From Portugal to South Africa, Singapore to America, these youngsters can sing, dance, strum and strategise their way to the top.Even as they wow audiences, make friends and turn intrepid travelers.
—Maegan Dobson Sippy & Aakanksha Devi
Anjana Padmanabhan, 11, was singing on Airtel Super Singer Junior before she was 10, and bagged the maiden Indian Idol Junior title last year. Hindi film classics such as Ek Pyar Ka Nagma Hain won over audience hearts worldwide, especially as she was singing in Hindi for the first time. With performances in Dubai and Ghana under her belt, these days she balances her academics at Delhi Public School with singing, swimming and dancing. “I want to be a pilot as well as a professional singer,” says the young performer, who devotes two days per week to voice train with city-based Sromona Chakraborty. “I enjoyed watching myself on television, but my big OMG moment was when Amitabh Bachchan presented my trophy, and told me that I was a very good singer, ” she enthuses. Despite plenty of stage and screen experience, she admits, “It’s still a bit scary to perform right at the beginning, but as soon as I sing my first song, I always feel fine.”
Studying Western classical music at the Bangalore School of Music (BSM), 17-year-old Nandini Sudhir is one of India’s most talented guitarists. “I was placed first at the Twents guitar festival in Holland in May. Though I like participating in competitions, it’s back here that I really evolve my playing,” she begins. Her repertoire is international, with favourite composers including Italian Niccolo Paganini, Hungarian Johann Kaspar, and Paraguayan legend Agustín Barrios Mangoré. “His compositions are poetic and timeless,” she enthuses. Crediting BSM with shaping her musical journey, she’s held performances across Europe, the USA and Asia . “It’s incredible that people worldwide know the BSM and regard it very highly,” she shares. “The school also attracts top musicians from different countries. This year, I took intensive lessons from Ogmunder Thor Johanssen from Iceland, and learned so much from that experience.”
With experience performing the world over, there are a few venues that have stood out for her. “When I was in Germany, I played at a synagogue in Hagen and it just had the most spectacular atmosphere,” she tells us. Whether in Bangalore or Berlin, Sudhir has been blessed with appreciative audiences. “Classical music is so universal that even those who don’t know much about it can enjoy it. For me, though, it’s my whole life,” she says in conclusion.
From bharathanatyam to hip-hop, b-boying and salsa, Tanisha Mahesh, 14, also enjoys ballet, contemporary and jazz. “Dance has made me a very confident and happy person,” begins the winner of several medals at the World Championships at Portugal, who hopes to become a veterinarian some day. “To be able to stand on that stage and to show the world what we Indians have in us was simply a wow moment,” says Mahesh, adding that she hopes dancing will be looked upon as a ‘profession’ in the city soon. “Many good dancers shift to Mumbai for the entertainment buzz and glamour, but with a Bangalore team representing India at the World Cup championship, things may change,” she tells us. “I want to travel the world, teach, train, and be famous as a dancer. So I guess I will be a dancing doctor,” she dreams.
Raghunandan, 13, is the highest international rated chess player in his category in the country. Always on the move, he has his bags packed and ready to head off for a competition. “His aim is to become the youngest chess Grand Master in India,” his proud dad Srihari tells us, making light of the juggling involved between his own business commitments and his son’s travel schedule. “I’ve been all over India for tournaments, and I now also travel internationally eight times per year,” Raghunandan explains. Trips to Sri Lanka, the Middle East and Europe are all on his route map, largely enabled by generous corporate sponsors .“I loved Spain especially. I got my first International Master norm there. If I get two more, I get the title International Master.” Learning the basics from his mother four years ago, his skills are being honed under Tejas Bakre, a Grand Master based out of Ahmedabad. Now he has three years to win the prestigious title he has set his sights on. This week, as he heads off for a tournament in South Africa, his biggest challenge is to maintain his consistency and keep his nerve.