With dreams in her eyes

An interview with folk music enthusiast Ananya Bhat, also the playback singer heard in KGF: Chapter 1, Tagaru and Lucia among others.

Singer Ananya Bhat rejects a kind of requests: "To sing films songs and devaranama at functions."  

But she imposes an alternative: "I sing jaanapada geethes (folk songs)... because nobody asks for them anymore!"

Thus, the lead vocalist of the nascent folk band ABC (Ananya Bhat Concerts) speaks of her resolve to re-glamourise the genre — made of stories about gods, mortals, seasons, morals, everyday life, what-not — and enthuse the youth with it.

The resolve grows with the welcoming responses her renditions have received and the invitations that seek her band’s performances. Mid-last year, her song Sojugada Sujumallige, a philosophical conversation with folk deity Madappa, blazed the internet. It features Vishal Naidruv on guitar and Sumukh Ravishankar on percussions. As she puts it, “Josh iro genre ne jaanapada.”

In parallel to her forte runs her playback singing, heard in the film KGF: Chapter 1. "I just got lucky with the opportunity to sing for the film," says the artiste of the experience that engaged the language fanatic in her with singing in Tamil, Kannada, Malayalam, Hindi, and Telugu.

Beginnings

Raised in a household of good voices that sang just for the pleasure of it, she recalls her childhood in which she not only learned music but also tried her hand at dancing, drawing, knitting, skating - all her mother’s nudge at her daughter so Ananya could explore her talents.

And in a theatre summer camp (Natana School of Theatre Arts), with the likes of Mandya Ramesh and Raju Ananthaswamy teaching her ranga geethes and bhaava geethes, her love for music grew manifold, she remembers, yet points out that “never did I want to become a singer.”

What then? A fashion designer — inspired by her mother who owned a boutique and never missed a chance to dress her up in the clothes that leading female actors of the time wore on screen.

“Singing has become my career now, but I’m a person who is okay doing anything. If my voice goes away tomorrow, I will pick up something else. But, I want to be someone happening, and definitely not a person who sits idle,” she reasons.  

In line with this principle is the incident in which she brought herself to sing for films after a lull… “When I moved to Bengaluru three years ago to study, I heard rumours about my disappearance after singing for Lucia (Nee Thoreda Haadiyalli). Some said I’d left the country. That I’d stopped singing. That’s when I realised that perhaps the industry was still interested in my voice. And I asked my parents for a year’s time to try my hand at singing again. And I slowly began getting projects.”

Recognition

Her rendition of Namma Kaayo Devane for the 2016 Rama Rama Re bagged her the best female playback singer award and of Mental Ho Jawa from the Shiva Rajkumar-starrer Tagaru bagged popularity. In the film Urvi, she took up acting. But beyond the realm of films lies Ananya’s growing dreams. While there’s one to do with music — teaching music to kids in remote locations and learning from them their folk culture — her biggest one excludes music altogether. “I’m very attached to animals. So I want to do something big for them,” she says.

Are there more dreams?

“Oh, so, so many.”

Sound bytes

Two favourite musical  memories...
One was singing ‘Usire, Usire’ (Film Karuppan) in Tamil for D Imman sir. I sang it over the course of seven hours. And his kind of patience is something I haven’t seen before! The other was realising the meaning of the song ‘Ishtu kaala ottigiddu, eshtu beretaru’ long after it was stuck in my mind. It was sung by someone I don’t remember now.  I understand that song and life becomes easy. When I feel down in the dumps, I remember that anybody is capable of changing your life, and that I can’t give up on it.

Is it difficult for a musician starting out in the city to get chances?
It’s easy to get chances now, but it’s difficult to sustain yourself.

Music practice?
Whenever I feel like, wherever I am.

Now learning...
Hindustani music

Favourite musicians
Anoushka Shankar, Raju Ananthaswamy, Sid Sriram, Rihanna, Adele, Taylor Swift, A R Rahman.

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With dreams in her eyes

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