The Contrarian Optimist

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AT 79, legendary classical singer M Balamuralikrishna looks almost the same as he was 10 years ago, barring a few graceful lines on his face. “Next time you meet me, the lines won’t be there,” he assures you, half jokingly and half serious. Balamuralikrishna is a diehard optimist, who believes that everything about life is good. “I enjoy every second of my life. If it’s cold, I think it’s an opportunity to wear warm clothes. If it’s hot, I happily switch on the air-conditioner. I’ve had a good life. Nature has been kind to me,” he says.

Mangalampalli Balamuralikrishna
Mangalampalli Balamuralikrishna
Age: 79
Profession: Carnatic vocalist and instrumentalist
All for that voice: His statue is at the centre of the rajagopuram of the Durgambika temple at Seevalaperi, Tamil Nadu Photo: Sanjay Ghosh

He started singing seven decades ago as a child prodigy and remains in demand today. After a long gap, he recently sang a hit song for the Tamil film Pasanga. He continues to give concerts and enthrall audiences whenever he takes the microphone, though the frequency has reduced with time. “I want to keep my voice and my youth. So I’ve become choosy about the concerts I now do,” he says.

Balamuralikrishna is the antithesis of the modern-day singer and imposes few restrictions on life for the sake of the work. He maintains neither regular hours of practice nor any fitness regimen, but remains in good health and form. “I enjoy having an ice cream, I’ve no special diet. I take whatever they prepare at home,” he says. Swami Chinmayananda once said of him: “It’s not frequent that a nation discovers a Balamuralikrishna in its history.” These words leap to mind as he plays his song from Pasangaon the audio system, and the room fills with his voice, once again.

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