S.Janaki’s songs in Malayalam – Part II

The Nightingale in God’s Own Country- Part II

Old-timers Brother Lakshmanan (sree rama pattabhishegam/1962, snapaka yOhannan/ 1963, atom bomb/1964, priyathama/1966) and LPR Varma (streehrudayam/1960, Mayor Nair/1966, sthanarthi saramma/1966, thottavadi/1973) had worked with Janaki in those heady years and reaped magnificent successes with the singer.

Ill-luck might have dogged the talented R.K. Shekhar, more popularly known today as the father of A.R. Rahman, all through his career, but he did enjoy some wonderful outings with Janaki such as ‘panchavadiyil kaNdu kaNdoru’ (pazhassiraja/ 1964), ‘pathividamnoru’ (anaadha shilpangaL/1971), ‘nisageethamE ozhuki’ (sumangali/1971), ‘pathinachithalulla pournami’ (aaradimanninte janmi/1972), ‘udukkukotti paadum’ (kaNdavaruNdO/ 1972) and ‘kaavEri kaavEri’ (kuttichaathan /1975). Little could he have imagined that Janaki would be singing for his son decades later!

Listen to ‘achchan kOvil aatilE’ from anaadha shilpangaL/1971
Sung by Jayachandran & S. Janaki
Lyrics by Sreekumaran Thampi
Music by R.K. Shekhar

T.K. Pugazhendhi stepped out of his beloved mentor’s shadow and composed music independently for few Malayalam movies, and it was producer M. A. Venu, with the blessings of K.V. Mahadevan, who persuaded Pugazhendhi to take this step when he wanted to remake his 1957 Tamil classic ‘muthalaaLi’ in Malayalam in 1965. And in his first album, also titled ‘muthalaaLi’, Pugazhendhi gave Janaki songs like ‘yethu poovu coodanum’, ‘kaniyanum vanilla’, ‘mullappoo thailamittu’- all of which became greatly popular. Following this, Pugazhendhi continued to entrust Janaki with some of his best compositions in his subsequent albums like bhagya mudhra/1967 (‘madhura prateekshathan’, ‘ethukoottil nee’), vilakuranja manushyar/1969 (‘ente kaNNil’), viththukaL/1971 (‘gOpuramukalil’), moonnu pookaL/1971 (‘thiriyothi poothiri’, ‘onnanam poomarathil’, ‘sakhi kunkumamO’), kochu aniyathi/1971 (‘sundara raavil’, ‘thinakalE pOlE chirikkunna’, ‘thayyarE thayyarE’), snEha deepamE mizhi thuRakku /1972 (‘naadakam theernu’, ‘lOkam muzhuvaan’), raakkuyil /1973 (‘innathE mOhana’, ‘shyama sundari’) and kalyaaNa sowgandhikam/1975 (‘çhandana mukilin’, ‘gaanamadhu veeNdu’). In an interview, Pugazhendhi had wholesome words of praise for Janaki, mentioning in particular Janaki’s rendering of the line ‘anuragathin aadyanOmbaram’ in the song ‘sundara raavil chandana mukilil’ (kochu aniyathi/1971).

Listen to ‘sundara raavil’ from Kochaniyathi/1971
Lyrics by Sreekumaran Thampi
Music by Pugazhendhi

R. Sudarsanam made a rare appearance in Malayalam and composed the sublime Yesudas-Janaki duets ‘chitra pournami raathiriyil’ and ‘baalyakaala sakhi’, besides the haunting Janaki solos ‘pookila nyorichu vachu’ and ‘unaru kaNNaa nee’ (kudumbam/1967).

Listen to ‘baalya kaala sakhi’from kudumbam/1967
Sung by Yesudas & S. Janaki
Lyrics by Valayalar
Music by R. Sudarsanam

Much before his famed collaborations with Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Vijayabhaskar wrought his magic in Malayalam cinema in the 60s, and knowing only too well the remarkable talents of Janaki with whom he had witnessed some stunning successes in Kannada, Vijayabhaskar worked with her in his Malayalam ventures as well- raareerO unni (kusrithi kuttan/1966), nizhalE nintE piravE (paadhira paattu/1967) and ‘dEvan thannathu’ (kayalkarayil/1968).

Though Janaki was not a Devarajan ‘regular’ in the sense P. Suseela or Madhuri were, she did have some fine moments in the early years with the master. Devarajan Maash gave the young singer a prized opportunity in the movie ‘bhaarya’ (1962) and the song ‘kaaNaan nalla kinavukaL’ became a super hit. Albums like kadalamma (1963), anna (1964), kaliyOdam, Odayil ninnu, sakunthala (all 1965), karuna, jail, kalithOzhan, thilOthamma, kalyaaNa raathiriyil (all 1966), avaL, chitramEla, nadan peNNu, pooja (all 1967), Hotel High Range, thulabharam, yakshi (all 1968), minda peNNu and nisagandhi (both 1970) had Janaki rendering some noteworthy songs for Devarajan.

Listen to ‘kaanaan nalla kinavukal’ from Bharya/1962
Lyrics by Vayalar
Music by Devarajan

* * * *

No account of Janaki’s tryst with Malayalam cinema would be complete without a mention of her songs under the baton of M.S. Baburaj. Mohammad Sabir Baburaj who would weave magic on his harmonium, had drunk deep of the ocean of Hindustani classical and his enduring works are a happy marriage of Hindustani ghazal style with Malayali folk tradition. Unassuming and soft-spoken, Baburaj, or Babuka as he was addressed with affection, was an eternal romantic whose tunes were simple, uncluttered and straight from the heart, holding generations of listeners in spellbound rapture. He breathed his last fairly young, but he has breathed his life and soul into his works which sing a song of eternal melody.

And when the formidable team of lyricist P. Bhaskaran and composer M.S. Baburaj got together with Janaki in the early 60s, they ushered in a golden era of immortal music. The mighty P. Bhaskaran has gone on record many a time professing his admiration for Janaki. And as for Babuka, the rapport that he shared with Janaki was something very, very special. True, Janaki did not find place in Babuka’s first 8 albums, but when he did discover her, it was like he had known her all his life. He is said to have wondered aloud if Janaki and he had been nightingales singing together in the same garden in some earlier incarnation! Even so many years after Baburaj’s demise, when Janaki spoke about him in the programme ‘sangeetha sagaram’ (2003/ Asianet), her eyes brimmed with tears as she uttered emotion-choked words of fond memories. I remember reading the Baburaj- Janaki relationship being likened to the Madanmohan- Lata collaboration- such was the sheer magic of the union.

The caressing ‘thaLiritta kinaakkaL’ (moodupadam/1963), that mirrors so evocatively the ache of being in love, set the stage for this magnificent alliance, and what a stupendous success it was! Baburaj followed it with a Meera Bhajan, ‘maithO ghumguru’ (ninamaninja kalpadukaL/1963) and Janaki essayed it with divine enchantment. The duet ‘yEzhu niRangaLumillathE’ by Kamukara and Janaki that Baburaj composed for ‘karutha kai’/1964 ruled the airwaves for a long while, just as Janaki’s solo ‘paalappoovin parimalam’ from the same movie did. When the salt-laden sea breeze acquires a dreamy mystique, the ensuing amalgam yields a miracle like ‘anjana kaNNezhuthi’ (thachOli othenan/1964). The P. Bhaskaran- A. Vincent collaboration ‘bhargavi nilayam’ /1964 had an amazing album by Babuka- Janaki had 4 songs, all of them haunting melodies- the bright and breezy ‘anuraga madhu chashakam’, ‘vasantha panchami naaLil’ which makes one sigh in quiet bliss, ‘pottirthakarna kivaukondoru’ and ‘pottatha peNNin kinaavu’, where Baburaj’s sepulchral interludes join hands with Janaki’s haunting vocals to give one the goose bumps. My eyes turn misty with an inexplicable surge of emotions whenever I listen to ‘sooryakanthi sooryakanthi’ (kaattu thulasi/1965). Songs such as ‘thEdunadhaarE shoonyathayil eeran mizhikale’ (ammu/1965), ‘pavizhakkunnil’(mayaavi/1965), ‘amaravathiyil’ (kanakachilanga/1966), ‘oru kochu swapnathil ’(tharavattamma/1966), tug at the heartstrings of the listener with exquisite longings. Truly, Baburaj seems to have been the discerning pioneer to harness to the fullest the dulcet talents of the young Janaki.

The P. Bhaskaran- M.T. Vasudeva Nair venture ‘irittintE aathamavu’ (1966) holds a special place of pride in Janaki’s discography, for the album had four songs, all of them female solos, and Janaki created a record when Babuka made her render all four- thus Janaki became the first singer to sing all the songs in a Malayalam movie. The songs in the movie, all by Janaki, were ‘eeranuduthum kondambaram’, ‘ambadikannanu mambazham’, ‘írukaNNeer thulikaL oru sundariyute’ and ‘vakacharthu kazhinjoru’. ‘avidunen gaanam kElkaan’ (pareeksha/1967) is another Babuka- Janaki miracle. Another movie in the same year, ‘anvEshichu kandEthiyilla’ had 4 wonderful songs from the prolific partnership- 3 Janaki solos – ‘thamara kumbilallO’, ‘murivaalan kurangachan’ and ‘kavilathe kaNNeer kaNdu’ and the Janaki- B. Vasanta duet ‘pavanamam’. ‘baalyakala sakhi’ is another 1967 album (oh, what wonderful years these seem to have been for music connoisseurs!) that had unforgettable songs like the Janaki solo ‘oru koottam njaaninnu cheviyil chollaam’ and the PBS- Janaki duet ‘nin rakthamente’. ‘ezhuthiyayaraanu sujatha’ is such a quaint Yesudas- Janaki duet from yet another 1967 movie, ‘udyOgastha’, which had three delightful Janaki solos as well- ‘saraNam nin charaNam’, ‘mankidaavinE’ and ‘thankam vegam’.

Over the years, Baburaj and Janaki spread a delectable feast that one can never partake enough of. ‘pathinEzhilyethiya paruvam’ (anju sundarikaL/1968) aaradhikaiyudE’ (manaswini/1968) ‘kanavil njaan theertha’ (Inspector/ 1968), ‘asthamaana kadalinakkalE’ (sandhya/1969), ‘muttathEmullathan’ and the duet with C.O. Anto ‘innalE nyaan oru swapnasalabha’ (virunnukkari/ 1969), ‘hEmantha nidrayil’ (anaadha/1970), ‘thaanE thirinjum marinjum’ (ambalapRaavu/1970), ‘idakkonu chirichu’ (olavum theeravum/1970), ‘kaNNoNNu thirakkoo’ (duet with P. Leela) and the solos ‘vinnilE kavil’, ‘aadanum maRayaan’ ‘kaNNeer aloru’ (priya/1970), ‘vaarmazhavillintE vanamaala vilkkunna ’ (raathri vaNdi/1971), ‘vanaroOdanam kettuvO’ (Ernakulam Junction/1971), ‘aayiram varNangaL vidarum aaramam’ (puLLimaan/ 1972- Janaki won the State Award for this one), ‘hrudayathil nirayunna’ (chuzhi/1973), ‘kaalindi thadatthile raadha’ (bhadradeepam/1973), ‘krishna krishna dayamaya’ (manassu/1973), ‘’yEsu maathaavE janani’ (nathoon/1974), ‘manassE aswasikku’ (njaan ninne prEmikkunnu/1975), ‘nithyamuki ninnE’ (shrishti/1976), ‘maanatthu sandhya kolutthiya’ (yatheem/1977)…songs of unparalleled allure that ensured that Janaki stayed perched as the front ranking female singer of Malayalam cinema.

In a survey conducted in Kerala on the 12 most popular songs ever in the history of Malayalam cinema, Yesudas understandably swept the polls, with 8 solos and one duet with P. Leela making it in the final list. Janaki was the only other singer who made it to the top 12, with 3 of her solos, and two of them were composed by Baburaj- ‘sooryakanthi’ (kaattu thulasi) comes a valiant 3rd in the list of 12, while ‘thaLiritta kinaakkaL’ (moodupadam) makes it to the 8th position.

Details of the survey here:


Listen to some glittering instances of the famed Baburaj- Janaki collaboration:

‘thaLiritta kinaakkaL’ (moodupadam/1963) – Lyrics by P. Bhaskaran

‘anjana kaNNezhuthi’ (thachOli othenan/1964) – Lyrics by P. Bhaskaran

‘pottatha peNNin kinaavu’ (bhargavi nilayam/1964) – Lyrics by P. Bhaskaran

‘sooryakanthi sooryakanthi’ (kaattu thulasi/1965) – Lyrics by Vayalar

‘thamara kumbilallO’ (anvEshichu kandethiyilla/1967) – Lyrics by P. Bhaskaran