Sowmya Raoh was a tiny seven-year-old when she first faced an audience with a song on her lips. But the youngster, whose mother is the playback, folk and devotional singer B K Sumitra, has never looked back since then. Working in the South, she has recorded more than 200 songs with famous music directors like A R Rahman and Illyaraja. Three years ago she shifted to Mumbai and made her presence felt immediately by waltzing away with the Stardust Award in 2003 as the Best New Singer for Laila Laila from Samay. She has done playback singing in movies like Jungle, Pyaar Tune Kya Kiya, Company, Dum and Bunty Aur Babli. She has sung for non-film projects including Sandeep Chowta’s album Mitti, Now That’s Sandeep Chowta, and the remix hit Hai Re Hai Mera Ghoongta. Recently, she released her own album titled Sowmya on Times Music.
Sowmya’s father Sudhakar lives in Bangalore and is a retired Reserve Bank of India officer. Besides being an ardent fan of his daughter, he’s also the main inspiration behind all her work. There also exists a strong bond between the father and daughter, so much so that they can almost guess what the other is thinking at any given point of time.
My decision to become a singer came as a shock to my father who was against it in the beginning. But Idon’t really blame him, as he’s seen my mother struggle. As a result, he didn’t want me to take up music professionally. He sat me down and explained the advantages and disadvantages of joining this line. But I have no regrets about joining this industry and I want to do meaningful projects in the future. My greatest satisfaction is that I have been able to convince my family about my profession and today, they are happy to see me excel.
As a child, I was always very interested in music, as I used to see my mother doing riyaaz every day. I started singing professionally in South Indian films back in 1993, but it was only in 2002 that I decided to make a foray into Bollywood. It was a huge decision to come and stay separately in Mumbai, but my father didn’t object to that.
The one quality in my father, which I simply love is that he is a man of principles. Though he has never imposed his views on us, he is firm in his own way. He isn’t the sort of person who’d tell you to do this or that. He has a zest for life, which is remarkable. He is young at heart and loves to have fun.
But of course, there are times when my father can be very rigid, and then it becomes really difficult to convince him otherwise. But overall, we have a very warm and loving relationship just like any father and daughter.
I must admit though, that he was quite strict when I was in college and I used to be very scared of him. What irritates me is that sometimes, he has a one-track mind and then he just won’t listen to us.
I am happy that my father has come all the way from Bangalore just to attend the launch of my album. He has never accompanied me for recordings and award functions before. But this time, he couldn’t refuse my offer and came to stay with me for some time. And although ideally, I should be pampering my dad with good food because he’s with me, it’s just the other way around. Since he’s a great cook, he treats me to a lot of ghar ka khaana nowadays. But the best part really, is getting to spend some time with him. What makes me happy today is to see the smile on his face.
We are more like best friends than anything else. Sowmya was a very bright child when she was in school. Also, she was never demanding and a very considerate little girl. Though she showed great aptitude for music from a very young age, nobody thought that she would take up playback singing as her profession. But she was a good singer even when she was in nursery, and as proud parents, we recorded some of her songs when she was small. Even today, I can’t believe that my little daughter is now a celebrity.
We are a middle-class family and Sowmya is very down-to-earth and simple. This is a very competitive industry and if you make one mistake, you will draw lots of unwanted media attention. I want her to succeed in life but not at the cost of personal happiness. She should be satisfied in her work and not do music just for the sake of doing it.
Today, Sowmya is very busy with different projects, but even then she makes it a point to stay in touch with us. Though we miss her a lot in Bangalore, I don’t think the distance really matters in today’s world. We remain connected with each other through phone calls and SMSes. What I like about her is the fact that she is very sociable and makes friends very easily. She’s also very honest in her dealings with people. Though I objected to her joining this line in the beginning, today like any father, I am proud of her achievements. I have heard her recent album and hope that it does well because I know the amount of hard work that has gone into it. This is only a small beginning, as Sowmya has a long way to go. But I also hope that at the same time, she remains grounded and is not carried away by all the fame and adulation.
Photograph by Gajanan Dudhalkar