Kaakarattan took me on a trip down memory lane: Rajalakshmi Senthil

The folk artiste opens up  on the latest Pongal anthem by Coke Studio Tamil, being a folk singer in contemporary times  and how she is a darling of the masses today 

How did Kaakarattan happen?
When I got a call from a big banner like Coke Studio Tamil, I was taken aback. And when I heard that I was going to sing for none other than GV Prakash Kumar, my joy knew no bounds. Folk singers like us usually do not undergo formal music training and we sing based on our kelvi gnanam. But he had no qualms about it. He understood my predicament and provided me with a lot of space to improvise. It was exciting to join hands with Vidya as well.

Tell us about the making of the song.
At first, I dispelled the plethora of doubts I had about the song. GV Prakash gave me a few options to sing and we zeroed in on the most catchy styles after a few trial runs. One of the biggest strengths of Kaakarattan is Yugabharathi’s lyrics. Songs about flowers like malli, mullai, sevanthi, etc are dime a dozen. But this is one of those rare instances where someone has sung about the Kaakarattan flower (morning glory). Back in my hometown, we ushered in Pongal by sifting through Kaakarattan flowers, singing kummi paattu and being a part of the mulaipaari procession. The shooting spot took me on a trip down memory lane.
How was the journey from Super Singer to Kaakarattan?
Senthil (Rajalakshmi’s husband) and I had been singing for over a decade before we appeared on Super Singer, but the show made us household names. And since we are gramathu kalaingargal, we are not treated as celebrities but as family. So, when we interact with the public, the conversation usually goes like this,” Ennamma, epdi irukka? Senthil nalla irukkaara? (How are you? Is Senthil fine?) The vibe remained the same during the shoot of Kaakarattan 
as well.
Did you expect your songs Chinna Machan and Saamy to become chartbusters?
Frankly, no! We were quite apprehensive about Chinna Machan (from Charlie Chaplin 2) as we had already performed the song on stage on many occasions. We thought people would have been wearied already and we were a bundle of nerves on the day of release. But the song went on to become a massive hit.

As for Saamy in Pushpa: The Rise, I had only sung the dubbed version in Tamil. At the outset, not many were aware of the song. For almost a month, I would talk about the song to everyone I met. Then out of the blue, the dubbed version, too, went on to become a rage. Reels on social media were a major shot in the arm as well. 
You recently took the plunge into acting with Ganapathy Balamurugan’s License...
I was at a loss for words when the acting offer came. I am a singer and I had no prior experience facing the camera and emoting on screen. I somehow mustered confidence and decided to give it a go. And I am glad I took the chance.

Are today’s youngsters receptive to folk songs?
We regularly perform at colleges and they thoroughly enjoy the songs. There is a saying in Tamil,‘Thaan Aada Vittaalum Than Thasai Aadum’. So, I think folk music is ingrained in us.

With the attention span of the audience plummeting by the day, has making music become arduous?
A short attention span has indeed become a stumbling block. Today, the duration of the songs has become shorter because of the same reason. And it has become imperative to put together a promo that spans 30 to 60 seconds to grab their attention. Having said that, youngsters are also receptive to three-hour concerts.

You have already worked with D Imman, Devi Sri Prasad and GV Prakash Kumar. Who are you looking forward to teaming up with next?
I have been fortunate to work with them all. God has to manifest the next opportunity.

Any parting message?
Artistes like us need more platforms to showcase our mettle. We need a medium like Coke Studio Tamil that treats all artistes as equals and provides them with uniform space.

You can contact the writer over email at sangeetha.p@newindianexpress.com and follow her on Twitter @psangeetha2112

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