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Friday, November 11, 2011

'Singing is my passion': Lakshmi Nataraj

A bird doesn't sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song, said poetess and actress Maya Angelou describing the happiness found in singing. Many singers sing just for the joy it brings to them, as opposed to some to whom singing is just a profession as another. The young and versatile singer Lakshmi Nataraj, to whom Mysore is the mother-town, is one among the former class of vocalists who discovered that music was her passion and a part of life.

Lakshmi receiving the Best Female Upcoming Singer (2010) award from film actress Nidhi Subbaiah and other guests during the Mirchi Music Awards ceremony in Chennai recently.

Those who have watched ETV's noted music programme Ede Thumbi Haaduvenu would remember hearing the musical voice of two sisters who made both the judges and the connoi-sseurs sit up and take notice — Lakshmi and Indu Nagaraj — in 2005. But then, many did not know that the sisters would not only win the contest but also go on to make their indelible mark in the hearts of music-lovers. The older among the two, Lakshmi, was recently honoured with the State award in Best Playback Singer category for the song 'Omkara' in the film Aptharakshaka.
Lakshmi is the daughter of city's renowned vocalist and flau-tist Vidwan C.A. Nagaraj. Growing up surrounded by music, she and her sister Indu started learning music when they were as young as three years of age. Lakshmi and Indu, also known as Chilkunda Sisters after their birthplace Chilkunda in Mysore district, had their initial training in music from their grandmother late Vidushi C.S. Satyalakshmi, who was a vocalist, violinist and a flautist and later under their father Vid. Nagaraj, who is serving as a lecturer in English Department at Maharani's PU College. Their mother H.S. Radha is also a vocalist.
Now married to Nataraj and residing in Bangalore, Lakshmi, who is a graduate in B.Sc. (Microbiology), gave her first concert in 1995 in Gundlupet when she was 7 years of age along with Indu who was 5 years.
She has since traversed long distances in music by giving more than 300 concerts in the State, apart from places outside Karnataka like Delhi, Cochin, Madhurai, Kerala etc. Lakshmi has captured the imaginations of audiences at Doordarshan, Suvarna TV, Udaya TV, Akashavani also. Back home, she has enthralled the Mysore Dasara audience on the inaugural day at the Durbar Hall of Mysore Palace, apart from performing at the Bangalore Habba. Presently, Lakshmi is a 'B' High Grade artiste for All India Radio.
Apart from the State award and Ede Thumbi Haaduvenu prize, Lakshmi has been honoured with the MSIL Gaayaki Award in 2002 Nityotsava competitions telecast in Bangalore DD; natio-nal-level Youth Music Fest from AIR; State-level Kishora Prathibhe Award in Karnatak classical music from Govt. of Karnataka.
She bagged first prize and gold medal in two consecutive years (2002 & 2003) in State-level Karnatak music contest held in Kundapura by Sangeetha Bharati Trust. She has also won the first prize in All India Inter-University Music Contest held at Kolhapur, Maharashtra.
She came into limelight once again when she emerged as the winner of Confident Star Singer contest organised by Suvarna Channel in 2009, for which she received an apartment worth Rs.40 lakh in Bangalore as prize.
The same year, she was honoured with Aryabhata national award for her achievements in Karnatak music field.
Lakshmi's laurels do not end here. Being a canorous singer, Lakshmi has performed with stalwarts like L.R. Eshwari, P.B. Srinivas, Dr. S.P. Balasubramanyam, C. Ashwath, Ratnamala Prakash and B.R. Chaya.
With her voice and singing prowess enrapturing not just the public but also music directors of Kannada film industry, Lakshmi entered the glamorous world of silver screen, though staying behind the screen, and has sung under the music direction of Hamsaleka, Guru Kiran, Mano Murthy for films 'Meera Madhava Raghava,' Tata Birla, Goutham, Manasare, Aptharakshaka etc.
When SOM asked Lakshmi about the encouragement she received from the veteran singers on and off stage, she said that singing with old-timers was an entirely different experience. She could not forget the praise she received from P.B. Srinivas, she added with a smile.
On her ambitions in the Sandalwood, Lakshmi steadfastly said her passion was singing and she would stick to playback singing and stay away from acting, though the industry offered a lot of encouragement.
Expecting a set answer given by all Kannada singers that Kannada film industry was importing more singers from Bollywood and other States for singing Kannada songs thus discouraging local talents, it was a pleasant surprise to hear from Lakshmi that Kannada singers were not being put on a back-burner but were instead getting good opportunities in Sandalwood.