Sundarayyar- The journey of a Street play artiste to a National award winning playback singer

Sundaryyar(right) with Sean Roldan

Sundarayyar’s story-his journey makes for a movie plot in any part of the world – an unknown street play artiste from a nondescript village winning a national award for playback singing. His is the story of an underdog fighting against all odds.

In the beginning of 2016, pestered by a friend from his troupe, Sundarayyar reluctantly auditioned to sing in the Tamil movie, Joker- which also won the honours for the Best Tamil film at the 64th National Film awards announced on Friday.

Sundarrayar is now part of a list which hosts legendary names like S P Balasubrahmanyam, K J Yesudas among others. His first song in a feature film, ‘Jasmine-u’ will be played repeatedly in the FM stations in the coming days.

The 40 year old singer was at Bengaluru with the Manal Magudi theater troupe of Kovilpatti when the results were announced. The troupe is to perform at Dharwad in North Karnataka this weekend.

For a person who never got another opportunity to sing in films after his first and only song in a feature film, a national award was something he gave least thought about. “A friend called to inform me that the film, Joker won the national award. I was over the moon with my emotions, happy for the director Raju Murugan.” Sundarayyar said.

A few minutes later, the friend called again, this time informing Sundarrayar that he has won the national award for his song. “I didn’t know how to react. I remained silent for a few seconds to let it sink in,” the singer recalled.

When his first song in a feature film came out, Sundarrayar says, “I thought my life would change.” It didn’t. With a young family and an unstable day job as a part time teacher at a government school in his native, Dharmapuri district that pays him Rs 7000 per month, relocating to Chennai and scurrying for opportunities to sing in films is not something he could have afforded.

But, his life, like many of the achievers has always been about fighting against odds. Youngest in a family of six siblings, Sundarayyar took to singing like duck takes to water, performing in street plays at Vellisandhai village in Palacode taluk, Dharmapuri district since he was ten years old.

Grab from the song/ Courtesy: Youtube.

When he finished school and wanted to pursue music at the Government music college in Chennai, his father, a farmer was against the move. “Would music bring food onto your plate?” his father had chided. “I would rather die if not for pursuing music,” Sundarayyar recalls resorting to emotional blackmail which made their parents approve of his choice hesitantly.

His father’s apprehensions came true and the young boy from a village in Dharmapuri couldn’t make it big. “I came back and set up an eatery in my village. I was also performing in street plays whenever opportunity came up,” he said.

A socially and politically aware individual, Sundarayyar is known among his circles to belt out songs of the Dravida Iyakkam and sing about dowry and female infanticide – an issue prevalent in Dharmapuri district.

In fact, when Joker’s music director, Sean Roldan auditioned him, Sundarayyar stuck to his strength and sung folk songs and songs about social issues. “A month later, Sean called again to record my voice. The feeling was surreal.” he recalls.

Naturally, he is grateful to the makers of the film and Sean Roldan for providing him the opportunity. But, the person whom the national award winning singer spoke at length was his wife, Kavitha, whom he met while performing at a street play in Tiruvarur and got married after few years. His wife, he says, stood by him and believed in him even when he didn’t.

Part of a renowned theatre troupe, Sundarrayar wants to win a national award as an actor. Until then, he would bask on the laurels that his only song brought him. The national award also carries a cash reward with it. Sundarrayar’s first investment from it would be a music system. “I couldn’t afford one. My song itself, I listened to in the mobile phone a relative gifted me. Now, technology has improved. I would buy a good music system to hear songs.” Sundarayyar said.

This story first appeared in The New Indian Express —