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Proud pedigree is not all

ARUNA CHANDARAJU

Nityashree Mahadevan says an artiste's standing is not determined by rich lineage, but the hard work one puts in


It is entirely your sweat and talent that carries you forward NITYASHREE



INTROSPECTION Nityashree Mahadevan: `There should be a constant critical evaluation of one's own performance.' Photo: K. ANANTHAN

Her pedigree is probably the most-commented thing about her. But then with D.K. Pattamal and Palghat Mani Iyer for paternal and maternal grandparents, and D.K. Jayaraman for granduncle, it would be. All the more so, as Nityashree Mahadevan has chosen to follow in their footsteps, and proved herself to be a worthy inheritor of their mantle. "I think this family background is a great gift from God. But it is also a huge responsibility for it arouses high expectations in audiences and critics. It was actually intimidating when I started out with these comparisons. But I must concede the background also made it easier to establish my professional identity. In the end, however, what sustains an artiste is hard work".

Nityashree, who was in Bangalore to perform for the Ramaseva Mandali concert, in an introspective mode observes: "There should be a constant critical evaluation of one's own performance. A background can only ensure a few openings or initial programmes. After that it is entirely your sweat and talent that carries you forward. Also, one needs to be constantly listening to good music and musicians."

So who are the ones she loves listening to? Her grandmother of course is her all-time favourite. But then she has other favourites too. "All the old masters are great but everyone of them has something special that appeals to me. I admire G.N. Balasubramaniam for his imagination and creativity, M.S. Subbulakshmi's bhakti bhava, Madurai Mani Iyer for his aesthetics and M. Balamuralikrishna for his brilliance, Ariyakudi's kutcheri pattern, M.L.V. for her innovations, KVN for his bhava-laden concerts, T.N. Krishnan's melody, T.N. Seshagopalan's vidwat and Lalgudi Jayaraman's multifaceted talent."

She also likes Bombay Jayshree, Sudha Raghunathan and S. Soumya of this generation. In fact, she even listens to all their albums. "It is important to keep in touch with your contemporaries and learn from them like we do from the masters."

Mother, guru

Nityashree's mother Lalitha Shivakumar was her direct guru since DKP was nearly 70 when Nityashree began singing.

However, she is always around to guide the younger one. "She would listen to my music, correct my tempo. I should be faster here, slower there, or outline the sahitya more clearly, keep the pitch lower... "

Pattamal would go to Nityashree's concerts if she insisted, but the considerate grand daughter doesn't have the heart to, considering that she is 87.

Nityashree is one of those rare classical musicians who also straddles two world with ease: classical music and film music. After an impressive debut as playback singer with Jeans, and nearly 150 songs later, she is still going strong in the field.

"They demand different voices, tonal modulation, even timbre. The very style of singing is different. I try to maintain a balance. I do only four or five songs a month. It would be difficult to return to classical music otherwise."

Nityashree points out that while the reach of film music is wider than classical music, classical music offers more space. "In playbacks, one has little freedom and one has to sing depending on the situation, demands of the producer, music director and also according to the voice and personality of the actor.

In a classical concert, the stage is entirely my platform. It is my raga alapana, entirely my manodharma, my bhava, an unfettered expression of my art and creativity. Classical is my first love. My roots are there."

Takes its own course

Nityashree is known, like most established musicians, to modify her concert as she goes along. "We come to the stage with one set of expressions but end up with different ones. Many aspects account for these changes — the hall, acoustics, mike system, accompanying artistes, mood of the audience and above all the quality of voice quality."

Finally, to the question that every successful career woman has to answer. How does she balance home and profession?

Nityashree answers the question as she rocks her seven-month-old daughter Tejashree: "Family support is critical to a woman's professional success. I am lucky to have parents who are musicians, understanding in-laws and a husband who encourages me wholeheartedly and actually delights in my success."

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