Noted Carnatic music singer V Deepika will be performing with her guru, vocalist Sudha Raghunathan at the eighth edition of Citi-NCPA Aadi Anant: From Here to Eternity Music Festival on January 20, 2019 at Chowdiah Memorial Hall, Bengaluru. Spread across four cities: Pune, Mumbai, Chennai and Bengaluru, the three-month long festival is one of the most highly anticipated events of the year and will give concert goers the opportunity to engage with Indian culture through some of our country’s oldest forms of music.
We had a chat with V Deepika to know more about her, her journey and her achievements…
You are a Carnatic music singer, an actor, a playback singer, a model and have lent voice to animation movies… Which of these do you love doing the most or in other words, is the closest to your heart and why?
I have always loved singing and it has been the one closest to my heart. My family loves music and we see it as a way of life. People identified me as a singer and initially, I was offered opportunities to act and dub only because I could sing. The roles required singing live, acting and dubbing so I guess I was lucky to be there at the right time.
Can you list a few of your works in each of these fields?
As a playback singer, some of the movies I have sung for include Bahubali (Tamil), MCA (Telugu), Dil Se (Hindi), Kaadhalukku Mariyadai (Tamil), Kochu Kochu Santhoshangal (Malayalam) and Shiva Shainyam (Kannada). As an actor, I have worked in tele-serial, Kaiyalavu Manasu (Tamil), tele-serial Chhoti Si Asha (Hindi) and feature film Amma Amman Chudalani Vundi (Telugu). As a dubbing artiste, Avvai Shanmugi (Tamil), The Lion King (Tamil), Bhamani Satyabhamani (Telugu), Thani Oruvan (Tamil) and Utthama Villain (Tamil).
You have pursued Western classical piano. You have a bachelor’s in IT and Sanskrit. Conventionally, this question is towards the end of the questionnaire but one needs to ask it now – what’s up next for V Deepika?
Over the past few years, I have been fascinated by the Rampur Sahaswan gharana, their singing techniques, voice culture and their lightning speed taans. I have started to learn the nuances of the style from Sri Prasad Khaparde, an exponent of this gharana.
Do you compartmentalise your life and the various talents you have or else, how do you do them all?
God’s grace! The one thing that I regularly do is my practice. Rest of the activities are taken care of automatically. Fundamentally, learning classical music greatly helps in adapting to any other type of music, be it for films or commercials or bhakti sangeet. Especially, when music directors want me to improvise, my training in classical music is of great use.
Take us through your life till now…
My parents, Geetha Varadarajan and Varadarajan have been the backbone of my life. With my mom being a singer herself, I was always surrounded by music. I picked up a few songs on my own listening to my mom’s practice sessions. When I was three, I was asked to sing the invocation for my parama Guru Dr ML Vasanthakumari’s 64th birth anniversary celebrations. It was only then that my parents thought of teaching me Carnatic music formally. My mother was my first guru. I later learnt from Sri Vittal Ramamurthy, Sri OS Thiagarajan and Sri Vairamangalam Lakshminarayanan for a few years. However, the turning point in my life was when I started to learn from Smt Sudha Ragunathan in year 1997. The perfectionist and task master that she was made me take up music very seriously. There has been no looking back since then. At around the same time my career in playback singing, acting and dubbing was simultaneously launched. I studied in Padma Seshadri Bala Bhavan Senior Secondary School and pursued bachelors in Information Technology from SRM Easwari Engineering College. Sanskrit language is something that fascinated me right from my childhood. I was the only one to score a 100 marks in the class 12 grade CBSE Sanskrit Board examination. That motivated me and I got an opportunity to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Sanskrit from Rashtriya Samskrita Vidya Peetham, Tirupati.
Your mother has been your first guru. What role has your father played in your life?
If I have been able to train in classical music and pursue singing as my career, I owe it all to my dad. My father, Varadarajan was a marketing consultant in the healthcare industry. He was himself an ardent listener of classical music and a big fan of my Guru Sudha Amma. It was because of his efforts and persistence that I could learn from Sudha Amma since my childhood. Be it concerts or recordings, long sessions of dubbing in the studios or outdoor shoots, he has accompanied me and been there with me on every single occasion. The contribution that he has made towards my personal and professional growth is beyond words.
How supportive has been the family with respect to the other talents you possess as singing has been a part of family for you?
Only a chosen few are blessed with families that are as supportive as mine. As a child, when I got opportunities to act, my parents knew that it was going to be a tiring, tough task. So they decided that they would escort me every single day and as a result, especially my dad, had to sacrifice a lot of his time and career, which, he happily did. Whatever be the opportunities that came my way, my parents readily encouraged me and enabled me to perform at my best. My grandmother, Jayalakshmi has been my best friend forever, so much so that, at 76, she still accompanies me to most of my studio recordings and listens to my practice sessions every day. My uncle Prasanna has been a mentor and a great friend to me making sure that none of the external factors affect my focus and pursuit in life.
Did your parents ever tell you to choose one particular field and gain mastery over it?
Certainly… and that is music and singing. To evolve into a singer of highest calibre, is a goal that my family and I aspire to reach.
Will this be the first time for you at Citi-NCPA Aadi Anant: From Here to Eternity?
Yes. This is the first time I am performing at the Citi-NCPA Aadi Anant festival.
Do such events help people to get closer to our country’s oldest forms of music?
Definitely. It gives the audience a deeper understanding of the uniqueness of musical genres/styles that is presented. I have listened to quite a few concerts hosted by NCPA in Chennai. The Guru-Shishya tradition is one of the most ancient and beautiful aspects of Indian classical music. As audience, I have enjoyed listening to how a musical style is preserved across generations.
During the event, you shall be singing with your guru. How does it feel when you share the same stage and sing the same ragas with someone you have learnt from? Also, who do you think is feeling prouder – you as a student or your guru as your teacher?
Uff! The question itself makes me nervous. I feel absolutely blessed to sing in my guru’s presence. Since my childhood I have idolised her and undoubtedly, I am the proudest. It is a moment that I would cherish all my life.
If you were to rate the crowd of cities in terms of understanding music during a show, which will be the top three cities in the world and why?
Chennai would be on the top. Most listeners in Chennai have a good understanding of the ragas we present. During the December music season in Chennai, you can find corridors of concert venues bustling with people discussing the intricacies of music. Bengaluru would be next on my list as you find a lot of patronage for both Carnatic and Hindustani Classical music. Mumbai, whether it is a 6 am concert or a 11 pm concert, you find halls filled with people. I feel Mumbaikars celebrate music and appreciate the artist open-heartedly.
How is Indian music accepted abroad?
Indian music has tremendous respect and admiration abroad, not only amidst Indians but also amidst people of different origins. I got an opportunity to collaborate with musicians from different countries as part of a music exchange programme in the United States of America. It was then that I realised how much value and admiration the musicians from different parts of the world, had for Indian classical music. They were so appreciative of the nuances in the music and showed great interest to learn the music as well.
Success to you is…
In terms of singing, I set benchmarks and high standards for myself. To reach that level of singing, is success to me.
Who has been the most inspirational person in your life and why/ how?
My guru Smt Sudha Ragunathan. I fell in love with classical music through her singing and through her Music. If I am a classical singer today, I owe it all to my Guru. Besides, She has always inspired me to raise stronger no matter what the odds in life are.
Ustad Rashid Khan sa’ab. Ustadji’s endless musical creativity, soulful singing and simplicity moves me beyond words and motivates me to work harder. His mastery over each swara is probably every musician’s dream. The calmness he brings about with his singing is something that I aspire to achieve with all my heart.
Shankar Mahadevanji. I am a huge admirer of Shankarji’s versatility, singing prowess and musical creations. It is so inspiring to perform with him on stage and feel the positivity and energy that he radiates. He is one of the finest human beings I have ever come across. He inspires me to evolve into a person that is genuinely loved by all.
A day in the life of V Deepika…
It is pretty simple. My day begins at 5 am with a cup of coffee and Darren Hardy’s pep talks followed by some vocal warm up exercises. I love swimming in the mornings. A visit to the temple is a must in my daily routine. By about 8 am, I begin my practice sessions. If not for recordings or running errands, I seldom step out. I catch up with my closest set of people every day over the phone. Besides that, my time is mostly spent on practicing, listening and reading about music.