Yamini Ghantasala recorded a Telugu song in Justin Prabhakaran’s composition in February 2018. She was asked to sing in a low scale, unlike the other high-pitched songs she had sung before. She recorded without asking which film it is for. She was aware that not all songs sung by an emerging singer like her might make it to the final cut. The song she recorded is the now immensely popular ‘Gira gira gira’ from Dear Comrade. Recalling the experience, she says, “The vibe about the song was so good. I learnt the lyrics, closed the book and sang from my heart.”
A few months later, she recorded the Kannada version as well.
One evening, when Justin messaged her stating that their song will be unveiled the following day, she took a deep breath. Once the song was out, she sent the link to her brother — composer S S Thaman (whose full name is Srinivas Sai Thaman Ghantasala).
- Yamini and Thaman’s grandfather, Ghantasala Balaramayya, founded the erstwhile production house Prathiba Productions, which launched Akkineni Nageswara Rao with the film Seeta Rama Jananam (1944). Says Yamini, “Nagarjuna garu and others remember my grandfather’s role in ANR’s journey and in audio functions, I’ve heard them mention that they are now working with Thaman, and life has come a full circle.”
Yamini has a handful of songs to her credit as a playback singer, none of them in her brother’s compositions though. So far, her journey in music has been independent of that of Thaman and she explains that he wanted her to chart her course, and she too prefers not to piggyback on his credentials.
Some of the other films Yamini has sung for include ‘Sakhiya’ from Goodachari, ‘Yemaindi’ from Rangula Ratnam, ‘Doorale’ and ‘Manase’ and Idam Jagath in Telugu, and a few Tamil films beginning with ‘Aagayame’ in Yaanum Theeyavan (Tamil; 2017). Yamini has a YouTube channel in which she periodically posts cover versions of all-time hits. The Chennai-based singer who frequents Hyderabad each month for recordings, states that it’s easy to do cover versions for Instagram, but takes a professional approach for her YouTube channel.
Composer Achu Rajamani gave her the first break as a playback singer in Tamil, while Sricharan Pakala helped in Telugu. Prior to that, she had recorded a cover version of ‘Aatach Baya’ from Sairaat, which was featured on lyricist Madan Karky’s platform for independent music called Doopadoo. At that time, Yamini was transitioning from her corporate career to music.
She had worked nine years with IT and pharmaceutical companies, handling human resources and marketing. “Corporate work was like a commitment, music is what I truly enjoy,” she asserts. During a stint with an apparel brand in Mumbai, when she was living away from home, the emptiness of the corporate world hit her and she knew it was time to make the switch.
Rashmika Mandanna and Vijay Deverakonda in Dear Comrade
Thaman wasn’t too keen on her trading a stable work domain for a career in music. “He had his reasons. He dropped out of school after his Class VI, when our father passed away. Overnight, he became the breadwinner of the family and would go from studio to studio playing the drums for composers. He had roughed it out, and wanted me to have a stable career,” says Yamini. She wells up talking about her childhood days when she, her brother and mother bandied together and supported one another in testing times.
Yamini remembers taking to music quite young. Her father Shivakumar Ghantasala was a well-known drummer; Shivamani was among those he had coached. Her father had initiated Yamini into Carnatic classical music and later, she took to Hindustani music while studying in Puttaparthi. She remembers smuggling audio cassettes into boarding school and listening to Taal, Dil Se and other 90s hits. “We weren’t allowed to listen to film music in school, and it was referred to as ‘F’ music,” she laughs. Years later, she sang back-end vocals for a few of A R Rahman compositions, including Mersal.
With the ‘Gira gira gira’ song becoming an earworm, Yamini hopes it will translate to more work. She has a few other playback songs and independent numbers on the anvil. As she winds up, Yamini says, “I am always nervous when I have to share a song of mine with Thaman. I am waiting for the day when he will ask me to sing for him.”