Sunday, April 21, 2024

‘Singing in a movie is a dream for any artist, and I am no exception’

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Singer Anuradha Juju, who recently released her latest single Mitwa, gets candid with The Pioneer, sharing about the song, her South stint, and more.

K. Ramya Sree
Born into a South Indian family and having started her journey as a playback singer in the Kannada film industry, Anuradha Juju has done a solid amount of work in the South Indian film industry before doing some independent music.
Her independent music scene is very lit now, with many successful songs to her credit.
Speaking to The Pioneer after the release of her latest single Mitwa, starring the late legendary Ustad Rashid Khan and Anuradha herself, the singer confessed to us that it was legendary actor Rajkumar who first heard her voice and encouraged her to pursue her music career. Narrating her journey in south Indian music, Anuradha shared, “I’m a South Indian, but I grew up in New Delhi. In 1988, I started my journey as a playback singer in a Kannada movie called Rana Ranga, composed by Hamsalekha. The legendary actor Rajkumar heard me sing and encouraged me to pursue playback singing in South Indian movies. Unfortunately, we left India in 1989 due to my husband’s entrepreneurial journey. However, I returned to singing when I sang for a Telugu movie called Ashta Chamma, composed by Keeravani’s brother. Afterward, I focused on South Asian music, incorporating my Carnatic music training into various performances and events.”
There was a break in her career in singing for South Indian films, but Anuradha expressed that she is still willing to work in the South Indian music industry. “I’m open to opportunities if approached. However, I believe music is evolving beyond cinema, with many independent artists creating original content. While I cherish the experience of singing for movies, I also enjoy performing live and collaborating with renowned artists like Vijay Prakash. In India, many artists are producing their own music, akin to the Western trend. This diversification is fantastic, and I encourage it. Music shouldn’t solely be associated with cinema. If anyone approaches me to sing for a movie, be it Indian or South Indian cinema, I would be thrilled. I had the opportunity to perform with Vijay Prakash on stage last year, and I would love to sing for a South Indian movie. Singing in a movie is a dream for any artist, and I am no exception. So, absolutely, I am open to it,” she added.
Taking us back to the 1990s and early 2000s, she recalled, “When it comes to memorable moments in the South Indian industry, recording my first playback song for a Kannada movie stands out. Initially, I was supposed to sing with SPB Bala Subramaniam, but during the recording, actor Dr. Shivaraj Rajkumar, a prominent figure in the Kannada film industry, expressed his desire to join me, despite not being a singer himself. It was quite interesting to record alongside him. Despite feeling nervous at the age of 20 or 21, I found comfort in the support of legends like Rajkumar and his son, Dr. Shivaraj Kumar. Singing in a recording studio for the first time was truly a memorable experience for me.” She continued, “When it comes to South Indian directors, the top name that comes to mind is A.R. Rahman Saab, who is brilliant. Additionally, there’s Arun, who directed the song Tamma Tamma, and he also worked on the recent Shah Rukh Khan movie Jawan.”
She strongly believes that music shouldn’t be associated with just cinema, and that is why she began doing independent music with some of the finest vocalists we have in India. The interviewee shares her experience with Ustad Rashid Khan, a talented Indian classical artist, with whom they collaborated for Mitwa: “I met him last year when he performed in Boston for Mithaz, an MIT non-profit organisation promoting Indian classical music from South Asia, and I invited him for this song. Despite my background in semi-classical and Bollywood styles, Ustad was open-minded and appreciated the song, which was based on the classical raga Bhin Nishadhaj.”
While the very talented Ustad is not around now, his memories will live with us. It was very shocking for Anuradha as well to process the death of Ustad, and she reminisces, “Although I never imagined he would leave us so suddenly. We were eagerly anticipating the release of the song with him. He was like a bright sun shining upon me, and I felt immensely honoured and privileged. As a relatively small artist, I hoped to share in his glory. Sadly, he’s no longer with us, which is the most crushing part. However, I find joy in knowing that I was part of his final project. It’s now my responsibility to ensure that his last work reaches the world, and I feel the weight of this responsibility on my shoulders.”

Speaking about the song, “Mitwa means “a friend.” The song evolved to incorporate a love aspect, focusing on finding a soulmate. I aimed to depict a mature love story, not centered on young protagonists, but on dedicated artists consumed by their craft. The song’s rhythms inspired the inclusion of a classical dancer and vocalist, portraying a story of how two artists meet, bond over their art, and discover love. Anuradha is next doing a project called He Shaarde, a prayer dedicated to Goddess Saraswati, the deity of education and art, a fact that seems to be fading from people’s memory. I aim to have this prayer sung by children and others in Indian schools to ensure the teaching of Indian classical music basics up to middle school. Another significant project of mine is an operatic movement depicting the story of ‘Jatayu’, focusing on his brave stand against Ravana during Sita’s kidnapping. along with several others in the pipeline,” she concluded.
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