With songs like Naane Varugiraen from O Kadhal Kanmani, Paaruruvaaya from Thaarai Thappattai and the recent Adiye from Vetrivel, playback singer D Sathyaprakash is slowly and steadily making waves in the industry with his mellifluous voice. Times of India chats with the singer about working with legends, what it takes to sustain in the industry today and more
You got your break through a reality show. How has your journey been since then?
I hail from Coimbatore. Even though no one in my family is musically inclined, I have been training in classical music from a very young age. T Sathish of Rajalakshmi Fine Arts in Coimbatore supported me and I had even done a few kutcheries for the sabha. In fact, I aspired to become a Carnatic singer like P Unnikrishnan and TM Krishna. It was during my final year of college that my friends and family suggested that I take part in Super Singer. That was my first TV experience. I wasn’t really prepared for the journey and just gave it a shot. But once I took part in the show, I developed interest in film music. I had some amazing learning experience at the end of every round. GV Prakash and Dhanush were the judges for the final. Both of them liked my performance and promised me to give songs in the future. I never imagined I would become a playback singer. The exposure that I got on the show opened up opportunities for me. I eventually made my debut through GV sir’s Annakodi. Around the same time, Dhanush sir gave me an opportunity in 3. This eventually released first and marked my debut.
The song Naane Varugiraen had a classical base. Did your background in Carnatic music help? Tell us about working with AR Rahman
I was a part of a special show for Kaaviya Thalaivan promotions. Rahman sir had come for the show then. I sang Vaanga Makka Vaanga from the film. Later, I got a call from his office. I went to the studio and Rahman sir said that there is a song and he just wanted to try if my voice suits it. The song had a Hindustani base. Since I had a classical base, it helped me. He taught me a few lines and even played a couple of samples. He created an atmosphere that helped me ease a bit. After this song, I got to sing tracks for him. I have even rendered a track for one song in 24, for the Telugu version.
You have also sung for Ilaiayaraaja in Tharai Thappattai
When I started my career, I gave my demo CDs to several composers. However, I never gave the CD to Rahman sir and Ilaiyaraaja sir. I always thought ‘what if this isn’t the best for them to like me’? So, I kept pushing the idea of meeting them. But then I got to sing for this film through director Bala sir. Somebody had referred my name to him. He called me up and asked me to sing a couple of Carnatic songs over the phone. Then, he asked me to come to Raaja sir’s studio. I was very scared. When I met him, he asked me to sing a couple of songs. Later, I was asked to record the song. He was present during the recording. It was a different experience for me singing along with a live orchestra. The only thing I wished for was to render the song without being shouted at by him (smiles). And luckily, I managed to do that. After they recorded the song, the only thing he said was, “seriya irruku” and that was enough for me. After this song, I recorded another song for one of his Telugu film, Abbayitho Ammayi.
You have managed to work with legends and young composers like Nivas K Prasanna and Sean Roldan. How different is recording for them?
When I am recording for a young composer, they already know my strengths. They, in fact, call me for a specific song that would suit my voice. I also get a lot of freedom and can explore a lot. I’ve known Nivas for quite some time and he knows what I can sing. I have been a huge fan of Sean Roldan’s independent music. He, too, is very friendly. He gave me one of the best songs in my career so far Munne Yen Munne from Sathuranga Vettai. I have also worked with senior composers like Vidyasagar sir. If he isn’t happy, he wouldn’t record. There have been times when I have sung for seven hours! But that gave me a different learning experience. I have sung the maximum for Imman sir. He is perhaps the coolest composer. Even if you are an introvert, he would make you feel absolutely comfortable. Being very friendly with him will only increase the output for singers like us. So, I have all sorts of recording experience with all of them.
With so many singers in the industry today, how do you plan to survive in the playback scene?
There are too many good singers in the industry. Reality music shows have opened up avenues for people. While hard work plays a very important role in sustaining yourselves, luck, too, plays a major role. There have been times when I used to get worked up when nothing really happened despite trying a lot. But then, there was a time when everything changed. Right now, I have been taking up western music lessons. I also want to get back to classical singing. I will also work on singles.