Kavita Krishnamurti Subramaniam: "Subhash Ghai's idea has triggered a desire to do more such evocative songs in Sanskrit"

Kavita Krishnamurti Subramaniam: "Subhash Ghai's idea has triggered a desire to do more such evocative songs in Sanskrit"

She has rendered Karma’s patriotic anthem Aye watan tere liye in the mother of all languages as a tribute to India and our diverse culture

Roshmila BhattacharyaUpdated: Saturday, August 12, 2023, 06:08 PM IST
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Amidst all the patriotic anthems playing on Independence Day, there is one rendered by Kavita Krishnamurti Subramaniam in Sanskrit. Kavita remembers the original, her first big break and how the new version came about.

Excerpts from the interview:

How did the idea of recording the Karma song Aye watan tere liye, in Sanskrit come about?

It was Subhashji’s (Subhash Ghai) idea and I was immediately excited. My husband (composer and violin maestro Dr. L Subramaniam) called Dr Rajani Jairam, professor of Sanskrit at Jain University and our own LGCE (Lakshminarayana Global Centre of Excellence). With a colleague, Vidwan Ramachandra, she translated the Hindi lyrics into Sanskrit in 48 hours, followed by five days of back and forth to ensure the words fit into the metre. My son has his own equipment at his Bangalore home and I recorded the whole song there to give the chorus singers their cues and sent it to Subhashji. He put the video together, with shots from the film, Karma, and our country, along with portions of the original song. I’m so happy we could release the song as a tribute before the completion of the 75th year of India’s Independence.

What memories does the original song bring back?

It was my big break. I sang it before I became a known singer and I was thrilled my portions would be picturised on Nutanji. Since she was a singer, whenever she lip synced, you felt she was singing it herself.

It was recorded live at Mumbai’s Mehboob Studio, with composers Laxmikant-Pyarelal, their musicians and the chorus. I rehearsed with my late friend Mohammad Aziz, Subhashji telling us that it would be shot inside a jail with the prisoners singing in chorus. The musicians were ready by 5 pm, we rehearsed with the orchestra because in those days, one mistake, and the song would have to be re-recorded.

Still from Karma

Still from Karma |

Bakshi sahab (lyricist Anand Bakshi) came from his evening walk around this time, in case any word needed to be tweaked. At around 6.30 pm, we went for ‘take’. There were three-four takes because there was so much live music and the chorus. We were done by 8pm.

When the film was released, it was such a thrill to see my name on screen and hear my voice. Those days, I was doing a lot of dubbing for Lataji (Mangeshkar) for the shoots. I’d sung a few lines for her in Meri Jung too, but only one line in my voice was retained. This was my song!

What makes it popular even after 37 years?

It’s a beautiful song. Laxmikant-Pyarelal made a great team, Laxmji usually composing the song, Pyare bhai doing the arrangement. Bakshi sahab’s words were simple, yet left a powerful impact. And Subhashji has always been passionate about his songs and their picturisations. He would be present at the recording, from the beginning to the end, working with the rhythm programmers, watching rehearsals, constantly telling his music directors what he had in mind. It’s because he was so hands-on that from Karz, Laxmiji and Pyare bhai reserved their best for him. I guess that’s why it strikes a chord even with the younger generation who may not have seen the film.

Will this endeavour help bring Sanskrit into the mainstream?

I hope so. I want to do more songs in Sanskrit. I love Sanskrit, the mother of all languages, it’s so dignified. I have sung in it before. I rendered two beautiful songs for Vanraj Bhatia’s Indo-Japanese animation Ramayan: The Legend of Prince Rama, one picturised in the forest on Sitaji. I also lent my voice to Vishwa Mohan Bhatt’s Meghdoot. Then there were Ganesh and Durga shlokas for my husband. I love Adi Shankaracharya’s meters and MS Subbulakshmi’s Vishnu Sahasranamam and Sri Venkatesa Suprabhatham. Subhashji’s idea has triggered a desire to do more such evocative songs in Sanskrit.

Any other exciting projects?

I recently did the Bharat Symphony and the Mahatma Symphony with my husband, dedicated to our country and the Father of our Nation, performing with symphony orchestras from around the world.

The Mahatma Symphony premiered with the Houston Symphony Orchestra, travelled to Madrid to collaborate with Spain’s Valladolid Symphony Orchestra, then Italy’s Bologna Orchestra. We are hoping to bring a symphony orchestra to India towards the year-end and do live performances in two-three centres.

What does patriotism mean to you?

I was born and grew up in Delhi. My father was in the government service, and I grew up listening to stories of our freedom struggle from my parents. Like how Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel toured the city in a jeep even when people were being killed. They spoke about Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination and took me for Republic Day and Independence Day Parades and the Beating Retreat ceremony which filled me with great pride.

Urged by my aunt, I learnt Rabindra Sangeet and have a part of Bengal in me. I worked in Maharashtra and now live in Karnataka. I have sung in several languages and have never considered caste or class, region, religion or language a barrier.

I feel truly Indian and I tell everyone to forget their differences and work for the betterment of the country.

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