“Ennavale adi ennavale…”Not many can forget the lilting Tamil melody composed by AR Rahman for the movie Kadhalan (1994). The song was an instant hit due to two significant aspects — one being the singer’s effortless rendition and two being his intuitive sense of the mood of the song. Needless to say, in 1995, when the list of National Award winners was declared, the 30-year-old Palakkad-based P Unnikrishnan found himself adjudged the best male playback singer.
However, 20 years later, when the final list of the 62nd National Awards was published, the humble abode of Unnikrishnan’s was once again in a state of jubilation. This time, the glory of acquiring the coveted National Award for playback singing had come to the singer’s 10-year-old daughter Uthara. “I have won a National Award myself but this feeling is even greater,” said an ecstatic Unnikrishnan, Uthara’s father, to Tehelka.
Though Uthara has had a penchant for music all along, her father never took her to his Carnatic music concerts. But the young talent was identified when renowned music composer GV Prakash’s wife Saindhavi heard Uthara hum a tune during the Navratri festival. Noticing the child’s talent, it was Saindhavi who had suggested Uthara’s name when the music composer hunted for a unique voice for the song Azhage Azhage for the Tamil movie Saivam.
As soon as the song hit the charts, the soothing lyrics of the song coupled with Uthara’s soulful rendition became a major source of attraction to music lovers. While the song brought back the lost magic of melody in Tamil songs, the lyrics delved into the poetic aesthetics around beauty and nature. Recognising Uthara’s strong yet powerful voice, the National Award-winner lyricist, NA Muthukumar, who penned the lyrics for the song, prophesied then, “She gave life to my lyrics and sang beautifully; she can even bag the National Award for her rendition.”
According to Dr Sudha Raja, Uthara’s music teacher, “She was not initially keen on learning music and was jumping and prancing all over. One day, she made herself comfortable and told that she would like to sing.” She also added that Uthara was a fast learner and a perfectionist when it came to singing.
Surprisingly, when Uthara recorded the first song that shot her to instant fame, she was only a little over eight years old. “Music and art run in our family,” added Priya Unnikrishnan, Uthara’s mother. While Priya is a trained Bharatanatyam and Mohiniyattam dancer, Uthara’s brother Vasudev Krishna plays the piano with considerable ease. As a result, the sister-brother duo has had a conducive atmosphere in terms of developing their talents.
A student of Lady Andal Venkatasubba Rao School in Chennai, Uthara has rendered her voice for five films so far. “I don’t like studies much. I go to school because I love my friends and teachers,” said the talented Uthara.
While the house is crowded with pesky reporters waiting for a byte from the youngest National Award-winning playback singer, Uthara is concentrating on her favourite Tom and Jerry cartoon. Little does she know that a musical voyage had begun since the release of Azhage Azhage.