Of vocal prowess

young achiever
Last Updated : 05 December 2015, 18:34 IST
Last Updated : 05 December 2015, 18:34 IST

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I reach Sunil Gargyan’s house in Tambaram only to find that he is not there. An elderly person (his grandfather, I am told later) is not sure where he is. As we wait, his father rings up and says that his son was called on short notice by the Vivekananda College Management in the morning. I imagine he’s a professor. Good. He does not have to depend on his talent for a living.

Then Sunil calls up to say he is free and can meet me before 1 pm. I reach the college by half past noon. This time, a young college student greets me. Sunil Gargyan, the upcoming vocal artiste, is a B.Com student! He smiles, and he looks like a typical orthodox Brahmin boy with a naamam on his forehead. He is in a hurry as he cannot miss his class.

“So, you are still a student and yet you have managed to do so much!” I begin. We decide to go to the Ramakrishna Math nearby for a better ambience.

Early start

“I started learning music at the age of three. My first guru was Nagai S Bhashyam, my second guru was P B Shrirangachari, student of Seshagopalan, and since 2008 my guru has been Padmabhushan Sangeetha Kala Acharya P S Narayanaswamy. I am really fortunate to have him as my guru. I am also learning mridangam from P B V Krishnamacharya, B Ganapathiram and B Sivaraman,” he says. “You have already given more than 100 performances,” I exclaim.

“It was my grandmother who initiated me into music. As a small child, I used to sing popular movie songs. My family, especially my father (although a cricketer), was very supportive. I was encouraged even in school. I gave my first performance when I was five. My first concert was for NamTV. By 2013, I had already won 23 prizes and also got noticed,” he explains.

I am curious. “What made you take this up as a career? Considering it’s not easy to get into a sabha, how did you manage?”

Sunil says, “My guru used to say, if you are destined, true to your profession, and ready to work hard, Saraswati kataksham will follow.” He sounds so strong and full of faith in his guru’s words. True, no one can change one’s destiny. “All the sabhas conduct competitions prior to the season. In 2012, I won 42 prizes. That is how I got noticed.”

Sunil Gargyan has received the M S Subbulakshmi Fellowship Award from Mumbai. He is the first youngster to receive the Nada Chinthamani award from Chinthamani Gayana Samaj, Chinthamani. Other awards include the M S Hindu Sarigama award in 2014 for the best voice of the year, Spirit of Youth award in 2013, HCL award for the best vocalist.
He is an All India Radio B-grade artiste, and he’s been on a Central Government Scholarship since 2006.

A typical day for Sunil begins at four in the morning with his sadhakam (practice). Then, as he gets ready for the day, he also watches TV, especially DD Bharati, listens to good music, and then goes to college. “My school and college support me in becoming a professional singer. I even miss classes sometimes,” he says. He feels grateful for all that he has received. “I am blessed to have P S Narayanaswamy as my guru at the right time in my career. In spite of him being such a great person, I have never felt pressurised as a student.”

Among young talents, Sunil likes Abhishek Raghuram, Kunnakkudi Balamuralikrishna and so on. Among the senior artistes, he likes Maharajapuram Ramachandran, violinist S Varadarajan, T N Seshagopalan, Sanjay Subrahmanyan, T M Krishna; and among the very old masters, Velletti Venkateshulu, G N B, Semmangudi and Ramnad Krishnan.

“Are there any challenges you face as a young and upcoming artiste?” “Every time it is a new experience. Every concert is a test, and it is successful if there is acceptance by the rasikas (audience). I am not perfect. If the sabha is happy, I am happy. I just enjoy singing.”

Sunil has travelled for his performances to many places in Kerala, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. He thinks being in Chennai is good for recommendations; there is enough encouragement for good music in Chennai, although newcomers have few slots during the season. Sunil is performing this season at the Music Academy, Karthik Fine Arts and Naada Inbam, Shanti Fine Arts.

Touch of spirituality

“What is a prerequisite to get into the sabhas?” I ask. He answers without giving it a second thought, “Being spiritual. Because, it is easy to understand what you are singing; the lyrics are mostly in Sanskrit and spiritual in nature. If you are spiritual, your life gets tuned to all that naturally.”

After a pause, he comments, “The real challenge is to prove every time that you are worthy of your career and that something new can be done without changing the tradition. Hard work pays. It will never let you down. I firmly believe in that.”

By now it is time for his class. Is he a good student? I wonder. “I score 90 per cent,” he says,“I also play football.” “But your father is a cricketer...” He does not allow me to complete the sentence. “I have never questioned my father regarding that.”
I leave, carrying the positive energy reflected in his words and personality.

Published 05 December 2015, 15:25 IST

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