PRANIRSHA THIYAGARAJA: THE BEST OF THE BEST

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When she came onto The Voice stage for the very first time and sang Rowdy Baby in the Blind Auditions, coach Abhisheka Wimalaweera pressed the buzzer on the very first line and turned to face her. By the time she finished her song, all four judges had turned. While coaches Lahiru, Raini and Sanka also pitched in to invite Pranirsha to join their teams, this 13- year-old chose coach Abhisheka, the first coach to press the buzzer.

Many months after that, in the recent finale that took place earlier this month, marked Pranirsha Thiyagaraja’s milestone step of the long journey she set out on with The Voice Sri Lanka. The competition was tougher this year. Talents were overflowing and you may have had to make a hard decision when it came to who you wanted to support because all the young singers dominated the competition. Despite that, Pranirsha made her presence felt every step of the way. 

The timid little girl of 13 years transformed herself to a star in no time. Pranirsha got through to the final 24 and her rendition of Raa Raa still rings in our ears. Her Battle Round performance against Menuka lifted her up. Pranirsha and her coach Abhisheka’s combination worked like magic. Being an ardent follower of the competition, it was obvious that while all other coaches had at least one song if not more where their contestant did not deliver to their best abilities, Pranirsha got better and better. Coach Abhisheka’s selections worked out perfectly. Obviously she has trained Pranirsha devotedly, sincerely and brilliantly. Who else would expect of such a wide range of songs from the Hindi-Sinhala mix Mere Sapno Ki Raani/ Etha Dilisena Rantharu to Galana Seetha Jale, Manaram Renguman and Pemrasa Vehena? The little girl stood tall.

There was notable growth in her during the course of the competition she performed with more ease and her stage presence grew stronger.

Though her Pem Rasa Vehena and Nissaara Sansaara performances  at the Grand Finale definitely sealed her victory, Pranirsha’s turning point was when she sang Mage Ratata Daladaa Himi Saranai. A young teenage Tamil girl, singing in Sinhala the way she did was medicine to ailing hearts. That night, whole of Sri Lanka watched her with bated breath. It moved audiences to tears and votes overflowed.

To maintain the standard and keep the love of the fans alive is a tough call. Pranirsha singing the final song Nissaara Sansaara with her coach Abhisheka felt like a ramp walk to victory. But who can predict votes? The fact that Pranirsha took part in the finals after being hospitalised no doubt intensified the situation. Yet, it was not a performance one could resist.

In spite of all the finalists being superb, Pranirsha Thiyagaraja from Bandarawela Tamil Central College became the Voice of the season.

Speaking to Teen Inc, Pranirsha recalled her journey. “There were many taking part in the audition held in Bandarawela. They said Voice Global would be a very precious stage to reach and a great opportunity for us. I got through to the Blinds and was called in mere two weeks. When all the coaches turned for me at the Blind Audition, it was such a dream come true,” she told us. Pranirsha said that she has been studying Bharata Natyam and Carnatic Music from childhood. “I started my singing at the Kovil. Then I took part in a singing competition at school.” She told us that talent definitely runs in the family. “My mother had lived in India when she was young. She had studied both music and dance in India. My mother’s younger sister is also a great Bharata Natyam dancer in Trichi, India. In the family I have my mother, father and my older sister who is also a good singer.” We asked Pranirsha what she feels to be the best experience in her journey. “I think the best was learning Sinhala. When I came for Blind auditions, I knew only a little. I was not at all fluent,” she laughed as she recalled.

Pranirsha made it a point to speak of her coach Abhisheka. “She made a massive contribution to this victory. My coach trained me all the time. She found a very scared and shaken Pranirsha at the Blinds. But the moment I got selected by her, she was all about positivity and training. Even when I was in the hospital, just before the finals my coach kept constantly in touch. She kept training me on Whatsapp.” According to Pranirsha, it was her coach who suggested she sings Sinhala songs. What justice Pranirsha has done to the suggestion and how gloriously reciprocal her fans have been, in returning their love to her! We had to ask her about the usual negative comments and connotations associated with reality shows. “Unlike the other similar competitions and also in contrast to the popular belief that shows like these are nothing but negative, I had the best time. Our competitors were so closely knit and bonded. All the Akkas and Aiyas were multitalented. But we were one family and now, at the end of the show, the saddest is to leave them,” she said.

Work of the fans

Would you believe it if I say that her whole campaign was done by her fans? “My fans are both Tamils and Sinhalese. They took a lot of trouble for me. I also kept posting songs, went Live and sang songs. There were posters put up for me, as well. I also need to thank my coach Abhisheka again for making me what I am. All of this is her effort. I am glad I learnt to read Sinhala” she said.

She did not forget to thank Sirasa-their entire team and all the coaches who gave her great comments and taught her many things. Pranirsha emphasised that the full team, their production team and the voters are all a part of her victory. She requested her fans to continue to stay close to her in her journey ahead. 

Future

So, what are her dreams and goals for future, we asked. “I want to serve the music industry by making high quality, good music. But I want to be a singing-doctor,” Pranirsha replied. What is there to doubt about it? That is the least we can do for her. Wish her life’s best that she remains committed and true to herself.

Coach Abhisheka shares her experience working with Pranirsha.
“The Voice platform met 96 great singers, 24 per each team. First the judges have to hear them and turn for them. Next the judges have to convince the singers to choose us. My team was one which had singers most people would call ‘underdogs’. Except for Syumi and Samindu who had two chair turns, mine was often the only chair which turned for some competitors. In previous contests Tamil youngsters like Maadhuvi and Shamil were supported by majority of Sinhala votes and I knew this little girl too would have to win the hearts of Sri Lankans.” Abhisheka said her song choices always had this in mind. “I got her to sing ‘Raa raa’ keeping her Tamil fans in mind and Appalam Chapalam to get the Sinhala audience going. I opted for Sinhala and Hindi with O Maine Ne Pyaar Kiya. Pranirsha is so smart and talented that she learnt any song in any language in five days,” Abhisheka recalled with pride.

“She fought with three 19-year-old aiyas and this was a big deal,” she said. We asked about her clever timing and choices of songs. “Many asked me why I did not choose Mage Ratata for her finals. But I did not want her to win by appealing to the emotions of viewers. I wanted her to win because she is talented.”

Abhisheka is rooting for Pranirisha to take things in the right direction where she can grow her career in music and be recognised for it. “I will help her in every way. But she has to continue. She cannot end her journey here and fade into oblivion. The reason someone like Yohani made it big is because she had influential connections. This is what I am requesting her well-wishers. Pranirsha is an immensely talented, capable girl. But we cannot let her wilt in wilderness. I hope someone will volunteer to recognise this talent and assist her in achieving what this brilliant girl deserves,” a very proud told us.

Hopefully no star is out of reach for this little nightingale.

(Photo courtesy Sirasa)

By Priyangwada Perera