Music

Music makes Mohan smile

Mohan Vaithya. Photo: M. Vedhan.  

Pattamadai mats line the walls and a huge figurine of the Kanchi Periyava dominates Mohan Vaithya’s Anusham Academy for Music and Dance in Anna Nagar. Mohan Vaithya is seated on a chair and children aged between six and 15, sit on the floor, and look up at him with anticipation. He is all set to take them on a classical journey and impart some more knowledge on ragas, talas, and kirtanas. And that makes Mohan a happy man today.

The school just celebrated its first anniversary with a programme put up by the 70-odd students. The academy is a dream come true for Mohan. “During some of the darkest moments of my life, it was music that saved me. And I feel the need to pay back and that’s why my academy is my life today,” says the man who was one of the fore-runners of reality-based TV shows when he hosted ‘Ragam Sangeetham’ way back in the 1990s. The Carnatic music based quiz show on Raj TV became popular and caught the attention of music lovers and TV buffs alike. Today, Mohan trains over 60 aspiring youngsters in vocal music and dance. Yes, Mohan Vaithya wears many hats – musician, dancer, actor and composer. But the one he cherishes most is teaching youngsters.

His passion

Even as Mohan continues to dabble in television (he appeared in quite a few serials and is at present one of the judges of ‘Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Challenge’ on Zee Tamil) or does cameos in feature films (‘Sethu’, ‘Anniyan’ and ‘Parasuram’), music remains his first love. However, he acknowledges that “television changed my life.”

Hailing from a family where music is a way of life, Mohan and his siblings were initiated into the musical world by his father, K.M. Vaidyanathan who was a ghatam vidwan. But greater influence came from his uncle, celebrated film composer G. Ramanathan. “I was lucky that I could spend the first four years of my life with him. I guess listening to people talk about his genius was motivation enough to pursue music.” His siblings too were musically inclined, and that today vainika Rajhesh Vaidhya is a name to reckon with, says a lot.

But life was not all that simple for Mohan. He had a unique condition… his voice did not break till he reached his late 20s! “Yes, I had a clearly feminine voice and even sang for Kamesh’s light music troupe when I was in Class 6. In fact, my nickname those days was ‘Mayil.’” He adds in jest, “In college, my voice came in handy when my friends had to call their girlfriends!”

So, Mohan decided to learn the violin. Lessons from Radha Sundaresan followed. And later, vocal lessons from various gurus such as Tiruvavur Sethuraman, Srirangam Ranganathan, K.C. Thyagarajan (he did gurukulam for six years with him) and Anayampati Ganesan.

Fate took him to Delhi where he met dancer Saroja Vaidyanathan. A deep bond was forged as he started singing for her. He also became the vocalist for Vilasini Natyam exponent Swapnasundari, Leela Samson, Yamini Krishnamurthy and Bharathi Shivaji. And these associations ignited the passion for dance, an art Mohan taught himself. Just like he learnt to cook. “In fact, it’s my love for cooking that landed me the show ‘Sevikkum Suvaikkum’ where I combined ragas and recipes,” says Mohan with obvious pride.

A decade and a half later, Mohan returned to Chennai, and as he was trying to figure out a career path, ‘Ragam Sangeetham’ happened. Fame and fortune came to him. But for a short while. Personal tragedies dampened his spirit and professionally, too, the graph was looking rather weak. “Shows came my way as did serials. But not for long.” That’s when he turned towards the philosophy of the Kanchi sage.

Today, Mohan finds solace in his music and taking it to Gen Next consumes him. Cinema and television provide the platform for him to be in public memory. And that’s what makes Mohan Vaithya smile.

Mohan Vaithya’s TV connect

Here are a few programmes which featured the artist:

Bharatham

Katrin Kural

Roja

Chidambara Ragasyam

Ramani vs. Ramani

My Dear Bootham

Raja Rajeswari

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Printable version | Jan 16, 2021 12:35:08 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/music/music-makes-mohan-smile/article5809688.ece

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