S.Janaki’s songs in Malayalam – Part VI


The Nightingale in God’s Own Country- Part VI


K.J. Joy is another composer who belonged to the same decade as Shyam, and the joys that he brought to Malayalam film music in the late 70s and early 80s are varied and many. Tamil film enthusiasts would probably remember him as the composer of the breezy ‘sippiyin uLLE muththaadum seithi’ (yaarukku yaar kaaval/1979). Joy was not as prolific as Shyam though, and this was not because he was lacking in talent; it was only because he was a much sought-after instrumentalist, playing the accordion and combo-organ for most composers of the South and had little time to explore further his capabilities as a music composer. However, in the 65 movies that he did score the music for, he has proved his composing skills in ample measure.


Janaki got to sing many of Joy’s creations, and ensured that each outing was memorable. The 1977 movie ‘aaradhana’ starring Madhu and Saradha had 3 Yesudas-Janaki duets, ‘pon thaamarakaL’, ‘aarO aariraarO’ and ‘thaaLam thaaLathil’. While ‘pon thaamarakaL’ endears itself with its delightful accordion passages, and ‘aarO aariraarO achantE mOl aariraarO’ lulls the listener with its tranquil warmth, it is the caressing ‘thaaLam thaaLathil’, that catches my fancy with its soft, seductive appeal. Janaki is so secretive, bashful, yet aroused; Yesudas is so tender in serenading his inamorata; Joy throws over the song a cloak of a nocturnal fantasy…


Listen to ‘thaaLam thaaLathil’ from aaradhana (1977)
Sung by Yesudas & S. Janaki
Lyrics by Bichu Thirumala
Music by K.J. Joy

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In the same year, Janaki sang ‘kootilayoro kiLi’ composed by Joy for the movie ‘pattaLam janaki’. Oozing with the nectar of a honeyed voice rendering a heavenly composition, ‘amirthamozhukum gaanam’ (madalasa/1978) lives up to its lines. ‘ithanende vazhi’ was another 1978 movie had Janaki singing 3 songs for Joy- the solos ‘maNideepa naaLaam’ and ‘mElE neelakaasam’ besides the duet with Jayachandran, ‘sOmarasa salakaL’ and all of them enjoyed repeated airtime. However 1978 will always be remembered as the year in which Joy made Janaki render that stirring psalm, ‘lalitha sahasranaama japangaL’ in Babu Nanthancode’s ‘ahalya’. Supported by impassioned chorus voices, a deeply involved Janaki has uplifted the song to the eminence of an immortal bhajan…


Listen to ‘lalitha sahasranaama japangaL’ from ‘ahalya’ (1978)
Sung by S. Janaki & Chorus
Lyrics by Bichu Thirumala
Music by K.J. Joy

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‘thaaalippoovum kalyaaNappudavayum’(nakshatranagaLE saakshi/1979), ‘mazhamukil mayangi’ with Yesudas (tharangam/1979), ‘orE raga pallavi’ with Yesudas (anupallavi/1979), ‘ninakku njaan swantham’ (sikharangaL/1979), ‘jeevitha nritham’ (OrmakaLE vida tharoo/1980), ‘thEchi poovE mizhithurakoo’ (hridayam paadunu/1980), ‘alkayilO’ (muthuchippikaL/1980), ‘pakaram njaan’ (attimari/1981), ‘swarga laavanya shilpamE’ with Unni Menon (gurudakshina/1983), ‘veLuththappattin thattamaninju’ (Passport/1983) were the songs that Janaki sang in Joy’s music over the years.

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When Raveendran was struggling to find a foothold in cinema, it was M.S. Baburaj who gave him a break by offering him an opportunity to sing a duet ‘pavana ranjini’ in the 1969 Satyan-Madhu-Sarada starrer ‘veLLiyaazhcha’. And the singer with whom Raveendran sang this duet was none other than Janaki.


A decade passed by before Raveendran could get an opening to prove his mettle as a music director, and it was Sasikumar’s ‘choola’ (1979) starring Soman, PJ Anthony and Adoor Bhavani that marked the debut of the talented composer. In his very first album, Raveendran had reserved for Janaki a languorous, lilting duet with Yesudas, ‘sindhoora sandhyakku mounam’. Sasikumar retained Raveendran for his next venture ‘oru varsham oru maasam’ (1980) and Reveendran retained Janaki for that haunting solo ‘murukiya izhakaLil’.


1981 brought with it several unforgettable collaborations of Raveendran Maash with Janaki. Balachandra Menon’s ‘tharattu’ with himself in the cast along with Nedumudi Venu and Srividya, had the tantalizing Yesudas-Janaki duet ‘raagangaLE mOhangaLE poochoodum aathmaavin bhaavangaLE’. With Raveendran’s Harmonium (is it ‘sri maha ganapathim’ peeping out in the interlude?) as the alluring accompaniment, Yesudas and Janaki entice us to a musical odyssey…


Listen to ‘raangangaLE mOhangaLE’ from tharattu (1981)
Sung by Yesudas & S. Janaki
Lyrics by Bharanikkavu Sivakumar
Music by Raveendran

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For the Sukumaran-Jalaja starrer ‘swarnapakshi’, Raveendran composed a beautiful solo for Janaki, ‘thaamara poovilaayaalum veeNa meetukayayaalum’. In the same year came what is considered to be among Raveendran’s best ever albums and the one that propelled him to fame – ‘thEnum vayambum’. Starring Prem Nazeer, Mohanlal and Sumalata, the movie is remembered for Raveendran’s brilliant compositions. The title song had 2 versions- one by Yesudas and the other by Janaki; both versions found instant, widespread appeal.


Listen to ‘thEnum vayambum’ from thEnum vayambum (1981)
Sung by S. Janaki
Lyrics by Bichu Thirumala
Music by Raveendran

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The tune found its way to Tamil four years later when Raveendran reworked on it as ‘paadi azhaithEn’, again in 2 versions by Yesudas and Janaki, for the movie ‘rasigan oru rasigai’.


For Balachandra Menon’s 1982 movie ‘chiriyO chiri’, Raveendran had Janaki sing in a child’s voice, and what an absolute riot the song ‘kokkamandi’ is! ‘mazha nilavu’, ‘changatham’, ‘aadyathE anuraagam’, ‘prasnam gurutharam’, ‘aattakalasam’, ‘kingini kombu’, ‘thaaLam thettiya thaaraattu’ were Raveendran’s albums of 1983 that had Janaki singing songs of diverse delights. Bharathan’s ‘ithiri poovE chuvanna poovE’ with Mammootty, Rahman, K.R. Vijaya and Shobhana in the cast was released in 1984, and ‘Omana thinkal kidaavo paadi paadi njaan ninne urakkaam’, the song that Janaki sang in Raveendran’s music ranks among the best ever lullabies to have found place in Malayalam cinema.


‘chiriyil njaan kettu geetham sangeetham’ with Yesudas and ‘dahamadaham’ (manassE ninakku mangalam/1984), ‘yamam kuLiru peyyum’ (sapatham/1984), ‘pinangunnuvO nee vayal kuruvi’ (enganEyundasanE/1984), ‘ambala poovE nin’ (kayyum thalaiyum purathidaruthu/1985), ‘aamukham kaNda naaL’ with Satish Babu (yuvajanOlsavam/ 1986) were some songs that Janaki sang for Raveendran in the following years. With Raveendran settling for the talented youngster Chithra for most of his compositions from the mid- 80s, we do not find Janaki appearing much in Raveendran’s ensemble thereafter.


However, Janaki did display flashes of her prodigious brilliance in the sporadic songs that Raveendran Maash called upon her to sing in the later years. As late as 1995, in Director Kamal’s ‘mazhayethum munpE’ starring Mammootty and Shobhana, Raveendran had Janaki render the delicate ‘chichaa chichaa’.


Listen to ‘chichaa chichaa’ from mazhayethum munpE (1995)
Sung by S. Janaki
Lyrics by Kaithapram
Music by Raveendran

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In an album that had songs by much younger singers such as Chithra and Sujatha, the veteran manages to hold her own in this delectable number. It is Janaki’s sheer exuberance that keeps the enchantment intact…listen to her breaking out into a rapturous ‘thaththana thana’ midway, as though exclaiming with wondrous joy at the beauty of the composition…


In the following year, Raveendran created an unforgettable set of songs for Balachandra Menon’s ‘April 19’. Janaki was the mainstay of the album. While her duets with Yesudas ‘mazha peithaal kuLiraanennu’ and ‘devikE nin meyil vasantham’ glitter with the genius of the composer, it is the semi-classical ‘sharapoli maala chaarthi’ that is the stunning jewel in the crown.


Listen to ‘sharapoli maala chaarthi’ from April 19 (1996)
Sung by Yesudas & S. Janaki
Lyrics by S. Ramesan Nair
Music by Raveendran

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When Janaki got to render this song, forty years had gone by since her debut in Malayalam. In valiant defiance of the inevitable ravages of age, the blessed chanteuse comes out with a stellar performance, matching the scholarly Yesudas, line by line, note by note. Listen to her breathtaking aalaap in the end… bravura!

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