Breaking into the top league

A CLASS ACT Perseverance personified

A CLASS ACT Perseverance personified   | Photo Credit: PHOTO: G. MOORTHY

Playback singer Prasanna has a clear understanding of classical and film music, writes T. Saravanan

My humble advice is to avoid things that do not suit He has the classical richness of ace singers Yesudas and Unnikrishnan. His supple throat adapts well to bring out even subtle variation. But this was not enough. For, he had to wait for more than 90 songs before he shot into fame with the number 'Naane tholaintha kathai' in the movie 'Thavamai Thavamirundhu'. Meet playback singer V.V.Prasanna, another worthy addition to the young brigade of promising singers. He was in Madurai to participate in the talent hunt programme of a popular satellite channel.


"I am not new to playback singing, as I have scored private albums, including Hindu and Christian devotional songs. It was during one of the recordings of a devotional song I met music directors Pradeep and Ravi, who booked me for their movie 'En Sagiye," Prasanna reminisces his first lucky break into filmdom.With that came a string of movies with his songs, including 'Saravana', 'Kathal Azhivathillai', 'Engal Anna', 'Kuthu', 'Jore' and 'Adithadi.' Though 'Annakili nee vaadi,' which he sung along with Jassie Gift in the movie 'Four Students,' became popular, he was sidelined. Classical music runs in his blood, as his great grandfather Palladam Sanjeeva Rao was a flutist and his grandfather Palladam P.R. Ramachandra Rao a violinist. Probably, that influence is so much in him as he too started as a violinist. But, somehow, he picked up vocal music.

Strong base

No doubt he is strong in Carnatic music, having learnt the basics from K.V. Nataraja Bhagavathar, Coimbatore, S.R.V. Sharma and Santhanagoplan (Neyveli). But for an inquisitive singer like Prasanna it will not suffice, as he continues to learn Hindustani music from Sanjah Nadkarni of Mumbai who visits Chennai every month for 15 days. "Any aspiring singer has to be versatile. Getting fixed to any particular stream might hamper his professional growth. Given a chance, I wish to learn even tribal and Arabic music. But I want to achieve a lot in Carnatic music," he confides. But, how about singing film songs? "One has to have the experience of playback singing. It is very interesting. There is plenty of choice to experiment, improvise and hone your singing skills."He is also of the firm belief that all classical music is focussed on 'Bhakti' (devotion). "Each differs from the other in approach," he agrees.

Lover other streams

His eyes brighten when you talk about Abhang (Marathi) and Purandaradasa Padhagalu (Kannada) as he expresses his profound love for them. "Generally, in classical music concerts singers confine themselves to songs of Thiagaraja Swamigal, Muthuswamy Dikshithar and Shyama Shastri. There are not many music performers who prefer Abhang or Purandarasar Padhagalu. But I wanted to do it," he reveals. He also listens to 'tumris'and 'Qawalis' of the Pakistani great Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. All such rich experiences stood him in good stead when he ventured into filmdom. He still considers that 'Thavamai Thavamirunthu' gave him a fillip in playback singing career. "Director Cheran was on the look out for a refreshing voice and I was asked to sing two lines from the song 'Unnai Saranadainthen' and I was immediately selected. Originally, Cheran had two singers in his scheme of things for the songs. But impressed by my singing he booked me for both the songs, which had the same tune," he brims with pride.He also has a clear understanding of the difference between classical and film music. "Lot of singers get confused. Film music is totally different. It has to be enjoyed and it is beyond any critical analysis. The same is the case with voice culture. Voice is God's gift to mankind. Some people in their attempt to keep their voice in good shape become too conscious that may lead them to other complications. My humble prescription is to avoid things that do not suit you. To be frank, I love drinking cool water and there are instances when I had performed for more than three hours in concerts after drinking chilled water."

As a composer

Though he wants to be a good singer, he also loves to compose music, of course, only in classical. He has composed more than 95 tunes mixing Carnatic and Hindustani music for Purandaradasa Padhagalu (Kannada).After the success of the Cheran film, Prasanna is now flooded with offers. At present, he is working on K. Shankar's 'Veyyil,' 'Mrs. Raghava,' 'Kalinga,' 'Idhu Kadhal Varum Paruvam,' 'Achacho,' 'Niram,' 'Cleopatra' and 'Yadhartham.' He is also working with music director Yuvan Shankar Raja for Cheran's next film. He credits his growth to his parents, D.N. Venkatesan and Indira Venkatesan and also to his wife Bharathi Prasanna for her unstinted support. His pleasing demeanour and good looks are already fetching him offers in acting. "If recognition as an actor would help my singing career I have no qualms about acting. But I may not opt to be a conventional hero. I am looking for an opportunity which does not cause any damage to the credibility I have earned as a singer," he modestly replies."A good singer has to be a good listener. Listening is different from hearing. It is more like meditation. You listen to all types of music. There should not be any restrictions," he advises aspiring singers. He terms psychological blocks as the reason for the problems youngsters face while singing. His parting shot was to ward off challenges in life confidently to emerge victorious one day.

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