Renuka: Telugu's Newest Music Sensation
Beena Lal caught up with the nightingale who hails from Kochi but has been making sound waves all across the South
On Oct 20, 2016

The sweet melodious voice of this girl is creating waves in the Telugu film industry. So much so that she was one of the five finalists for best female singer, along with none other than Shreya Ghoshal. 


Meet Renuka Arun,  the new voice that Telugu people have embraced to their heart with her debut song, in the movie 'Bhale Bhale Magadivoi'. She touched their hearts like a breeze. Her voice is different from the ones we have heard so far. It's soft and mature with a ring of confidence around it.


Renuka hailing from Kochi had shown her apt for music from as young an age as two years old. By the time she turned four her father, he himself an ardent Carnatic music lover himself found her first Guru,  a government school music teacher. After sometime her father arranged another teacher who came home to teach her. This teacher asked her father to seek the help of an expert when she was ten years old.  Chandramana Narayanan Namboothiri Guru came in to her life at that time and ever since  she has been his disciple.



Renuka recounted about her first formal solo performance on stage. "My first formal concert or arangettam was in 1992 when I was in seventh grade. My father invited the entire family as if it was as important as a wedding. Father’s colleagues, my guru’s family and disciples and neighbours formed a sizeable crowd. My guru hired the best Pakkamelam artists to support me. By then I was so seasoned to be on stage, thanks to the School Youth Festival experience. Though I was just twelve, I had that strange feeling going through my mind that this is just the beginning ".


One of her most memorable times were when she sang in Puttaparthi, in front of Sathya Sai Baba and he walked up to her and blessed her. Another precious moment was when she had the luck to sing at the presence of the legend M S Subbalakshmi. These are the moments she holds close to her heart. Renuka was a regular in the fusion music performances in the late 90s when such a genre was getting popular in Kerala. One of her performance was with Mattannur Sankaran Kutty's group, the great Chenda maestro with Western percussionists. She was also involved with Flamenco dancer Bettina's group of fusion music.


Renuka is a die-hard fan of world renowned musician 'Yanni'.  “I took the trouble to watch his live performance in two cities when he visited India.  I had the opportunity to greet Yanni, which I consider my luckiest day.”



Her introduction into film industry was quite dramatic.  When she was getting discharged from hospital after a fracture to her leg, still in plaster, she got a call from musician Gopi Sunder. “I was literally carried to the studio by my father and husband. I sang the song sitting and they helped me so I was able to sing as comfortably as I could.  After that about four months later the movie was out, so was my song. I'm so happy to say that it was an instant hit and the Telugu diaspora from across the globe called to congratulate me. Working with Gopi Sundar was a beautiful experience.  I'm awed by his acute music sense. He had a wonderful team with him. I'm looking forward to sing in Malayalam and I love to sing romantic melodies. I would like to experiment into other genres too.”  


In the music world, her first love always is for performing traditional Kacheris. She thinks Gurus, in professional as well as spiritual field, play an important role in her life. According to Renuka a Guru is someone who gives his all to his students.  He keeps himself an open book which the students can read, understand and learn. Nothing is hidden from the student and everything a real Guru knows, the students can learn through utter dedication. She thinks a Guru-Sishya relationship is like a kite and the kite runner.  Students can fly as high up in the sky at the same time feel securely rooted, protected and guided by the Guru, just like a kite. 



Among the accolades and awards she has received in this short span are the GAMA (Gulf Andhra Movie Awards) for the best playback singer Telugu at Dubai, 2016, nominated for best upcoming Telugu singer, Radio Mirchi, first prize in Classical Music in Kerala State Schools Youth festival in 1992 and 1993, first prize in Light Music in Kerala State Schools Youth festival in 1995, India Government’s CCRT Scholarship recipient for Carnatic Vocal from 1992 onwards, Italy’s famous SAT-CHIT-ANANDA-MISSION award for the concert performed at the Parliament of religions in 1993, the Augustine Joseph memorial award for Classical Music in 1996,  first prize for Maharaja Swati Thirunal Kriti at the Madras Music Academy  and so on.


Renuka lives in Kochi with her husband Arun, an IT professional and daughter Ananditha. She herself is employed with Ernst & Young, a global tax accounting company.

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