Almost a decade ago, singer Sreerama Chandra Mynampati won a mainstream reality show, Indian Idol 5 and along with becoming a household name in the Telugu States, established for himself a foothold in the Indian music industry. Having sung more than 200 songs in seven languages, including a Sinhalese jingle composed by maestro AR Rahman, the 33-year-old’s checklist has much more to strike off.
Amidst a busy commute, poor connectivity and incessant bustle of Mumbai, Sreerama Chandra, in a tête-à-tête with Tabloid Today, spills the beans on life before fame, after, and everything in between. A mainstream and independent singer, performer and an occasional actor and model, Sreeram wears many hats and talks about his journey so far, both musical and personal.
The Addanki-born lad vividly recollects his earliest singing companion to be his grandfather who loved two things — singing, and cricket. “It was during summer vacations that my cousins and I met our grandfather. Though he did not know how to sing, he made us sing all his favourites,” he shares. Some of them, as Sreeram recalls, are Annamayya Keerthanas and songs from the Mohan Babu-starrer Pedda Rayudu.
An integral part of family bonding and recreation, summer vacations took him places. One such place is Goa, where he often spent his holidays; a city that he would keep returning to, even as a performer. He reels off, “Apart from my father’s hometown, Addanki, and mom’s city, Visakhapatnam, Goa has always been a place close to my heart.”
The Touch Chesi Chudu singer also considers Hyderabad a “loving” city. When asked about three things he likes about the city, he instantly replies, narrating memories with them. “Firstly, the roads are damn good to drive around on; not as crammed as Mumbai. Second, food in Hyderabad, specially it’s Ramzan time now, and I miss all the Nizami food, and thirdly, the people in Hyderabad are diversified and that is what I love the most,” he says, adding that he has Marathi, Gujarati and Sikh friends who speak fluent Telugu.
Having spent most of his childhood in the twin cities, the crooner dates his Hyderabadi connection back to his school days, where he began participating in school-level competitions from the age of 13 and debuted in playback at 17 for Mickey J Meyer in Notebook. “I did my schooling in St Andrew’s High School in Bowenpally and, then, did my intermediate in Vijayawada. After a two-year break from music, I came back to do my engineering and music courses,” shares Sreerama, who managed to have a smooth sail. Sreerama formally studied Carnatic music from Sri Bhakta Ramadasa Music College, Marredpally, and was mentored by Haripriya and Lathika Bhaskara (Hyderabad Sisters) while pursuing his engineering degree from RITS.
When it comes to food, however, the artiste identifies as a “south Indian”. But, he has a few guilty pleasures from Chinese, pani puri and Hyderabadi biryani. “I grew up eating Chinese in Secunderabad in… ‘bandis’?,” he manages to find the word; in a fever pitch, he testifies, “I still remember the place, and when I was in the city a couple of weeks ago, I had the bandi Chinese, and it was amazing.”
Off the record
An actor by passion, Sreerama Chandra’s first stint was in Jagadguru Adi Shankara, where he cameoed in the Telugu film starring biggies like Chiranjeevi, Nagarjuna and Mohan Babu and, then, went on to do Prema Geema Jaantha Nai. “I think we should not talk about it,” he chuckles. “When you are decently good looking and are popular, a lot of offers come your way. There are musicians who have acted, like Kishore Da, Balasubramaniam garu, or Himmesh Reshammiya… I am a south Indian, and you know how films are worshipped here for actors and I’ve always loved all that,” he says.
After having forayed into indie music in February with a solo track called Without Your Love which was composed, produced and starred the singer-actor himself, he is gearing up for the release of his second single, an upcoming collaboration with Mika Singh. Is scoring music for mainstream films on the cards? “I love composing music, having worked with Keeravani garu, Mani Sarma garu, and Koti garu, I love the journey of how a film is made. Having been on both sides, I understand how different crafts influence the output. I really enjoy the process,” he says.
Language, a barrier?
Remarked a “triple threat” once by Vishal Dadlani, the multi-talented singer says he is fuelled by challenges and loves to overcome them. Having belted out songs in several languages, both Indian and foreign, the Subhanallah singer is one who is drawn to tongues, carving a pan-Indian niche for himself.
He details, “Whenever I visit cities across India, I have people coming to me, saying Marathi gaa do (sing in Marathi for me), I even get requests for Gujarati or Tamil. Touchwood, all my songs have been received well. I feel like it is an added medal to your art.”
He has tried out mainstream and parallel mediums, and found his balance. “I’ve always wanted to try indie music, but, Bollywood definitely has a bigger reach. Singing for a big hero gives you an overnight recognition,” he says. He signs off, with one advice, “Pick an art and dedicate yourself to better it. Don’t just do it for the heck of it. Hard work always pays off, is what I feel.”