Someone has rightly said, “When life throws lemons at you, make a lemonade.” We seldom realize that challenges in life are blessings in disguise. Situations are never too bad if you are determined to find the right route. Such was the case with Amar Muchhala, who thought it was the end of his world when he discovered that he stammers.
Amar was quiet and shy as a child who, surprisingly, did not have any inhibitions at home. His family loved him dearly and he never felt himself to be any different. However, when he went to school, there was a complete different world. “At a subconscious level, I avoided all kinds of interaction in school to avoid any embarrassment. I would not mingle with the kids and was extremely scared of public speaking. Every year the first day of class would dread me, as I had to stand up and introduce myself,” says Amar.
The icing on the cake was that he was obese and could not participate in sports. All he could manage to participate in was spoon race where he had to run with a spoon balancing lemon. When other kids would play, Amar spent his time in studies and everyone thought he was a nerd.
However, Amar was never bullied but still got a defence mechanism. He rarely opened up in school. He developed the tendency to be a recluse and drew himself in the shell. When Amar was in STD 10, his parents sent him for speech therapy.
“At that point, I could not even say my name without being stuck. The kids were really brutal in those days.”
“There were tricks like adding an extra consonant before a vowel. The lessons were exactly as they showed in the movie The King’s Speech (2010). Those were my lip drills. I did all of that,” Amar says. “But my stammering was very temperamental. For me there were no fixed letters where I would get tongue-tied. It kept changing. One day it was P, the other day it was W, the next it was some other letter. I had to learn how to pronounce each letter. When I had a problem with P, instead of saying parrot, I would say PHarrot. The funny part was that many thought I had an accent! And it was hardest on the telephone”, he adds.
Amar was being mocked at and people laughed at him. The worst part was the caricatures of people who stammered on television. He says, “When you have nothing positive to compare to, people make fun. Often, you will see that the funny person or the butt of all jokes in a movie is the person who stammers. How can you be so ignorant? It is common knowledge that nobody stammers while singing. I am sorry but I do not get these jokes. I find them incredibly offensive. ”
Amar studied in Jamnabai Narsee School, Mumbai where the teachers were supportive and encouraged him to sing. He did not stammer while singing. He realized that his stammering was an issue because of anxiety and breathing problems. Amar never had stage fright but was terrified of introducing himself so he would skip that part and go to singing.
Amar went to the US in 1997 for his under-graduation. Initially, he was petrified but became more open after knowing the state’s culture. No one judged him and waited for him to finish the sentence when he stammered. This inculcated confidence within him and he started participating in conversation, making him an extrovert. Today Amar says that he is too much of an extrovert.
After some time, Amar decided to get training in western music. His training in western classical started in Franklin & Marshall College, USA where he also got a degree in business management and French Literature.
“I didn’t even know what a tenor was until I joined a choir in my college – the choirmaster instantly identified me as a tenor (a voice type between a bass and a baritone — the highest of the ordinary adult male range), and the next thing I knew was I was singing Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms as part of the tenor section. The breathing exercises really helped when I started taking proper music lessons. My stammer almost disappeared when my breathing issues got sorted. Though I still stammer, rarely.”
Today, Amar is an established tenor. He completed his education in opera course from Guildhall School of Music And Drama. He made his Royal Opera House debut in 2013 with The Opera Group. The theatre training also helped him shed his skin and be more confident about his looks, singing, speech and personality. He learned to open up and realized that he is not the only one with constraints. This gave him power to raise his voice extraordinarily.
He confesses that whenever he stammers, it is because of the inner demon he is fighting with, and not because of the audience. Amar has found a purpose and beliefs in himself, and all of that is because of Opera. There have been mentors who helped him grow but it was his determination what made him one of the finest tenors today.