Society

Chords, curry and culture

Rakesh Raghunathan. Photo. S.R. Raghunathan

Rakesh Raghunathan. Photo. S.R. Raghunathan   | Photo Credit: S_R_Raghunathan

From playback singing to managing a food business and hosting a travel show, Rakesh Raghunathan talks about his versatile interests to SUSANNA MYRTLE LAZARUS.

As opposed to most kids who start learning Carnatic music very early in life (some as young as three years of age), Rakesh Raghunathan started learning it when he was 17. “When my sister and I were young, I was sent to tennis classes and she was sent for singing classes. As it turns out, she became a national level tennis player, and I’ve become a singer,” laughs the 32-year-old, who sang the Bharathiyar song, ‘Chinnanchiru Kiliye’in the recently-released movie Kuttram Kadithal.  

Having trained under several gurus, Rakesh performs on stage, and over the past few years, has also been singing in sabhas during the margazhiseason. It was during one of these concerts that Bramma G., the director of Kuttram… heard him singing ‘Chinnanchiru Kiliye’. “He really liked my rendition, and said that he was very moved by it. He then asked if I would be interested in singing the same song for his movie,” says Rakesh. The song has become widely popular for its hauntingly beautiful tune and the moving visuals that accompany in the movie. “It is meant to bring the movie together and give a better perspective of the story and characters. I’m glad that people have liked the song so much,” he says. Rakesh is no stranger to playback singing: he has worked with G.V Prakash ( Veyyil), Ilaiyaraaja ( Manasellam, Pithamagan) and on several projects in the Malayalam and Kannada film industries. He has also recorded tracks and harmonies for A. R. Rahman, Harris Jayaraj and Vijay Antony.

From studying in Don Bosco, Egmore, to doing B.Com in Loyola College, to an MBA in the United States and working there for a while, Rakesh then moved back to Chennai in 2010. “I tried going for a mainstream job, but I couldn’t see myself doing it for beyond a month. I have always loved food and wanted to do something with it.” That’s when he started PetaWrap, serving wraps from small kiosks outside supermarkets and also in collaboration with IT companies in their cafeterias.

“I saw a lot of potential for something like this in Chennai and wanted people to know that fast food doesn’t necessarily mean unhealthy food. I have learned a lot while running the business — it was sometimes an expensive education — but it was worth it,” he says. His passion for travel and food culminated in Puliyogare Travels, a blog that he runs with his wife Preeti, a lawyer.

Rakesh approached a regional TV channel with the idea of a travel and food show. “Almost every show has someone from outside the country exploring our food and customs. I also felt it was time to document the food culture of the south, since there are so many recipes and practices that we do not know of, and might be lost forever. They liked the idea, and agreed to go ahead. So far, I have covered places such as Madurai, Pondicherry, Tirunelveli, Thanjavur, Karaikudi, Coimbatore, Ambur, Virudhunagar, Tiruchi and Dindigul.” Apart from the food itself, he also covers the culture and customs of the place, from everyday life to festivities and celebrations.

Recently, Rakesh travelled to the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border, where he came across several customs that are very different from the mainstream. “There is one Muslim community, where after marriage, the couple lives with the girl’s family. Food practices overlap; for example, the Kerala wedding feast will have some typically Tamil dishes and vice-versa. It’s fascinating to see how food ties cultures together,” he says.

While all this keeps Rakesh busy, he is also working on more playback singing for films scheduled to release shortly. While he can’t talk about the exact projects, he says, “I’m always attempting new things and looking for new experiences. This facet of life is turning out to be very interesting!”  

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Printable version | Apr 9, 2020 10:27:20 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/society/chords-curry-and-culture/article7747268.ece

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