Padutha Teeyaga- Then and Now- Part 2

In part 1 of this post I shared my experience and incidents which made me really wary to again go for the auditions in 2011, but nevertheless, the unfaltering respect and love for singing/music energized me back to face another round of mishap and well, more politics now!

 

One good thing what I heard this time was it is not a district level selection as how it went on two years back- this made me thoroughly encouraged and hopeful that the mistakes are learnt quickly by the management and they wanted promising new talent (Both in good quality and quantity!) .

 

Thanks to the increased exposure in singing stage shows in the past two years and the growth of contacts who are singers and instrument players all the same, I wanted to make sure there wont be any wrong from my side as far as song selection is concerned. Selecting a rare song isn’t a crime but in going for audition for music programmes (Not only Padutha teeyaga but any other one too!) it is definitely a minus factor!

 

Owing to the good suggestion of one of my singer friends, who is well-established in Playback singing – I chose to sing a popular melody based song ( I did not give up the idea of singing rare songs, But decided to save them for the final music show)  Manasa Thullipadake from Sreevariki Premalekha. The logic behind my friend’s suggestion was, if the crazy work of selection is done first, then the singer would have lot of freedom and choice to select what he/she wants in the later stages of the show (I was proved later that even this was wrong!).

 

This time, confidence about the song selected as well as the good-will of the music fraternity which I gained in the past two years, I was positive about some good thing happening again at this platform. Well, there were people who even questioned me why to go for a competition while I am already giving stage shows at good detail, the answer is well-known to me. It is simply respect for S.P.B garu and his songs along with a long lost faith in the brand “Padutha Teeyaga” which established during the late 90s!

 

It was the same scene again with the management person giving an application form to fill up and in turn take the token number and wait for my chance to sing. Though I was there in time (9 AM Sharp), there were already more than hundred people (along with their parents and some even came with their music teachers this time!) in queue. I was once more amazed with the brilliant name and the unfaltering faith in the programme by every young aspiring singer in AP!

 

Oh, I did not speak about the venue at length till now! If people who are not aware of Saradhi Studios think it is a very comfortable place to sit in, they are mistaken! The actual studio is nothing but an age old set (Which rarely has functioning fans and lights) and whoever comes for the audition has to wait outside the studio. The channel people do arrange some chairs for people to sit in, but either half of them are broken or the remaining half is already occupied by people (and their bags- to save seats for people to come!). A scary shamiyana covers this setting. I call it scary because instead of protecting the people from sunlight, it looks as if it will fall down anytime challenging our senses!

 

More terrible state is for the people who come from out station for the audition. They hardly have breakfast (Some people cleverly get their tiffin boxes to the venue and have there itself!) or they are totally new to the city. I was shocked with visuals of aspiring singers who record the songs they want to practice in audio cassette (Yes, they still exist!) and play them in Walkman, and hear in those big old headphones. Their innocence and blind faith is terribly dampened by the management and the people out there who decide their singing fate in less than a minute!

 

While last time it was five people at once to be called in the studio, this time it was ten at once. With a thumping heart I went inside the studio when my name was called and my heart sank. It was the same judge (The singer who auditioned me two years back) with the same expression of disinterest yet again. I tried to stay calm while hearing his unnecessary comments on the singers who sang before me ( I still don’t know why most of the judges in these competitions talk with such contempt and ego- as if they are the only people who know about Telugu Film Music!) .

 

Right on time, my name was called and when I started singing ( This time there was no surprise about the song selection because no telugu person can afford to miss this song!). But the facial expression of the judge reflected that he wanted to find some fault or other now. By the time I finished the pallavi he carelessly ( I think he is careless 24/7/365!) asked why I am not putting the taalam (tempo measurement of what I sing) while I was singing. Any musically inclined person would know that taalam doesn’t mean explicitly showing on the face of the judge while one sings. If confident, it can be mentally counted and made sure that the song doesn’t go out of rhythm. Next came the most ridiculous question of all time. He asked “Are you learning Carnatic music?”. When I said yes to it, he started off a lecture saying taalam has to be shown, and it cant be counted mentally and so on.

 

It was at that moment I strongly got a feeling that he was just trying to be smart enough so that the participants will not take him for granted during the audition process!

 

Sometimes I really don’t understand why one has to wait for the simplest of the work to be done needlessly. Let it be a Post- Office, Bank, Bill Payment, Railway Reservations and so on. The waiting for something worthwhile is definetly not a problem but purposeless waiting? Even a non-MBA graduate can have the obvious thought that the already selected singers from the first round can be further scrutinized by other judges in pipeline instead of making them wait for hours together.

 

Why am I talking about waiting here all of a sudden? Because I was made to wait for two hours to just know whether I am through the 1st round or not and further five hours to finally get a chance to sing in the 2nd round. The wait also looks so meaningless at a point of time for the reason – Nobody cares to inform the participants whether to wait at the venue for a definite duration of time or when the second round would commence.

 

 

The wait went on like forever until 1PM and then after a  quick lunch (If its not quick the danger of being called suddenly by the management can also happen!). The number of participants who came for the first round was increasing eventually and the already selected singers (about 30-40 by then) were waiting without understanding why this wait goes on.

 

In the meantime, there were some rumours going on about what possible songs would be asked by the judges in the second round by some singers around. The participants were so involved about the programme that, by the moment somebody says the word “Folk Songs”– they were frantically looking for songs in that genre referring to the lyric books or searching in their iPod/mp3 players. All in all, an examination atmosphere built up there leading to increased tension to the participants as well as the people who accompanied them.

 

My mom joined me during the afternoon to see what exactly is happening and there were some singers who were “trained” specially by some teachers on how to sing film songs. I was told that these teachers train students only for Film songs and playback singing but not any other Classical Music at all.

Business takes new directions as time passes by- I thought seriously!

 

The wait went on and on and on until 4:30 PM, by then all the selected participants must have rehearsed atleast hundred songs in total, varying in genres. There was rainfall in between which made people occupy a small abandoned room that did not have chairs to sit either. I must say if this audition is a test for Singer’s musical talent, it is equally a test for the accompanying people in the waiting department!

 

Finally after 11AM in the morning when I sang for less than 1 minute for the first round, I entered the same studio again at 4:30 PM along with my fellow selected participants there. After settling down in the respective seats, there was a murmur among the participants again asking what possibly the judges might ask to sing this time.

 

A literal shocker came to me from a girl who sat next time be in the form of questions like “What is meant by Folk Song?” “ What is Shruthi and Scale” . I was totally in loss for words thinking how could people like this come for such prestigious Music talent show in AP!

 

The second round of auditions started at 5PM finally, where the same judge along with another person started playing around with the participants in every mean way possible. The most annoying thing was the presence of the programme director, who doesn’t know a bit about music but suggests every little thing to the singer in a very demeaning and insulting manner.

 

I strongly felt was this an influence from reality shows and Indian Idol where the judges literally “grill” the participants and eventually make them cry out of despair?

 

Some girls were asked to sing a new song, an old classic and a folk song in varying scales and cleverly enough, some of them were trying to make things up without knowing about what the judges asked. Even if the singer sings perfectly the judges find a fault. Will they ever leave people who do stuff like this? Definitely not!

 

 

When my turn arrived, the judge coolly asked to sing a fast tempo song. When I started off singing “Rojalo” (Gharshana) he dismissed it saying it’s not fast composition leading me into shock. After a thunderous attack of questions regarding scale, song, tempo changes and everything available in a very demeaning manner, I was hugely relieved that the round is over – not that I would be selected but this craziness for the day has come to an end!

 

 

Any audition or music competition selections should be at ease for both the singers as well as the judges but it should not be like a pain in every respect or something done out of force…sadly I was feeling the latter once this selection process was finished then.

 

 

I was enormously relieved when the management people said the result would be intimated by phone call, and there is no further waiting needed for the day. Without looking back again at the studio premises, I came off to home and it was then I realized how much I was exhausted- Physically and Mentally!

 

Little I knew by then that I would be selected in the 2nd round- more for the trouble and less for the pleasure!

 

To be continued in part 3..

 

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Padutha Teeyaga- Then and Now – Part 1

Disclaimer: I have no personal grudge against this programme or the concept at all and I hold high respect for S.P.B garu. But unable to constrain what I have gone through this time during the audition process as well as the shooting, thought of putting out here!

Padutha Teeyaga– The name itself holds lot of respect, importance and a proper standard as far as young talent who aspire to become Telugu Playback Singers is concerned. There have been many great singing talents such as Usha, Nitya Santhoshini, Gopika Purnima (Who even had the privilege to sing for A.R.Rahman), Mallikarjun, Smitha (Who calls herself Telugu Pop singer!) and so on, who got the crucial break from this platform.  These singers got the right break during the right time through the right people and proper encouragement by the music directors as well. The way a music programme can be hosted was redefined by S.P.B garu during the late 90s when this programme took its inception.

There was an instance where people aged from 6- 80 in every Telugu house watch the programme without fail for the brilliant standard and thorough entertainment it offered as well. The tremendous timing of Balu in trivia about Film Music along with excellent sense of humour, topped with some good words about society and its happenings made the show more special as days passed by.

Even the selection process was so good that only the best of the best singers would come to the face-to-face audition to the studio and only the cream would come on the screen and face S.P.B garu to sing!

I already spoke about the same in my previous post about the wonderful experience of singing in  Padutha Teeyaga juniors episode of 1999 and how thoroughly I was scrutinized in every aspect of singing before I could meet the legend on stage.

My immense respect grew along with my age as years passed by and there was sheer disappointment few years later knowing that Padutha Teeyaga has been stopped by the Channel people- not only as an aspiring singer but like many music lovers all over the state.

Though there was another show hosted by S.P.B and the same management later in MAA TV named Paadalani Undhi, I somehow couldn’t relate myself to the show (Maybe due to the big influence of  Padutha Teeyaga during my formative years) and owing to the academic pressures I couldn’t concentrate on Music either.

And then during mid 2000s, the concept of Reality shows started like a virus over the state, first affecting dance and then (unfortunately) curbing music field as well. Greatest art forms, such as Music and Dance- which I value immensely were reduced to something like comedy or like emotional melodrama making the audience either totally get engrossed into it or hate the whole concept of watching music related competitions in Telugu!

Then there was a great announcement which came in ETV during 2009 saying that Padutha Teeyaga is going to start its auditions gain for youngsters aged 16-25 – Which made me very happy. I was happy not because the programme will give me another chance to sing, but because it will re-establish the forgotten standards of how a music competition show has to be conducted. But there was a small change this time according to the announcement. Apparently the programme is selected on the basis of Districts in AP and the selections are also done district wise. Though I was wary about this change I was all in all confident that there would be a proper reason for why it is being done!

The big day of the auditions arrived. Me along with my music mate reached the venue and were quite confident that this time we both would do really well in the auditions. Our heart sank the moment we have seen district wise auditions and there were 2000 people for Hyderabad and Ranga Reddy district in total. Why were we so shocked? It is because only one person would be selected per district in the ratio of such big number!

I was amazed by the talent which came over on that day who came just like us relying on the brand “Padutha Teeyaga”. Every singer around us was singing so well and had immense knowledge in Music (Not only film music but also Classical- Both Carnatic and Hindustani). I was only worried seeing what will happen to their spirit and the tremendous talent which they built up due to the unfair strategy of selecting only ONE person out of such huge stream of musical extravagance.

While one guy was singing a great song from the yesteryear Shankarabharnam,as brilliantly as SPB ( I am not exaggerating here. I don’t know why Telugu Film industry looks for other state singers when we have such brilliant talent in AP!), another girl beside me was practicing the toughest ever song from Vani Jayaram (Andhela Ravamidhi- Swarna Kamalam) with all her might. There was unbelievable musical breeze all over with this and the management was what made me upset on that day.

While this stream of talent was on one side, there was the lobbying incidents happening on the other side. Either it is a popular singer who already appeared in some previous show in another channel, who wants to come in this show again- trying to speak to the management biggies out there- to get easy entry ahead of people who are waiting for the chance. And some other people were trying to even get a chance directly to sing on stage, overriding all the audition process!

Amidst all these, I was called inside the studio where a couple of people were waiting for their chance to sing in front of the judge (A very popular singer whose name I would not prefer to disclose here!). The moment the singer starts singing a line, this person interrupts their song (The judge has to realize they are not interrupting the song but the hopes, aspirations, interest , passion, and tremendous love for music and singing!).

I was called to sing right at the moment ( Five singers sang in less than two minutes- How fast is this! And how can the judge decide who is good/bad in such short time- I don’t know!) . Thankfully I was allowed to sing the full pallavi but the judge was clueless about what song I sang also! It was a classical song Suramodamu from Aditya 369 (Which happens to be SPB’s home production film) , and the judge carelessly asks me “From which film is this song from?”.

I was thoroughly shocked and surprised with this question because it is SPB who always tells in the programme that not-so-popular songs from Telugu Films have to be sung on stage so that people will know about them and there will be more versatility to the competition. Is it that the judges already decided which songs have to be sung in the programme- and even decide the audience will receive only such songs which are popular!  Will the unpopular but amazing songs will have no way out to the common audience?

Quite predictably, I was not selected for the audition first round itself for no reason whatsoever. Maybe they thought the singer cannot cater to the popular audience’s taste or there is some other “commercial” reason! I mean, two singers out of 2000 ( One for each district selections there) is more thicker competition than Group 1 or a Group 2 examination !!

The twist in the tale is that- other remote districts such as Srikakulam, Nalgonda, Khammam etc had very less people for selection and even a mediocre singer got selected there later! There were clever singers from Hyderabad, Ranga Reddy district who went again to those districts just to get selected easily and succeeded as well.

But do singers have to do all these things in order to attain their goal?

 

Should they forget practicing to sing and involve in such diplomatic arrangements with the management or try to appease the judges by compromising in song selection?

 

Should they show something in their singing talent which is not theirs, but an imitation of some popular singer which “would” please the judge or the final audiences!

It is quite shocking but I have seen participants getting dressed up traditionally , NOT because they value tradition (If they did, then they are worth of getting felicitated in Ravindra Bharathi by any popular cultural organization!) but just to please the management (As the management believes in “reviving” lost traditions and values along with good music in it!). Even more shockingly, there were only such people who were through the programme eventually!

Nearly two years passed by, with two more Padutha Teeyaga series (One for Juniors later) commenced and then again an ad comes by- asking aspiring young talent to come for the auditions again to the same place (Saradhi Studios- A studio which will neither improve nor depreciate!) during August of 2011.

Determination has no end- and again I went for the same auditions this time!

Its hope which drove me to it again, and once again same thing (additionally with much more mishap) happened this time!!

To be continued in Part 2 of this post..

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Down the Memory Lane with Music..

Which was the first song/composition/music bit I first heard in my life?

Which song showed the most impact on my early childhood?

Which Background score made me feel Music can heal a dull state of mind?

What is so powerful about the presence of Music in my life?

These are some of the most difficult questions which I can answer in a single sentence! But the worth of these questions are so much valued that it is difficult to explain in words! But as I am in a nostalgic state of mind which is making me track back my own influences and inspirations which led me to Music, here is a small attempt to walk down the memory lane!

Though this post doesn’t speak about my performance or preparation for the same, this tracking back of the point where all this started is still an enthralling idea which I felt worth to be posted in Swara!

Thanks to my family who were my first teachers and who are highly enthusiastic when anything about Music or Movies is concerned, this sure had a tremendous influence on me in the early days. The vague memory which comes in my mind is coming home from school (Kindergarten Days..Evergreen days!) around 12:30 PM and there was some song or the other playing either in the JVC Tape Recorder or the VCR which was playing the songs from the recorded programmes. Some of the songs I vaguely remember and which for sure had a breathtaking impact on me in the later days ( Which I am realizing now!) are

1. Ninnu Kori- Gharshana (Agni Nakshatram- But the film was so popular that there are many audiences in AP who think it’s a straight film!)

2. ALL the songs in Swarna Kamalam ( This cassette still exists and works 1000 times better than the Audio CD which got ripped off after some really rough usage!)

3. Geethanjali ( The songs were going on almost 24/7 after we watched this film, though I hardly remember watching this film in theatre!) and Anjali

4. Vegam Vegam- from Anjali remains to be the most unforgettable experience right from the childhood as it not only inculcated the interest in Astronomy but also made me curious about the Solar System and so on, which later prodded me to read Stephen Hawking’s books in Graduation days.

How powerful Music can influence a person for good- I must be one of the profound examples!

Coming to Hindi, it was Chaal Baaz songs which were booming all over the house during those days,  along with Chandini film which earned so much of craze for the ideal love story image it offered and the locales of Switzerland which were shown great in the film!

Boney M and ABBA were one of the first English Pop songs I ever heard and felt inclined to!

While these were the early days of the Music introduction in my life, the next and yet best stage was to enter next! That being early 90s, I was exposed to English songs thanks to my brother this time! One of the songs which I strikingly remember is “Another Day in the Paradise” – by Phil Collins. My brother used to write down the lyrics and make me sing along with him so that he gets vocal support from behind! Little he must have known that this song would have created so much of influence unknowingly in the future attitude/ ideals towards Music as well as towards life for me!

As my schooldays were going on Musically and months flew to years,  I was getting into Pop (Dr.Alban- It’s My life, Michael Jackson, Ace of Base), Trance,Rock and for that matter even Tamizh songs! I entirely admit that I absolutely had no idea about which genre is what but the only thing I knew, and know even now is that I was deeply influenced by these songs and also started unknowingly believing that “If Music can influence me so much for good, it sure can influence a generation of thought”

There is a small story behind the Tamizh songs introduction. Those were the days where things were imrpoving in the Cable TV era and Sun TV was one of the earliest channels in Tamizh which used to air non-stop fantastic songs during the midnight which had the cream of Tamizh Film Music.  The cream ranged from Ilaiyaraaja to the then emerging sensation A.R.Rahman, M.S.V to T.M.Soundararajan songs and the list is endless! Thanks to my Mom’s passionate interest in recording songs, I was intorduced to “Aagaya Vennilave” – Arangetra Velai when I was aged less than 10 years!

The other most memorable song which I remember (Thanks to the video as well!) was Margazhi Poove- May Maadham.   Listening/Watching to this song on a late night with low volume was something like a memory to cherish in life time!

Hence the Music influence was propping from various dimensions for me which always helped me understand a composition and the nuances in it quickly and effectively in later stages of life!

90s went like a flow of river thanks to so many artists around the world namely Ilaiyaraaja, A.R.Rahman, Keeravani( His Bhadhara Giri Ramayya from Seetha Ramayyagari Manavaralu intorduced me to the eternal krithi “Saadinchene” composed in Arabhi),  Phil Collins, Engima, Michael Jackson (His Black or White video still remains to be a favourite!)  and the list is endless. I was even unaware of these names when I was getting so much influenced with their work but still the effect is tremendous- worth of a lifetime!

I specially thank these Musicians for making my school days not only stress free but also the most memorable days of my life and let me live life like the way I choose to, and also helped me understand things better than reading a hundred books or consult a bunch of people about anything!

As 90s were coming to an end, there were some hundreds of influences ranging from the unimaginable extremes which shaped up my personality and attitude towards life, but these above mentioned songs, and influence remains special as ever!

Let the influence and the energy of Music prevail always and  everywhere!

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Padutha Teeyaga- An Important Milestone!

It was 1998…a very important year in my life! The strange thing is that I realized how important that year could be in later years of my life but not when those incidents were happening!” Padutha Teeyaga” a very popular Music show hosted by the ace playback singer in South India Mr.S.P.Balasubhrahmanyam shares a  major responsibility for making this year so eventful for me!  This show was so popular those days that there was no house where this programme passed unaware thanks to the fantastic hosting by Balu sir along with the excellent quality of singers who used to participate in the show.

The selection process for Padutha Teeyaga those days used to be in this way: The singer is requested to send an audio cassette of his/her songs out of which one is a Telugu song emphasizing on melody and another a classical based song. These cassettes are sent to Balu sir directly and he used to listen each cassette personally and then filter out the cream of singing talent present in Andhra Pradesh!

This process sounds so much like a gold standard then and even now after seeing the commercial way of selections going on in the name of auditions these days!

I used to be a spectator of this process until I came to know there was a Junior special which will be starting in early 1999 and there was a call for singer selection during mid-1998. I personally never even dreamt that I can be selected for such a huge programme not only because of competition but also with the feeling that there is loads to learn in the world of Music!

With my family insisting me that I should send my recorded songs for this programme I was still unsure of what I should/can sing for this brilliant show! When I was in this dilemma about what is to be done, my dad told to sing just for the sake of Music but not for getting selected or going to the mainstream singing career etc., He also added for this saying that if this attitude is developed then one will not be disappointed or dejected when not selected. This boosted up my spirits and made my mind clear about what is to be done. I immediately sang “Pacchani Chilukalu- Bharateeyudu” and a Thyagaraja Krithi “Marugelara” on tape and then handed it over to my people to post. I conveniently forgot about this process after wards thanks to the increasing academic responsibilities!

During November or so, I happened to get a letter from “Padutha Teeyaga” people saying that I have been selected for the process and was asked to prepare a bunch of songs varying from several genres such as Old,Folk,Fast-Beat, Melody, Duets etc., and attend the second round of audition in December. The overwhelming feeling which I got while just seeing the letter is inexpressible in words! I stood there looking at the letter without even opening it at least for few minutes and with the cheers of my family I opened it- still unable to believe how I could make it to this programme’s second round of auditions!

Next process was to collect all the songs listed in the second round of audition. It was a tough process but thanks to my mom and Supreme Music shop in Koti, we managed to get all the songs and prepared on them to some good extent, if not the best! The second audition round was very interesting with N.B.Sastry in the judges ( The main co-ordinator of Padutha Teeyaga programme, even for the current episodes)  and he went over board and asked me to sing a Hindi song (Jiya Jale- Dil Se) and a Carnatic style krithi also ( Annamayya Composition- Narayanathe) .

Finally, the stage in Saradhi Studios Ameerpet was set during January 1999. The big day arrived very soon and I was entirely privileged to just meet SPB sir and even interact with him. One of the best things I observed in SPB sir is that he speaks like somebody next door or a close family relative who is just giving a casual advice while singing. It never sounds like a critical comment or some ridiculing thing even for a second!

All in all, a memorable day and a truly important milestone in my interest in Music , which made me not only confident but also gave me a wonderful platform to start the Musical passion in royal style!

Here are the videos of my performance in Padutha Teeyaga- Juniors Episodes:

I sang Sasivadane- Iddharu in the first round where melody-centric songs were supposed to be sung..

Second Round was Lalitha Sangeetham round where private songs were asked to be sung..

Third Round was Fast Beat songs round where I sang Oh Mariya- from the then popular film Choodalani Undhi!

Huge thanks to the Padutha Teeyaga team as well as my co-singers who made me feel at home during the filming of this programme, and of course SPB sir for being so jovial and friendly with me!

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A Space for My Music..

Music…this term has been an integral part of my life. It has been beyond best friend,philosopher, guide, teacher or whatever crucial element one can ask for to have a best- if not better way of living! Music made me think, live, experience and understand emotions which could not have been possible even by reading hundreds of books or interact with countless people!

Can anybody exactly describe the experience in hearing a Maestro Ilaiyaraaja song/Background score, Thyagaraja Krithi, Pt. Jasraj’s voice, Yanni’s instrumentals, Kenny G’s saxophone, M.S.Subbulakshmi’s Bhaja Govindham, Marc Anthony’s melodious voice, John Williams’s soundtrack or any other Music piece/ song which has been created by Music geniuses we have? It is indeed proven that Music changes life for good and makes the person hopeful about existence or simply get refreshed from the daily chores of life!

Coming to Swara, thanks to the enormous influence of Music right from age I started understanding the simplest things in life, I always loved to sing and perform on stage. Performing on stage in front of people who yearn to hear some good music is something really overwhelming and a never-fading experience! The more a person performs, the more a person feels to perform on stage- That is the tremendous power of Music! This natural instinct of Singing/Performing on stage led me start this blog where I can not only post my performances till date but also share some of the interesting incidents which took place while preparing or formulating for these programmes.

Though I already have an exclusive Music discussion blog, a general blog and a Telugu Movie blog which I am co-authoring, Swara will always remain to be special and I am very excited to write more about the Music which influenced/influencing/will influence my life!

Swara- A place where the Music never stops!

Stay tuned for more posts here!

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