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Have you heard of Hele Kogile Impagala, from ‘Nammura Mandhara Hoove’, ‘Elu Shiva Elu Shiva… song from ‘Halunda Thavaru’, Thunturu Alli Neeara Haadu… from ‘Amrutha Varshini’, Chiguru Gombeye from Chandramukhi Pranasakhi, Nesara Nesara from Bhoomi Thaayi Chcochala Maga – that is CHITRA for you. The mellifluous playback singer of South India has so far sung 16000 songs – 13000 in films and 3000 in nearly 500 audio albums.
Yet, she wants to become a full-fledged classical singer and follow the footsteps of K.J.Yesudas.
Here is a quick chat with Chitra at Akash Audio when she came to sing two songs for ‘Kotigobba’ Kannada film starring Vishnuvardhan and Devaraj. Chitraloka thanks not only Chitra for sharing half an hour but also lyricist Kalyan whose time was snatched by this correspondent.
Can you give a brief back ground?
I am bachelor in Music from Trivandrum University. I started career as a singer at a very young age of seven. Dr.Ommankutty is my Guru and M.G.Radhakrishna introduced me to film music.
Don’t you feel melody is taking a back seat today?
I don’t agree. The younger generation may have a liking to rhythm but it is always melody that is liked by large section. Personally I feel melody is back again.
I believe you work in shifts?
 travel three states a lot to keep singing. Actually I am not on shifts. I have sung maximum of 8 songs a day. If it is a Malayalam or Tamil song I take only half an hour. If it is Kannada I take one and half an hour. I want to know the meaning of each word enjoy it and then sing according to the composition.
What do you say about this breathless song that has become a fashion?
What you hear is different from what we render. It is not possible to hold breath for so much of time. It is the technology that is felicitating such songs. I have sung in Kannada Onde Usirali Naanu Neenu… for Kannada film ‘Snehaloka’ and in another Tamil film there is a song that consist of 108 Goddesses.
(Kalyan sitting at the composing hall quickly used his brain to know how that goddess song is rendered as there is one such song in unreleased Kannada film ‘Gramadevathe’ for which he had written the lyric. Chitra obliged and sung the few lines. Kalyan is not only a brilliant lyricist but his brilliance was timely)
Have you on any occasion rejected a song because of poor lyrics?
I did it once but felt bad about it for a Tamil film. I was advised by my elders not to do it like that. The producer and director is the deciding authority I was enlightened.
Fame and money on your side what else you look forward?
I want to keep my career with no obstacles. Not even an inch of comment should come for my singing is my priority. Besides this I want to become a good classical singer. Say like Yesuanna (referring to K.J.Yesudas). I don’t have time to concentrate on the classical singing. I am too busy now in film music singing.
Which is the film song that haunts you still today?
The songs I sung for the film ‘Sindhubhairavi’. This has given me National award.
Any fond memories you have?
An opportunity to sing at the famous Royal Albert Hall London came to me recently. After Lathaji I believe I got the chance. It is a god sent gift to me. I accompanied Yesuanna, SPB and others. It was South Indian film music.
Was there a chance for Kannada song?
Oh yes. I sung with SPB the song Jothe Jotheyalli… from the film ‘Geetha’ starring Shanker Nag. There was a loud applause. Some people stood up and clapped.
Do you hear the songs for the films you have song?
I hear and watch it through channels.
How does the heroines reciprocate?
Now such reciprocation is not available. Earlier actresses like Kushboo, Suhasini, Revathi, Amla and others used to ring me up and appreciate me.
What advise you make for budding singers?
They should imitate others. They should learn from their mistakes. They should learn and sing.
Have you liked any local talents?
In Kannada I rate Nandita and Rajesh are very good singers at present. Some of the track singers here have got good capacity.
The singers you adore?
Lathaji, Ashaji, Susheela and Janakiji. With Janakiji I share a relationship similar to mother. I have taken lot of tips from Janakiji.
Have you picked up Kannada?
See what happens is when I come here to sing the people around speak to me either in English or Tamil. I come here for very short duration and picking up Kannada is not in a fast phase.