What do you call a girl who’s made herself heard on every platform there is, except maybe the ones at the railway station?
In this part of the world, since there aren’t many, you can call her Chinmayi Sripada.
The Super Singer has treaded film, TV, radio, web and print, across multiple-languages (she runs a translation services company) and is one of the few eligible single girls in the city with multiple interests.
She’s just finished a set of interviews on Delhi 6 and says she was surprised to see her name credited in the soundtrack. “I had no clue I had sung for Delhi 6 until I heard the track. I coudn’t recognise the lyrics or the co-singers or the song. I was like how could I not recognise a song I had sung? And then it fell into place… I had sung some three lines when I had gone to Rahman’s studio to record something else.”
“Every song I’ve sung for Rahman has been different. You will not find anything common between Santhippoma, Deivam Thantha Poove or Sahana. A lot of people said Sahana didn’t sound like me and it sounded like a computer. I didn’t know if it was an insult or a compliment but for my own mental peace, I decided to take it as a compliment. It took a few live shows before people knew it was really me and not some computer altered sound.”
Chinmayi has come a long way since her TV debut as a singer in Saptaswarangal, and considers her mother to be the single biggest influence in her life. “Born in Bombay, my father left us when I was one and a half. That was so long ago that I don’t care anymore. My Mom tells me it was karanakalyanam… it happened so that I could be born. She didn’ have to answer to anybody and had the complete freedom to do whatever she wanted to do with me. She’s my Guru.”
She pulled out of regular school after Class 10, learnt German, attempted learning French, began a long love affair with dance that continues till date, switched to Hindustani music after starting out with Carnatic music, learnt web designing as her singing career took off and as years passed, graduated in psychology.
But even when she was in school, Chinmayi became a tax-payer. “No big deal. I’m sure all these Johnson babies from the ads have PAN cards too… I hope,” she laughs.
She got her first break as a singer with Kannathil Muthammital. Singer Srinivas had noticed her in the singing contest ‘Saptaswarangal’ and had put her on to A.R. Rahman. She has been singing for him since.
Her German classes too paid off when her cousin gave her a 120-page German document to translate. Soon, she got a few more assignments.
“Blue Elephant, my language translation services company was formed as a via-media between the corporate and the linguist. I have never had to advertise it and word-of-mouth alone has helped me sustain it for four years,” she reveals.
At any point of time, Blue Elephant has 25 to 40 linguists working on different assignments. “We make sure that the linguists who are translating assignments are doing it in their mother tongue and have some knowledge of the material they are translating.”
As aggressive as she sounds, Chinmayi says that all that she’s got herself into is only a result of someone convincing her to try something new. “It was Manimaran, a friend of my Mom, who wanted me to participate in Saptaswarangal. It was blogger Kiruba who suggested that I should start blogging to connect with people who like my music and it worked. Super Singer was something I took up because I found the offer interesting and after that, Aahaa FM called me to give RJing a shot. So if you are asking me what’s my approach, I don’t have one. If I’m good at it, good. If I suck, never mind, I at least tried.”
In the last three years, her blog has had over five lakh page views.
“Blogging has been cathartic,” she says, talking about the experience of interacting with fans, strangers and anonymous trolls too. “Sometimes, I have been immature and have fought back. My Mom watches what I do and there are times when she has had to pull me back from a raging war. Ten years later, if I’m still around and worth being interviewed, I don’t want someone to pick out a comment and say how could you be so stupid? So there’s accountability and responsibility of watching what you say on record.”
To deal with trouble-makers, Chinmayi has made her blog a moderated forum. “Especially during Super Singer, everybody had an opinion but I couldn’t allow for it to go on my blog. No matter what the criticism is, reality shows do open up doors for singers. It’s another thing that I would never allow my children to get into a reality show type of a contest. As a host, I had to be detached. It was just a job.”
When she took up the said job, she was an introvert. “It brought out a dimension that I didn’t know existed. People who knew me from the days of Saptaswarangal could not believe how much I was talking.”
With so much on her plate, does she get to eat out on a date? Or is she uploading photographs onto an obscure matrimonial site for Iyengars?
She giggles explaining how she’s been fighting that off. “Well, see, I’m sure it will happen when it has to. I don’t have a plan. My mom is on the verge of giving up, saying ‘This girl is of no use. She’s not finding someone for herself.’ I don’t know what it is not to have a single life. I don’t know what it is like to be seeing someone. We’ll see how things work when someone else comes into my life.”
Five things you didn’t know about Chinmayi
1. Mathematics is the demon in my life. I am glad I got rid of it.
2. I am a classical dancer. I do Odissi.
3. I am quite adventurous. I have always wanted to skydive but my mom always comes in the way.
4. I once jumped off a terrace to prove a point – that girls can do pretty much what boys can.
5. I like gifting books with personalised notes. People think I belong to the 12th century because I still write letters.