An idol's journey

In conversation

An idol's journey

‘Indian Idol’ winner Sreeram Chandra has had a rather slow start. But the singer is now belting out hits and has taken a plunge into acting. Srabanti Chakravarty talks to the singer-turned-actor about his past, present & future.

There was a time when people had their doubts about the success of Indian Idol winners. And there were justifiable reasons for their feelings too, as none of the show’s winners were making any progress with their careers. But things started changing with Meiyang Chang. Although he was not able to win the contest, he did manage to make a mark in Bollywood. Now, Sreeram Chandra is the latest Indian Idol on the block to have announced his arrival with a bang. After winning Season 5, he is all set to conquer the music industry.

Speaking about his humble beginnings, Sreeram says, “I think my grandfather first realised my musical talents. Whenever I would visit my hometown during holidays, I would sing for him and he started encouraging me. Initially, I never had any music teacher. I would hear songs by legends like Kishore Kumar, Lata Mangeshkar etc, and try to learn from their style of singing. In school, I was part of a choir and my formal training started at the age of 17.”

However, once his training started, there was no looking back. “I took it seriously. I learned Carnatic music for five years. By the time I was 21, I started learning western music. I also completed my engineering by this time. After this, there was a time in my life when I started participating in many music competitions and winning. I started garnering praise from several quarters, and I realised that it was time to move ahead. After completing my studies, I took up a regular 9 to 5 job and found everything very alien.”

On becoming an idol

So, how did his tryst with Indian Idol come about? Sreeram smiles and responds, “One day, I was watching television and saw this advertisement for Indian Idol auditions, I immediately told my mother that I should take the chance because after a few years I didn’t want to regret not giving it a try. The auditions were happening in select cities all over the country, and because of some urgent work, I couldn’t participate from my town. So I went to Ahmedabad for the audition.”

After being selected for the main round, Sreeram never looked back because he knew that this platform was huge for him. So it was a do or die situation. Sreeram, who was the most consistent contestant in the competition, feels it was his strong focus and dedication that led to his win. “In the past, there have been cases where promising participants never got a good amount of votes to win the title. Moreover, in the South, people hardly watch Hindi shows. Till the time acting legend Amitabh Bachchan presented the trophy to me, I couldn’t believe that I actually won. But later, I realised that people have liked my voice and they were able to connect with me through my singing.”

Although becoming an Indian Idol gave him the required platform, it was his post victory lap that cemented his position. “Indian Idol is a show where an ordinary person becomes extraordinary because of his talent. I wanted to plan ahead and set my goal for the next one year. I wanted to learn Hindi properly. I worked on my diction. I didn’t want to hear people say that I have a problem in my diction because I am a South Indian.”

However, his post-Idol fame also took its toll on him. For almost half a year, he was busy travelling for stage shows. “This didn’t help me start my innings in Mumbai. I hoped that in a year, at least one of my songs would be released. My first playback song was with Yash Raj Films for Mere Brother Ki Dulhan, composed by Sohail Sen. Later, the song Balma, composed by Himesh Reshamiya in Khiladi 786.” Thus Sreeram found his footing, and went on to sing for more than 50 films in Telugu.

Acting bug

But the singer didn’t stop at that, and he soon ventured into acting. “During Indian Idol, we were trained in personality development and for performances on stage. I always had an inclination towards acting. I once performed a song from the film Half Ticket, where I had to act like a woman and a man at the same time. It was fun. That was when I realised I was bitten by the acting bug. I even got a lot of offers, but none of them were worth taking up. One day, famous movie writer J K Bharavi approached me to play the character of a king in his ambitious film Jagadguru Adi Shankara. I was very nervous because this is a period film and the dialogues are pretty long and the look is  also different.”

So the singer became an actor. And the result? Sreeram is now shooting for his first commercial Telegu film titled Prema Geema Jantha, directed by Subhu.
But what about his musical career? “Music will never take a backseat. I have sung for the film Ye Jawani Hai Deewani, composed by Pritam, I have also sung a song for the remake of the film Zanjeer, composed by Anu Malik. And I will soon be recording a song for a Sanjay Dutt production. My family has been extremely supportive, as I have been a confident person and I know what I want to do.”

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