S.Janaki’s songs in Malayalam – Part IV


The Nightingale in God’s Own Country- Part IV


After years of composing music for stage plays of all the major theatre troupes in Kerala, the immensely talented M.K. Arjunan composed music for the movie ‘karutha pournami’ (1968) starring Madhu, Saradha and Vijayanirmala, and Janaki gave a warm welcome to the debutant by singing three of his compositions for the movie- the two solos ‘kavithayil mungi’ and ‘manathin muttathu’, and the duet with Yesudas, ‘sisuvine pOl’. The next year saw Janaki and Jayachandran serving that unforgettable concoction in Kaapi, ‘yamunE prEma yamunE …yadukula rathidEvan evidE evidE…’ for K.P. Kottakkara’s movie ‘Rest House’. The same movie also had a haunting Janaki solo, ‘vasanthamE variyEriyoo’. ‘kasithetti poovinoru’ (raktha pushpam/1970), ‘pranaya sarOvaramE’ (CID Nazeer/1971), ‘thulavarsha mEghangaL’ (anvEshanam/1972) were songs sung by Janaki for Arjunan that fetched both the singer and the composer accolades. 1973 saw Janaki singing songs of diverse delights in numerous albums of Arjunan such as ‘panchavadi’, ‘padmavyooham’, ajnathavasam’, ‘Ragging’ and ‘pachanOttukkaL’. ‘poo nilaavE vaa’, the lullaby that Janaki rendered in the 1975 movie ‘padmaragam’ would find place among Arjunan’s best compositions. Having sung in the movie ‘kayamkulam kochunni’ in 1966, Janaki now sang in the movie ‘kayamkulam kochunniyudE makan’ in 1976, and the song ‘swapnangaL thazhikakudam’ was quite popular in its time. In the following years, Arjunan formed a winning partnership with Vani Jairam and many of his wonderful compositions went to the accomplished Vani. Nonetheless, Arjunan did set aside some delectable treats for Janaki such as ‘thaarunya pushpavanathil thaLirththallO paarijaatham’ with Jayachandran (madhuraswapnam/1977), ‘maavu pooththu’ (kaathirunna nimisham/1978), ‘pramada vanathail’ (irumbazhikaL/1979), ‘saptha parapanjam’ (karipuraNda jeevithangaL/1980), ‘ee raavil nintE kaamukiyavam’ (oothikaacchiya ponnu/1981), ‘kaayal karayil’ (kayam/1982), ‘thudakkam’ (manassoru mahasamudram/1983) …

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Guarded with fierce possessiveness by TFM, M.S. Viswanathan had little time to venture into other languages, including his mother tongue. Nevertheless, his limited forays in Malayalam fetched him unlimited fame. And Janaki was sought repeatedly by the Mellisai Mannar to bring to life his enticing Malayalam compositions. ‘aa nimishathintE nirvridiyil naan’ from the chandrakantham (1974, scripted and directed by Sreekumaran Thampi) is one such spellbinding semi-classical number that the master crafted in two versions, one by Yesudas and the other in the Janaki’s dulcet tones. ‘jeevikkaan maRannupOya sthree’ (1974) starring Soman, Mohan, Sheela and Kanchana, based on a famous novel by Vettoor Raman Nair and directed by K.S. Sethumadhavan is a movie all but forgotten, except for its songs written by Vayalar and set to tune by MSV, foremost among which are the two versions, one by Yesudas and the other by Janaki of ‘veeNa poovE’.


Listen to ‘veeNa poovE’ from jeevikkaan maRannupOya sthree (1974)
Sung by S. Janaki
Lyrics by Vayalar
Music by M.S.Viswanthan

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‘malineethadamE’ is another marvel crafted by MSV and sung by Janaki for the same movie. ‘aval oru thodarkathai’ was dubbed into Malayalam, and Janaki repeated her magic in ‘kaNNilE’. Yesudas and Janaki got to render two duets, ‘manasoru swapnakhani’ and ‘chanchalitha’ for MSV in the Prem Nazeer- Jayabharathi starrer ‘dharmakshEtrE kurukshEtrE’ (1975). Janaki sang two haunting solos ‘nisheedhini nisheedhini’ and ‘pOkam namakku’ under MSV’s baton in Sheela’s supernatural thriller ‘yakshagaanam’ (1976); Janaki would haunt the Tamil populace with ‘venmghamE’ set in the same tune as ‘nisheedhini’ in the Tamil remake ‘aayiram jenmangaL’ two years later. ‘aavaNi poorna’ with Jayachandran (kuttavum sikshayum/1976), ‘vasanthamE nee vannu’ (hrudayamE saakshi/1977), ‘manasaoru thaamarapoika’ (akshayapaathram/1977), ‘sarathkaala chandrika’ (etha oru manushyan/1978), ‘mukilugaLE’ (velluviLi/1978), ‘janmam thEdiyathenthinu seetha’ (sundarimaarudE swapnangaL/1978) are some songs that linger in memory in this partnership. In the movie raNdiloNNu (1978), MSV sang an alluring duet with Janaki, ‘panchavan kaattilE’. vaadaka veedu, pathivritha, maNi kOya kuRuppu (all 1979), Lorry, swargadEvatha, thirakal ezhuthiya kavitha- the dubbed version of marO charitra, (all 1980), kOLiLakkam (1981) are albums wherein Janaki sang some of the master’s scintillating compositions.


Based on a story by Vijayan Karottu, Bharathan’s 1982 classic ‘marmaram’ starring Nedumudi Venu and Jalaja had music by MSV and the master extracted from Janaki some outstanding songs; while her ‘vattathil vattaram’, and ‘Om..iruLin thuyilunarum manthiram’ zoomed to the top of the popularity charts, it is the heavenly Hindolam delight ‘karNaamrutham kaNNanu’ that makes me sigh in ecstasy. When MSV beckons with rapturous plucking on the strings of the veena, Janaki responds with a rousing rendition…


Listen to ‘karNaamrutham kaNNanu’ from marmaram (1982)
Sung by S. Janaki
Lyrics by Kavalam Narayana Panicker
Music by M.S. Viswanathan

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Not content with his largesse of giving her 3 solos in ‘marmaram’, the master also crafted for the same movie a mellifluous Janaki- Unni Menon, ‘angam prathi anangam’. In the waning years of his illustrious career, MSV summoned Janaki repeatedly for his Malayalam ventures such as kaikEyi (1983), minimOL vathikkaanil, athiraathiram, thennal thedunna poovu (all 1984), priyamvadakkoru praNayageetham, bhagavaan (both 1986) and ammE bhagavathi (1987). Even as late as 1990, Janaki sang ‘chalanam jwalanam’ for MSV in Bhadran’s story of a clairvoyant ‘Iyer The Great’ starring Mamootty, Shobhana and Geetha.


Listen to ‘chalanam jwalanam’ from Iyer The Great (1990)
Sung by S. Janaki
Lyrics by Poovachal Khader
Music by M.S. Viswanathan

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Shankar-Ganesh were greatly in demand in TFM, throughout the 70s and the first half of the 80s. And it must have been the immense goodwill that they enjoyed with filmmakers that landed them with some opportunities to compose music for movies other languages, especially Kannada and Malayalam. A quick look at few of their works in Malayalam reveals that S-G gave Janaki some memorable souvenirs to cherish from their repertoire therein. Thoppil Bhasi’s 1974 movie ‘chakravaakam’ starring Prem Nazeer and Sujatha had Janaki singing the enticing ‘makayiram nakshatiram’ for S-G. ‘arama dEvathamaarE’ from the 1979 movie ‘prabhu’ is another winner that S-G presented in Janaki’s vocals. ‘Love in Singapore’ (1980) had two Jayachandran-Janaki duets, ‘thaalalayam’ and ‘nyaan raja’ tuned by S-G that find place regularly in TV and radio programs featuring listeners’ requests. The Prem Nazeer- Rani Padmini starrer ‘sangarsham’ (1981) had Janaki singing two duets in S-G’s music- one with Yesudas, ‘thoomanjil mungi’ and one with Jayachandran, ‘kaNdu kaNdarinju’. ‘ee raavil nyaan’ from the Kamalahasan starrer ‘maattuvin chattangaLE’ (1982) and ‘pala pooththu’ from A. Vincent’s ‘pournami raavil’ (1985) are other songs from the SJ/S-G collaboration that linger on in memory.

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During his years under the tutelage of G.K. Venkatesh, Ilaiyaraja had witnessed firsthand the astute comprehension skills, remarkable range and versatility of Janaki. Janaki was GKV’s favorite singer and Ilaiyaraja had always found his interactions with Janaki highly enriching, for she was totally devoid of airs and delivered the desired nuances with disarming ease. During those years, IR was playing the guitar and combo-organ regularly for many Malayalam composers as well, and observed the high regard that even revered stalwarts like Dakshinamoorthi Swami held for Janaki. During the recording sessions with Swami, IR had opportunities aplenty to observe the effortlessness with which Janaki got the intricacies of Swami’s compositions right and the wholesome praise that came from the venerable Guru.


Janaki too found a kindred soul in IR, for even as an assistant, IR had impressed her with the meticulous manner in which he would explain to her the notes and nuances. The rapport that developed thus between IR and Janaki paved the way for a magnificent alliance when IR arrived with ‘annakkiLi’, the album that rewrote history. Those momentous years saw IR reserving his choicest creations for Janaki, and the singer struck gold every time she brought alive with iridescent hues IR’s captivating canvas. And over the decades, Janaki has quite understandably remained the singer to have rendered the most number of IR’s compositions.


Ilaiyaraja’s tryst with Malayalam cinema has been truly memorable, and given his avowed fascination for Janaki’s voice and a rightful trust in her capabilities, it was but natural that the Isaignani summoned his prima donna to render some of his finest compositions in Malayalam. Malayalam moviegoers first got a tantalizing taste of a slice of the IR magic when Devaraj- Mohan’s 1976 Tamil movie ‘uRavaadum nenjam’ was dubbed in Malayalam in 1978 as ‘aaRu maNikkoor’. The famed SPB- Janaki duet ‘oru naaL unnOdu oru naaL’ was rewritten in Malayalam by Mankombu Gopalakrishnan, and this time Janaki teamed up with Yesudas to render ‘oru naaL ullasa thirunaaL’.


Listen to ‘oru naaL ullasa thirunaaL’ from aaRu maNikkoor (1978)
Sung by Yesudas & Janaki
Lyrics by Mankombu Gopalakrishnan
Music by Ilaiyaraja

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In the same year, K.G. George called upon Ilaiyaraja to compose music for his movie ‘vyamOham’. Starring Adoor Bhasi, Mohan and Lakshmi, the movie was a remake of Sridhar’s ‘pOlicekaaran magaL’. The album has Janaki singing the dainty ‘poovadikalil’ (solo version and duet version with Yesudas), and ‘neeyO nyaanO’ with Jayachandran. Replete with the early orchestral wonders of IR, the songs are keepsakes of an alluring era of film music.


Listen to ‘poovadikalil’ from vyamOham (1978)
Sung by Yesudas & Janaki
Lyrics by Dr. Pavithran
Music by Ilaiyaraja

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‘paalaruvi paadivaru’ from dhooram arikE (1980) is another early IR-Janaki delight. paneer pushpangaL found its way to Malayalam as panineer pookkaL (1981), and Janaki sang ‘poonthaLir aadi’ with Yesudas. Another IR album that is monopolized by Janaki is ‘garjanam’ (1984), dubbed from Rajnikant’s ‘garjanai’. The year 1982 holds an exalted place in the chronicle of the IR-Janaki partnership; two albums that were sheer magic came out that year… One was ‘aalOlam’ starring K.R. Vijaya, Gopi and Nedumudi Venu. Janaki had two beautiful solos in ‘aalOlam’- ‘thanal virikkan kuda nivarthum’ and ‘veeNe veenE’ on which four years later IR would build his ‘oNNaa reNdaa thamaparippoo’ (thazhuvaatha kaigaL).


Listen to ‘veeNE veeNE’ from aalOlam (1982)
Sung by S. Janaki
Lyrics by Kavalam Narayana Panicker
Music by Ilaiyaraja

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The other album of 1982 that I am referring to is, of course, OlangaL. Balumahendra roped in Amol Palekar, Poornima Jairam and Ambika for his take on Erich Segal’s ‘Man, Woman and Child’, and for this ‘OlangaL’, Ilaiyaraja went to town with the immortal tune ‘thumbi vaa’. And who else but Janaki could perceive the scintillating vistas envisaged by the maestro and render that aural extravaganza! IR was so besotted by the tune that he reused in other languages as well, with Janaki rendering them again and again, and yet again. I have a colleague from Kerala here who has retained this tune as his mobile ring tone, and every time he receives a call, all my carefully drawn up work schedules go haywire, for I soar to a faraway world of enchantment where time seems to stand still and the mere thought of work would seem blasphemous…


Listen to ‘thumbi vaa’ from OlangaL (1982)
Sung by S. Janaki
Lyrics by O.N.V. Kurup
Music by Ilaiyaraja

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‘vezhambal kElum vEnal kudeeram’ is another treasure that the album stores, this one by Yesudas supported superbly by Janaki’s humming. ‘aa raathri’ (1983) directed by Joshi, with Mammootty, Rathish and Poornima Jairam in its cast is another memorable IR album. Whilst the Yesudas- Janaki duet ‘ee neelima than charuthaiyil’ is certainly pleasing, it was the Janaki solo ‘kiLiyE kiLiyE’ that found repeated airtime. ‘manjaLum kuLirum’ with Krishnachandran (sandhyakku virinja poovu/1983) and ‘priyanE uyir neeyE’ with Yesudas (pin nilaavu/1983) are two dazzling duets that defy the ravages of time. K. Vishwanath’s grand musical ‘saagara sangamam’ was dubbed in Tamil as ‘salangai oli’, while it retained its original name for the Malayalam version. Janaki was the mainstay of IR’s wonderful album in all the languages. If in ‘mounamaan nEram’, Janaki was wooed by SPB, in ‘mounam pOlum madhuram’ it is the tender timber of Jayachandran that pleads to Janaki for succor.


Listen to ‘mounam pOlum madhuram’ from saagara sangamam (1983)
Sung by Jayachandran & S. Janaki
Lyrics by Sreekumaran Thampi
Music by Ilaiyaraja

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Balumahendra returned to Malayalam cinema with a remake of his Kannada movie ‘kOkila. Titled ‘oomakkuyil’, this movie had Y.G. Mahendran, Aruna and Poornima Jairam essaying the lead roles. ‘thaazhampoothali nin’ (Janaki), ‘OrmagaLE koode varoo’ (Yesudas & Janaki) and ‘kaattE kaattE’ (Jayachandran, Krishnachandran & Janaki) were songs crafted by IR that were heard all day long. The 1984 movie ‘onnanu nammal’ starring Mammootty, Mohanlal, Seema and Poornima Jairam had two duets, ‘kalkkandam chundil’ and ‘vaalittezhuthiya’ by Yesudas and Janaki that showcased IR’s renowned orchestral brilliance.


Appachan’s Navodaya came out with the enterprising 3D movie ‘My Dear Kuttichathan’ in 1984. Directed by Jijo and having the child actors Suresh, Sonia and Arvind in the lead, the movie was a splendid success and was dubbed into several other languages as well. I still remember watching it as a school kid agog with curiosity, and the hugely entertaining movie was all a child could ask for and more… If Ilaiyaraja’s awesome BGM was the talk of the town, his songs were no less… Janaki and Shailaja delighted us with their ‘aalippazham perukkaan’… Interestingly, IR had the Tamil version ‘chinna kuzhandhaigaLE’ sung by Vani Jairam and Sujatha.


Listen to ‘aalippazham perukkaan’ from My Dear Kuttichathan (1984)
Sung by S. Janaki & S.P. Shailaja
Lyrics by Bichu Thirumala
Music by Ilaiyaraja

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Fresh from his directorial debut with the Kannada movie ‘pallavi anupallavi’, Mani Ratnam ventured into Malayalam cinema in 1984 with a bold look at the trade union movement. Titled ‘unaroo’, the movie starred Mohanlal, Sukumaran, Ratish, Deepa and Satyakala. Janaki sang the enthralling ‘theeram thEdi Olam paadi’, which IR structured on his own ‘rOja ondRu muththam kEtkkum’ (kombErimookkan). The other song ‘deepamE’ is a boisterous joyride with Janaki making merry with Krishnachandran and Anto. Balumahendra made his third sojourn with ‘yaathra’ (1985) with Mammootty and Shobhana, and here again IR saves for Janaki the feet-tapping delight ‘yamunE ninnudE nenjil’


Listen to ‘yamunE ninnudE’ from yaathra (1985)
Sung by S. Janaki & chorus
Lyrics by O.N.V. Kurup
Music by Ilaiyaraja

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Director Bhadran came out with ‘poomukhapadiyil ninnEyum kaththu’ starring Mammootty, Mohanlal, Rehman, Sulakshana and Srividya in 1986. Music was by IR; Janaki and Yesudas sang the haunting ‘konchi karayallE’…


Listen to ‘konchi karayallE’ from poomukhapadiyil ninnEyum kaththu (1986)
Sung by Yesudas & S. Janaki
Lyrics by Bichu Thirumala
Music by Ilaiyaraja

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The other song ‘poonkkaatinOdum kiLikaLOdum’ is again a soothing Yesudas caress, with Janaki chipping in with a bewitching humming…


After a break of 6 years, IR and Janaki got together in Malayalam again in 1992 with Faazil’s ‘pappayudE swantham appoos’. Mammootty, Shobhana, Master Badshah and Suresh Gopi were in the cast. As in the case of each work of IR for Faazil, the movie had some exceptional songs, with two of them coming Janaki’s way. Even while portraying grief, Janaki is statuesque and stately in the poignant lullaby ‘en poovE pon poovE’.


Listen to ‘en poovE pon poovE’ from pappayudE swantham appoos (1992)
Sung by S. Janaki
Lyrics by Bichu Thirumala
Music by Ilaiyaraja

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The other Janaki solo from the album is the one that assumed the halo of an anthem for a while… such was its popularity… ‘Olathumbathilum ooyalaadum chellapayinkiLi’ the heartwarming visuals of a mother’s frolicsome capers to amuse her little son … she gives the child a bath, feeds him, plays with him, prays for his long life and health, dreams of the grand triumphs that await him…. Janaki bubbles with the rapture and warmth of motherhood… The album also has Yesudas singing another version of the song. The movie was dubbed in Tamil as ‘poovE pon poovE’, and the Tamil equivalent of the song is ‘sOlaipoondhendRalil oonjaladum chella painkiLi’ .


Listen to ‘Olathumbathilum’ from pappayudE swantham appoos (1992)
Sung by S. Janaki
Lyrics by Bichu Thirumala
Music by Ilaiyaraja

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Ilaiyaraja’s subsequent Malayalam albums did not feature Janaki. Nevertheless, their collaboration has yielded some of the finest moments of Malayalam film music; each song is an exquisite paradigm of perfection…. they are eternal mementos of the extraordinary empathy that existed between the composer and singer…

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