films, and why he chose ‘Venpura’. Excerpts:

Congrats on your first Tamil song. Please tell us when this recording happened, and the events that led up to it

The director (Raju Murugan) first approached me through a common friend. He believed that this song and the film itself resonates with a lot that I have been saying and writing and that I should consider singing it. I read the lyrics of ‘Venpura’ and loved it. Santhosh Narayanan was kind enough to send me the track which I found haunting; it kept playing in my head, on loop! After a few weeks, we recorded the song late in the night at his studio. Having the voices of Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and Abdul Kalam as part of the song is truly and honour. I am so glad that my first song in films was not a Carnatic-based song though it does have a touch.

What kept you away from Tamil cinema so long, and what about ‘Venpura’ attracted you so much that you said ‘okay’?

Nothing really kept me away. There a few songs that I was approached for in the past. They just did not work out.

Did the fact that the film speaks a lot of politics draw you to it?

I have not seen the film, but the story and the conversations it hopes to trigger are very close to my heart. Yes, that did draw me to the project. I also like the work of Raju Murugan and Santhosh Narayanan.

Carnatic musician T.M. Krishna

Carnatic musician T.M. Krishna   | Photo Credit: Amar Ramesh

Santhosh says that you are both a ‘genius and a gypsy’. Your comments.

Genius I do not know; I prefer not to be. Being normal is hard enough! Gypsy, yes, I would at least like to believe that. Every artist would love to be a gypsy in spirit. Even if a small trace of that living is alive in me, I am happy.

Did the new environment of a recording studio of a film composer feel comfortable?

It was a lot of fun. Santhosh was very easy to work with and we literally joked and talked through entire recording process. Ananthu, who was also there for the recording, was very helpful as well.

The lyrics play an important part in this song. Talk to us about the lines that drew your attention the most, and why.

Musical accent has to change based on the genre. Therefore, my voice production, emotional directionality, pronunciation and musical sensibility has to transform. I do hope I have been able to do this to some extent.

My favourite lines in the song are:

“Karangal kodi inaiyumbodu

suvargal yavum idiyado

manangal mara tuniyumbodu

madangal odi oliyado”

This is, for me, the essence of being a human being. Everything else becomes immaterial.

Most Carnatic musicians have stayed away from the film music scene in recent times. Why do you think that’s the case?

I am not sure this is really true. I guess after Unnikrishnan, Bombay Jayashri, Nithyashri, you have not had too many musicians singing in films. Sudha Raghunathan has also sung in films. I think it is only a question of things coming together.

Do you think your entry as a ‘film singer’ will pave the way for other younger Carnatic singers too?

The voice for a song can be decided only by the music director and film director. It does not matter if the singer is a Carnatic singer or gaana singer, the music director must feel that the voice fits the context. My student, Vignesh Ishwar, has recently sung for MehendiCircus, which had music by Sean Roldan.

When you were growing up, what sort of films did you watch, and what kind of film music did you most often listen to?

I watched all kinds of films; Tamil, Hindi and English. From my dad came the old tunes of KL Saigal and from my mother, the English musical songs from the States, and my brother introduced me MSV numbers. My own film music exposure included Ilaiyaraaja, SD Burman, OP Nayyar, Salil Choudhury and others. The Hindi music melodies came from my cousins.

Who’s your favourite film composer and singer?

My first love is Ilaiyaraaja and like all first loves, he cannot be replaced! My favourite singer has to be SPB. I believe that in the history of Indian film music there has not been a more versatile film singer, period.

Post ‘Venpura’, do you plan to sing more often in films?

I am open to singing in films and all kinds of tunes if the music composer feels I will be able to deliver.


Any plans of turning music composer for films someday in the future?

That will be a challenge that I would love to take up. It will need me to reinvent my entire listening apparatus and I look forward to doing that.

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Printable version | Mar 2, 2021 4:58:40 AM |

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