Visually-challenged Ashtaman Pillai makes his debut as a playback singer in Malayalam cinema

Ashtaman Pillai has sung the track ‘Choodarum’ from Cheena Trophy, composed by Sooraj Santhosh and Varkey

December 08, 2023 07:30 pm | Updated 07:42 pm IST

Ashtaman Pillai

Ashtaman Pillai | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Music has been the light of his life for Ashtaman Pillai. The visually-challenged musician is ecstatic that he has become a playback singer at the age of 49 with his song ‘Choodarum’ from Dhyan Sreenivasan’s Cheena Trophy, which is in theatres.

“It is better late than never. Like most of the singers, I also had dreamed of singing in a film. Or, at least being part of a chorus. That never happened. This song was offered when I had least expected it,” says the singer, an assistant professor in music at Government College Chittur, Palakkad, which is also his alma mater.

The song, composed by Sooraj Santhosh and Varkey, came his way because of the film’s director, Anil Lal, who was his student. The highlight of the breezy, upbeat track written by Anil is Ashtaman Pillai’s full-throated voice. “Sooraj and Varkey insisted that I should sing it that way. That’s when I came to know that they were looking for a voice like mine. The recording session was so smooth. They made me extremely comfortable and gave me a lot of respect,” says the musician, who hails from Karunagapally in Kollam.

(From left) Anil Lal, Ashtaman Pillai, Sooraj Santhosh and Varkey

(From left) Anil Lal, Ashtaman Pillai, Sooraj Santhosh and Varkey | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

A Carnatic vocalist, Ashataman Pillai is the disciple of Vechoor Harihara Subramania Iyer and is now an A Grade artist of All India Radio and Doordarshan. “I have three elder sisters who are visually challenged. They too are trained in music and we used to do stage shows under the name, Little Waves. Once I got employed, we had to cut down on the shows. I started concentrating on Carnatic music concerts. Now I go for ganamelas whenever I can,” he says. He and his family were winners of Ellarum Padanu, a music reality show for families aired on Kairali TV in 2008.

A huge fan of composer Salil Choudhary and singer Hariharan, the musician is currently pursuing his doctoral studies in music. “I am thrilled that the song has got an excellent response on social media,” he says.

Looking ahead, he says, “I don’t dream big, but I am willing to give my best. No art form can thrive without the support of the audience and so I dedicate everything to them.”

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