If there was anything Shruthi Vijai loved as a child, it was singing. Her parents recall her singing anything and everything. But it was something nobody took serious note of. As Shruthi entered school being a part of the choir or any other function became routine. Last year the quiet, shy young girl decided to upload some of her songs on YouTube. The rest, as you say, is history.
A family friend of Shruthi, who had listened to her songs, recommended that she go for the January 2014 audition conducted by U K Murali, noted Indian singer and music composer. Luckily with Year 12 just over, Shruthi and her mother Uma flew to Chennai. Standing among the numerous participants, Shruthi recalls being nervous but as she climbed up the stage, the confidence slowly came back. Asked to sing a song of her choice, Shruthi belted out Taylor Smith’s number Red. The next thing she knew she was selected for Murali’s big project, a movie, the name of which is yet to be released. “They really liked it, they found my western voice different but obviously I was not expecting such a big result,” she gushes. The music release is happening in April.
“It was a bit of a creative test too,” says Uma beaming with pride. “She was given the situation of the movie and asked to pen down a few lyrics in English. The storyline of the movie goes: the heroine belongs to a foreign country and falls in love with a boy from India. The versions of the boy’s song – lyrics and tunes – were given which had to be matched up to give it continuity and form.” So for the next ten days in Chennai, Shruthi was busy going in and out of the recording studio working on her maiden song and others.
It is a prestigious break for Shruthi given that Murali is a big name in the music industry. With his brother U K Manoj, Murali introduced a light music orchestra “Udhaya Raagam” in 1985. He has performed in more than 10,000 shows in India and abroad. One of the forerunners in the world of cine light music, Murali is proficient in performing in all South Indian languages (Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada) and also in Hindi and western languages. He has also received the Best Orchestra Award for three years consecutively.
Shruthi also ended up bagging four more Kollywood projects from none other than Murali. Kollywood is, of course, the other name for Tamil cinema, a portmanteau of the words Kodambakkam, an area of Chennai, where Tamil language feature films are produced, and Hollywood. After Bollywood, Tamil films or Kollywood enjoy a significant popularity in India and abroad. She also had to create the tunes for these songs. “Writing lyrics is easy but the most challenging part is composing the tunes,” says Shruthi.
She was also given the opportunity to perform in different wedding venues where she trained for the first time in Tamil songs. “It was nerve wracking but once you get there and are on the stage, it gets OK,” says Shruthi, adding she had a very supportive team.
Although born in Melbourne, Shruthi’s family originally hails from Chennai where her great maternal grandfather and paternal uncle were well- known bhagavathars (spiritual singers). Perhaps that is where the genes are coming from. Interestingly, one of her paternal uncles the late Ramana was also with the movie business helping produce some of South India’s hit films such as Chinna Poove Mella Pesu, and Manasukkul Mathappu, to name a few.
Currently, Shruthi is busy brushing up her Tamil as bigger projects await her in April. Murali has roped her in for 10 mega public performances that draw about 30,000-40,000 audience in five venues throughout Tamil Nadu. Popular TV channel Raj will be telecasting the programs all over the world and the state government is sponsoring part of the show.
Life is turning full circle for this 18-year old who is studying Psychology at Swinburne University. Shruthi says she does enjoy being in India, “Except for the heat and mosquitoes, life is easier,” she says. “And singing was a side dream,” she laughs. But now, it could be dreams unlimited for this young Melburnian girl!
By Indira Laisram