Sitting at the lounge of the musicstudio planning the queries to shoot, you hear a car at the front and in walks Sithara Krishnakumar, chatting and exchanging pleasantries with everyone on the way. With a warm handshake and laugh, she makes you feel that you have known her for ages. And it has been only a decade, a melodious decade. Her playback singing debut was in 2007 with the song Pammi Pammi Vanne from Athisayan. Now, over 300 songs, 10 years and several accolades — including a Kerala State Award — later, the air of humility is still there. Naturally comes the reference to her background — of a Kozhikodean.
“Though I hail from Malappuram, I am known as a Kozhikodean. Kozhikode is where I studied, listened to live music first, performed for the first time and got exposed to songs, of various genres and language. The listening culture there has influenced me a lot. The selfless approach and celebration of life too are part of me. I have a lot of close friends, but most of them are not from Kozhikode. Some places have a positive charm and interesting customs, but that doesn’t mean everyone there is compassionate, kind-hearted and the rest are all difficult to deal with,” she opines.
In her latest, the cover version of her Tamil song Kangal Neeye, she appears with her four-year-old daughter Saawan Rithu, fondly called Saiu, and the video has garnered 1 lakh-plus views. The song, which has Sithara sporting a makeover and the cute antics of Saiu, is about motherhood and love. “This is one song I hold close to my heart. A lot of people have told me they love this song. Saiu too loves it,” she says, happy about the responses. When she posted a photo of her new look on Facebook, there had been several positive and negative comments. She responded to those with another post expressing her views on female identity sans long hair, skin tone or sweet voice. She wrote: Let’s talk about cutting trees instead of hair, dark rivers instead of skin, about sky, hungry kids, wars, friendship, humans and songs (sic). She has always been vocal about her ideals, something not common among singers.
“I believe that every person should have a stance,” she says. How does she go on without trying to please people? “See, even trying to please is a stance. I try convincing people by talking, not arguing. I believe any issue can be sorted out through conversations. If we don’t talk, petty issues, enmity or even slight differences will snowball into huge irreconcilable problems. Talking works for me all the time.” Even on social media, she tries talking sense into people who argue or question her personal beliefs.
A trained dancer and a two-time kalathilakam during college days, Sithara has given dance a backseat when her music career flourished. But soon, she will be back to the stage. Her daughter is four, the age Sithara was when she was initiated into dance and music. “We want to expose her to different art forms, but it’s her life; we are waiting for her to show an interest.” It's not something all parents say. It’s great to see Sithara and her doctor husband Sajish walking with Saiu instead of pulling her along. Dr Sajish and his friends have together formed Doctors Dilemma, which is producing the movie Udalazham, which has four songs composed by Sithara with Mithun Jayaraj, who is also a member of their six-member band Malabaricus, which features contemporarised folk and classical songs.
Each song she has rendered is different, you don't realise how someone can be so versatile with her voice? Sithara is well aware of the criticisms as well. “I never mimic or imitate any other singer. The range of each song is different and the songs are based on how a music director uses the singer's voice. Composers know the perfect choice and voice for their song. They are convinced about whom to bestow the opportunity with, we just have to pay attention and stay true to it. That’s what I do.”
Many have spoken about casting couch and safety concerns in the music industry. Sithara feels that safety issues are the same even if you are indoors, confined to your home or out, working. “It’s there in all realms, even in domestic spaces. It needs to be addressed and might not work for this generation. Maybe two-three generations later, the world might be safer for women." Not everyone can mark a decade in their career in style like Sithara. The year has been excellent with her being part of memorable songs like the Wow song (Godha), Ayilyam (Thondimuthal), Ethu Mazhayilum (Udaharanam Sujatha), Kandittum (Villain) and so on. She turned a composer for Udalazham, Katha Paranju Katha, the single Ente Akasham and the State government's Anuyathra campaign song. She has also ventured into jingles. “It is a different path. I love to experiment and I am enjoying it,” she says.
In between, she is continuing her music lessons, under Ustad Fayiz Khan, Pala C.K. Ramachandran and Ramanattukara Satheesh. The post-graduation in Hindustani classical music is completed and now, she is eyeing research. “Music is not something I had thought would be my career. I had hoped to have a career by carrying together art forms… maybe, a teacher who devotes time for music. I am glad to have made it here from among persons more talented and hardworking than me. More than luck, what favoured me is the guidance of teachers, legends, family, friends and every person I meet in life,” she concludes....