At 22, MM Manasi is already a busy figure in the music industry. In one month, she typically has 2-3 releases. Songs in Tamil, Telugu and now Hindi as well. She grew up in Mumbai. When she was just two and a half years old, she began training in music. Her first memories of public performances are bhajans sung during Navratri and Ganpati poojas. Today, she has almost 50 songs in Tamil and Telugu to her credit. Her most recent release in Hindi ‘Daddy Mummy’ from Bhaag Johnny has been well-received with almost six million hits on YouTube. She is also a successful dubbing artist, having dubbed for leading heroines like Samantha, Kajal Aggarwal, and Tamannaah. So what inspires such a dedicated vocalist?
Parents : My parents have been a pillar of support all my life. Ardent fans of Ilaiyaraaja and AR Rahman, they used to buy audio cassettes and listen to them until the tape wore out. September–February was competition season in Mumbai schools. During my school days, I was in each and every competition. Sometimes more than one competition in a day. My mother used to pack breakfast and lunch, and we used to eat in the car on the way from one school to another. My parents kept encouraging me to participate. They said winning wasn’t everything, that it’s the experience that counts. And man, were they right! Those competitions helped me shape my career not just as a singer, but a good stage-performer as well.
Sunidhi Chauhan : I’ve attended many of Sunidhi Chauhan’s concerts and I’m in awe of the way she performs. She simply owns the stage! I would call her a pathbreaker in Bollywood music, because she entered the scene when slow-paced melodies were more dominant, and she made fast-paced powerful songs popular. I can relate to her because of my voice. Both of our voices have a different texture. When people used to comment on my voice being unconventional, my mother used to say I would be like Usha Uthup. (Laughs) So Sunidhi Chauhan for me is what Usha Uthup is to my mom.
Chinmayi and Shreya Ghoshal : Chinmayi is someone I look up to for her versatility, and not just in singing. She is also amazing as a dubbing artist and television presenter. And she’s a linguist. She has inspired me to learn new languages. First Telugu, which helped me dub for Tollywood films and get the feel right when I was singing Telugu songs. These days, I’m also learning Korean.
Shreya Ghoshal is probably the only Bengali person I know who can sing in any language, with such accurate pronunciation that even a native wouldn’t be at ease with. Malayalam, especially is a difficult language to master. And Malayalis are famously strict about getting their words right. To have Malayalis acknowledge her and celebrate her singing is a great achievement.
K-Pop : Initially, I would watch a few K-pop songs with friends just for fun. But gradually, I became hooked. The songs have such a great feel to them that I was inspired to learn the language so I could completely understand them. The Korean singers seem so devoted while singing. I think voices beautifully convey the meaning of the song.
I Love my India – Pardes : I have a great memory with this song. When I was almost four years old, I participated in a fancy dress competition. I wanted to dressed up as the singer of that song Kavita Krishnamoorthy. I remember I wore a white salwar-kameez which is what the actress wears. And I had draped a tricolor dupatta as a tribute to the lyrics. That was probably the moment that sparked my desire to become a professional singer.
Sandhana Thendralai – Kandukonden Kandukonden : This song is memorable because it was the first song my father taught me. It made me admire Shankar Mahadevan, for the way the song expressed longing and pathos, coupled with deep lyrics by Vairamuthu-sir.
My Guru : My guru, Sriram Parasuram, is an ocean of knowledge when it comes to music. He doesn’t just teach me singing. He enlightens me with facts, the history and science behind a simple song or raaga. He can go on for hours about music. And that makes me wonder – how devoted to music must someone be to have learned so much about it! He inspires me to learn more and more, and has taught me that learning is a never ending process.
The Legends : Like any other singer, I also long to work with AR Rahman. Even when relatives and friends wish me on my birthday, they tell me that they will pray for me to work with him someday. That’s how well-known my admiration for him is. Ilaiyaraaja sir also inspires me with his dedication to music. Even recently, after being discharged from the hospital, he immediately rushed to the recording studio to complete some work for his next film. Such is the dedication he has shown towards music. And that is something everyone should possess, no matter what profession they’re in.