Sairam Iyer was seven years old when he gave his first public performance. At his school’s Independence Day function, the chief guest had not turned up. Iyer, known for his mellifluous voice, was sent on stage by the principal. Unfazed, he belted out Dafli waale dafli baja, the Lata Mangeshkar classic from Sargam (1979), without missing a beat. The chief guest, who walked in midway through his performance, was so enthralled by his voice that he rushed to meet him.On Friday night, he rendered Woh jab yaad aaye from Parasmani (1963), a duet by Mangeshkar and Mohammad Rafi, at Shanmukhananda Hall, Mumbai. It was part of Sur Tarang, organised by Cre8tive Dezignz & Ark Events, in aid of cancer-afflicted children.
In the late ’90s, while acquiring a diploma in light vocal music from Mumbai University, he discovered the falsetto and started training his voice to perform in dual tones. “The awe factor of switching between tones is lost after the first few minutes. What’s challenging is to continue to keep your audience hooked to the song,” says the student of the late Pandit Ramesh Nadkarni, an acclaimed Hindustani classical music singer. To connect with audiences of all ages, Iyer does not believe in restricting his repertoire; he earned a rapturous applause for crooning Sheila ki jawaani (Tees Maar Khan) and Tune maari entry (Gunday) on Friday evening.
Iyer’s father, KVS Mani, an accomplished singer, dancer and actor, was part of Shanmukhananda’s Fine Arts Society and would perform dressed as a woman on stage. Iyer says that he inherited his artistic talent from his father.
He released his own album, Aisa Bhi Kabhi Hota Hai in 2000, which features duets, as well as female and male solos. “When you’re known for the covers you perform, creating your own identity becomes important. But in my case, my original songs got lost in the melee.” Iyer has also done playback for Tamil, Telugu, Marathi and Gujarati films.