Everyone should go through the college phase. You should treasure such moments and enjoy as much as possible. You will not get to do such things again,” begins Anitha Karthikeyan, the 2010 Vijay Music awardee in the Popular Mass Song category. She was nominated for the hit number Vaada Vaada Paiya from Tamil film Katcheri Arambam. Of course, she was popular! After becoming a household name through Vijay TV’s Super Singer Season 1 in 2006, she went on to become a successful playback singer.
No one expected Anitha to render a thumping hit like Vaada Vaada, which came as a huge surprise, as she had established her forte in melody and classical numbers. Introduced by music director D Imaan in the 2007 film Marudhamalai, she has explored different genres and has sung more than 100 songs including jingles, TV serial title tracks and private albums. She has worked with various music directors in Tamil, Telugu and Kannada. She has also been a part of backing vocals for the maestros Ilaiyaraaja and AR Rahman. Some of her hits include Amma Wake Me Up (Vathikuchi), Senga Soolakaara (Vaagai Sooda Vaa), Violin song (Iddarammayilatho) and she has also rendered classical hits in the Telugu movie Sri Rama Rajyam, which had music by Ilaiyaraaja and catapulted her into the centre of the music scene.
After completing her BSc Computer Science from Ethiraj College for Women (2003), Chennai, she went on to graduate with an MSc in Information Technology from MOP Vaishnav College for Women, Chennai, in 2005. Though it was at Ethiraj that she honed her singing skills and participated in extra-curricular activities, at MOP she concentrated on her studies, while also keeping in touch with music by continuing her singing lessons.
“Ethiraj was the best part of my college life. I was in the evening college and inter-college culturals were a very good platform for me to showcase my singing. Everyone knew about my singing and I was quite popular then,” says Anitha. “In MOP, as I was doing my PG, I concentrated on studying and completing my projects. But I had fun with my group of friends. We were playful but before the onset of exams, it was serious business,” she says.
It was during her final-year in MOP that she participated in Super Singer. Her Professors at MOP were surprised as they had not seen the other side of Anitha till then. “They kept coming to me and said ‘Oh! We didn’t know you could sing’.”
Anitha has won several TV competitions, but she counts her award for light music at IIT-Madras Saarang’s 2003 as one of her most memorable moments. “Now after I got into playback singing, I have visited my colleges as a judge for the cultural competitions. This is something I can’t describe in words, but is definitely one of my proudest moments,” says Anitha.
Studying in the city has its perks, especially when the institutes are centrally located. Over the years, Sathyam Cinemas in Royapettah has seen huge crowds of students coming to watch movies. It was no different for Anitha and her friends. But they didn’t have to bunk classes, as she was in the evening college and went for the morning show to get to college by 2pm. “There was just this once when in Ethiraj, we mass bunked. Besides I was also into culturals and singing, so I had to go for practice or participate in events. That way I skipped some of my classes while doing my UG,” she says.
Apart from the cinemas, other hangout spots were the Archies outlet near Ethiraj and Ispahani Centre, a mall in Nungambakkam, Chennai, close to MOP college. “Ethiraj was a big campus and we had to walk from one block to the next after some classes. We used to pass a juice shop during these walks, and we would stop to order juice before getting into class and collect it after class,” she says.
Speaking of how college life is a defining period in many people’s lives, she says “You get to meet a lot of new people. You go out for culturals and seminars, educational and recreational tours. Such things play an important part in defining your attitude. These experiences boosted my self-confidence, developed professionalism and moulded me into who I am today.”