Thursday, August 11, 2011

In praise of Gods and Goddesses

Ganesh Sundaram who has sung the 'Himakanam' hit song in 'Violin', is also a Hindu devotional singer, who has sung over 2000 songs

By Shevlin Sebastian

Ganesh Sundaram's hit song, 'Himakanam' from the Malayalam film, 'Violin' is having an impact on listeners. There is something about his dulcet voice, plaintive, sincere, and intense, that touches the listener. 'Where had this talent been hiding for so long?' is the thought in the mind.

“The voice should hit the hearts of the listeners, otherwise, there will be no impact," says Ganesh. "But to have that sort of voice is a gift from God.” Nevertheless, the man is modest. “My talent is nowhere near that of Yesudas and S.P. Balasubramanim,” he says. “But I try to do something with what I have been given by God.”

Music director Bijibal, who composed the ‘Himakanam’ song for 'Violin', is an admirer. “I chose Ganesh because he has a genuine voice,” he says. “That is his best quality. And although he has not sung many film songs, he is a seasoned professional.”

Not many people know that Ganesh has been a successful Hindu devotional singer for the past twenty years. So far he has sung 2000 songs, which have been recorded in 800 cassettes.

His turning point came when his 1999 album, 'Guruthipooja', became a hit.
“The songs are in praise of Bhagawathy Devi of the Chottanikkara temple,” says Ganesh. “It has good lyrics and catchy tunes, and the public liked it a lot. The album is still selling. People still give me praise. They feel a sense of peace when they listen to the songs.”

That is true. When you do listen to 'Guruthipooja', there is a soothing tone to Ganesh's voice, offering balm to wounded souls, and indirectly giving the option to pray to Bhagawathy Devi to get over the troubles that one is facing in life.

Ganesh lives beside the Devi temple at Tripunithara. On a weekday morning, he is the only one in the house. His wife, Smitha, has gone to work as a teacher, while his sons, Shankar, 14, and Shridhar, 10, are at school. Since Ganesh is a professional singer, he can be home on some mornings. But he keeps himself busy by taking part in ganamelas, and concerts during the festival season.

But it has not been easy. There have been times when his income has dipped. “During those periods, I had to rely on my wife, my brother who lives in Muscat and my mother, a former schoolteacher, who gets a pension.”

Sometimes, the stress has got to him. Once he was doing cover tracks for another singer for noted music director Raveendranath. The lyrics were written by the late Girish Puthencherry. It is about Kujelan [a character from the Puranas] who is starving and goes to meet Lord Krishna. Kujelan is sure to get a meal with the Lord. “When I sang the song, I was reminded of the hardships I faced in my life,” says Ganesh. “After the song was recorded, I burst into tears.”

The music director was stunned. All the musicians stopped playing. There was a pin-drop silence. Finally, Raveendranath said, “Son, don't worry, things will work out.”

Things do work out, and there have been happy moments. In 2006, he won the Kerala Sangeet Natak Akademi award for the best song in a drama.

But it is in playback singing for films that he is struggling to make a mark. “You cannot blame music directors,” he says. “For one song, there are 50 singers from whom he can choose.” Ganesh pauses and says, simply, “To succeed, you need a godfather.”

Nevertheless, Ganesh has got some good assignments. He has sung in 'Loudspeaker', 'Minnaminni Kootam', 'Kudumbasree Travels' and 'Bombay, March 12', where he shares space with Sonu Nigam on a song. He has also sung a couple of Tamil songs and continues with his bread and butter: devotional songs.

As for the future, he says, "I want to sing many more film songs and become as good as it is possible to be."

(The New Indian Express, Kochi)

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