Driven by desire

Driven by desire

Soulful

Driven by desire

This young woman happens to be one singer who is as sweet as her voice. And the clang of wedding bells has only added more sparkle to her vocal cords.

The fact that she tied the knot with famous drummer Rahul Gopal (whose old band, No Idea, emerged the winner at the Great Indian Rock Festival in New Delhi) adds more rhythm to her life. We are talking about singer Sunitha Sarathy, famous for her hit songs in Ayutha Ezhuthu, Kaaka Kaaka, and a score of other films in Telugu, Malayalam and English.

Right now, the singer is busy singing for Telugu movie Sega, and of course, for the new band, The Agenda, that she, hubby Rahul Gopal, Briton Matt Littlewood (on the saxophone and piano) and French reunion island bass artist, Mishko, have formed. Mishko and Littlewood have made Pondicherry’s Auroville their home and the group meets once in a while to create music and exchange ideas or just jam for fun.  

Remember Hey goodbye nanba in Mani Ratnam’s Ayutha Ezhuthu; Eh khuda hafiz in Yuva, Maro maro from Boys with A R Rahman and Thoothu varuma from Kaakha Kaakha with Harris Jayaraj? They are chartbusters of course, but they have a different element in their music — Sunitha’s unique voice. What’s great about her voice is that she can sound western in tone and pitch even while singing in regional languages.

“Initially, I had my doubts as to whether my voice would suit playback singing,” says Sunitha. But Indian audiences have loved her. The fact that she can handle both Indian and Western formats helps tremendously in her playback singing career. Her pitch range is vast and the directors have utilised it to create memorable numbers. Someone, who never had any formal training in music, Sunitha feels that her roots lie in Western music. She particularly likes songs from the R&B and Blues genre of the ‘90s.

Sunitha has worked with several top music directors including A R Rahman and Harris Jayaraj, and has sung over 100 songs in several languages. Perhaps, music was an inevitable career choice for Sunitha as she hails from a family that takes music seriously. She is inspired by her mother, a classical pianist, and her uncle, Das Daniel — keyboardist, arranger, violinist and guitarist — who has mentored music directors like G V Prakash.

“In the ‘80s, when there were no music channels like today, my uncle would buy me music CDs and VCDs. We always had musical parties at home, which would be graced by renowned musicians; I was lucky to grow up in such an atmosphere where music was worshipped,” reminisces Sunitha.

She started singing as a child, was part of various choirs and sang Schubert in church with her mother. Later, she sang jingles and then, in 2000, she won Channel [V]’s voice hunt. Soon enough she was noticed and singer Srinivas offered her the opportunity to sing in the film Yei Nee Romba Azhaga Irukke. But it was with Thoodu varuma, a beautiful song in Kaaka Kaaka, that Sunitha Sarathy arrived in the music industry.

“Harris Jayaraj told me, ‘experiment with it and sing it the way you want’; it gave me immense confidence as a beginner,” recalls Sunitha. Eventually, she sung in films like Warriors of Heaven and Earth, Mango Souffle, Mitr My Friend, and Knock Knock, which earned her critical acclaim. As for the musicians she admires, Sunitha gives a big list — Michael Jackson, Madonna, Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, Lucky Ali and French composer, Eric Satie. She also likes listening to Italian tenors, traditional choir songs and chants of monks.

An interesting side to Sunitha is her passion for stray animals. “‘Don’t tell me it is another kitten’ is what my mother used to say, but she was accommodating and allowed me to keep these animals at home. Sometimes, I would find a wounded cat on my way to school. I would rush back home, give it to my mother, and ask her to take care of it till I returned home from school,” says Sunitha. She is a philanthropist and for seven years now, during Christmas, Sunitha has been holding charity concerts for the Chennai based orphanage, Ebenezer Home.  

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