Gayatri Sundaram narrates the story of a unique mother-son relationship which sometimes may debase our prejudices and centuries old equations. It breaks all the pragmatic barriers and reaches the pinnacle of an all-for-love resolution when we came to know that the mother in the story is none other than the Nightingale of South India, S.Janaki.
If Home is a place where our mother is, Abhilash has two homes, as he is blessed with two mothers – one in Pudukad, Kerala and another one in Chennai. You might feel all the more jealous of him if you came to know who is his second mother other than the one with whom he is genetically tied up – she is no one but S.Janaki, the undisputed melody queen of South India!!!
Getting an autograph from a person, whom we admire, is itself a great thing, bliss. Even a scribble from that hand on a piece of paper makes goose bumps. But Abhilash, who has been in a world of S.Janaki’s melodies from lullabies to fast numbers could gate-crash not only into her residence at Chennai, but as her endeared ‘Kannan’ into her heart also.
Both gates are ever open for this young Electronics Engineer from Kerala. This strange but subtle relationship outreaches all our prejudices and equations. When we came to know about Abhilash’s untiring endeavors to bring laurels to a ‘deliberately forgotten’ talent, Janakiamma, we would stand agape, as we have become habituated in the art of forgetting.
When asked about their first meeting, Abhilash was elated. Like a kindergarten kid singing a rhyme, he started to narrate the flashback with speaking eyes. It pulls us back to 26 years, opens with a frame of Radhamani (his mom) cradling the baby Abhilash humming the lullabies of S.Janaki. Then the school-boy in the uniform buying cassettes of S.Janaki hits from the near by shops. (As the time passed by) then, it pans into CDs and at a time when the scene changes to Infopark, Kochi where we see him in the shoes of an Electronics Engineer, hand picking even a bit of paper in which the name S.Janaki is written. He starts collecting the songs of S.Janaki even from abroad.
Abhilash is head-over-heels in love with S.Janaki and her songs. He made all his acquaintances redounded to the advantages of getting any information or song of S.Janaki.
“Now, I have a collection of 8,500 songs of Janakiamma as recorded in CDs. And it has all the details with which the song is related to – such as the film, the music director, the actors in the scene, the category and like….” Says Abhilash hushed as a kitten. “It was in 2004 I first met Janakiamma. At that time I was in Sharjah. I used to write in blogs about Janakiamma and thus could come across with one Dr.Sreekumar who was also an ardent admirer of Amma.”, continued an overwhelmed Abhilash. “One day I got a call from Dr.Sreekumar and he asked me ‘which is your favourite song of S.Janaki?” I said ‘Keasaadipaadam..”. Then he said that he is going to hand over the phone to someone else. Then, over that phone, I heard a voice, the one with which I have been tethered with love and piety – it was Janakiamma. She asked me to come over there and I set out to Dr.Sreekumar’s apartment as if drifting.”
A unique liaison was being created there in that apartment. The legendry singer sang for her devoted adherent his favorite songs, she started making calls to his home down in Kerala, chatting with his mother Radhamani who gave lips to her songs when Abhilash was in the cradle….Abhilash grabbed all the freedom a mother gives her son, from that skylark of South India. She prepared feasts with boiled rice for her son from Kerala, brushing aside her routine raw rice. He made frequent visits to her home in Chennai.
Once when such a feast was going on in the simply decked dining room in Janakiamma’s home, Abhilash got dumb stuck when she extended a ball of rice into his mouth. He then came to know that there is nothing like a mama-hug.
As the Nightingale of South India, S.Janaki hardly needs any introduction. But for Abhilash, S.Janaki is the way and destination. From the lips of his mom, through the old Sanyo tape-recorder, the way leads to a grand collection of CDs with S.Janaki’s hits decorating his newly built home. at Pudukkadu. Anyone from anywhere can ask for any filmy or non-filmy song of S.Janaki — Abhilash is ready to give the same. Now, if S.Janaki sings a song, the cassette or CD reaches Abhilash even before it gets to the singer!!
.While talking about S.Janaki, a quiet Abhilash becomes eloquent:
S.Janaki, can be equated with Cleopatra as far as her music life is concerned. “Age cannot wither her..nor custom stale her infinite variety…”. The evergreen singer is untainted by age, going strong and still as sweet as honey. She has got any classical training in her life. But, while listen to her singing seven ‘swaras’ with variant shades of ‘raagas’, one cannot simply believe this fact. Then if you make a call , you can hear her wheezing over the phone. Still she casually records her breathless ‘charanams’ merging into ‘pallavi’ sans any deviation from ‘shruthi’. If asked she would reply,” it’s not me; it’s Lord Krishna who sings it as you hear”.
She has been the favorite singer of M.B.Sreenivasan. M.B.S. has really ‘exploited’ her gifted voice in order to render an ethereal beauty to his songs. When Janakiamma sings for M.B.S. that song becomes endeared to everybody. With Baburaj Master also she was quiet comfortable.
Earlier Devarajan Master, the musical maestro of Malayalam, had criticized her for her voice. But in his last days he opened up to the media :” In my musical life I had been confronted with umpteen musical personalities But out of that many, only 3 persons are really worthy to note – the first one is S.Janaki, next two are M.B.S. and S.P.Balasubramaniam..”.
Now, Abhilash is under two noteworthy missions pertaining to his Janakiamma. One is a book on S.Janaki, her life, her songs and her experiences with every song she blew life into. The second one is a Tamil Album titled ‘namma ayyappa’, of Ayyappa Devotional songs.
A song in that album by S.Janaki is based on a theme by Abhilash. “It is a lullaby written by the renowned Tamil lyricist Mr.Sada. It is my wish to make it play regularly at Sabarimala after the ‘Harivaraasanam’(a routine soothing song by Dr.K.J.Yesudas,to make the Lord sleep after every day’s pooja). This particular song is visualized as a child-less grandma singing to Baby Ayyappa. Discussions with the Devaswam Board (Temple authority) are under progress. If they agree for the same, I think it would be the greatest gift the State of Kerala can give away to a singer who has sung for its 3 generations”, winks a positive Abhilash.
Next thing a son has to do is to bring his home-bound mom into the limelight again. His hushed voice rises up when he talks about the ignorance and negligence, the aesthetically high Indians rendered to his gifted mom. “See, umpteen Padma Awards are being given to various known and unknown personalities across the nation each year. I am not a person to scrutinize its relevance or authenticity. But Jankaiamma hasn’t been nominated for a Padma Award unto date. She is all deserved to win such a title…”
It has been for 55 years, we started hearing the euphonic voice of S.Janaki. She has sung more than 27,000 songs in 18 various languages. With her magical voice generations shared their feels whether in joy or in sorrow. Especially for South Indians she sang for their being, stirred them with romance and nostalgia, and soothed their wounds with her mellifluous voice. Her voice became the voice of love and romance. At nights her fairy songs seduced us, charmed the youth, tempted the senses….She has been feasted the music lovers with her multi-farious voice modulations. For decades she has been mesmerizing us with her melodious renderings of lyrics whether meaty or skin-deep ……..Her range of singing spreads over the music-terrains encompassing pious, romantic, off-colored, rebellious, melancholic, comic, philosophical, fast, melodic, soothing and so on.. When she sings with the same style giving lips to a little child, its mother and grandmother simultaneously we bow to that unparallel talent which hypnotizes our conscience.
When Abhilash starts spilling over his Janakiamma’s reaches that bear all the rights to win a Padma Award, there won’t have any counter-claim with us. As such he made a written memorandum requesting the Central Government to consider S.janaki for a Padma Award. Wandering across the State of Sharjah he collected more than 1000 signatures. Those who signed in the memorandum included music whiz Shareth and singers like Madhu Balakrishnan, G.Venugopal, Devanand, Sayanora, Franco and various other film personalities other than the generations whose cradles were rocked by S.Janaki’s songs.
Once when Mr.M.A.Baby, the Cultural Affairs Minister of Kerala visited Sharjah, Abhilash got the chance to submit this memorandum to him. “On going through the memorandum the Minster assured me that this time the first name recommended by the State would be of Ms.Janaki. But when the list of the names came out there was not even a mentioning of Janakiamma…” Abhilash remarked with chips down.
“But one day, I came to know that in a TV channel interview the Minister himself had expressed his regret on this issue. However, I pursued with the mission. Now I am in a run to knock all the doors of related authorities including the Prime Minsiter and the President with the same request again and again. But what amazes me is that every one I approach asks me with wonder “Hadn’t she got any Padma Award yet?”. See, Janakiamma deserves it, that is why people reacts like this..” says Abhilash.
At the same time S. Janaki is sitting quiet at her home in Chennai unaware of her son’s ongoing ‘mischief’. When asked about S.Janaki’s reaction on this issue, Abhilash put his finger on the lips “Please, don’t say anything about this to Janakiamma.. She will kick me off.”
But the last time when he met S.Janaki, it was a tear-jerking milieu. Abhilash was leaving for Bahrain. After the lunch, Abhilash indirectly flung a question “What do you say about getting a Padma Bhooshan or Padma vibhooshan ?”.
Patting on his head she replied. “You are my precious jewel.. My fans across the nation are my pearls and diamonds..Then, why should I need any other ‘bhooshan’? I’m contented.”
(bhooshan and vibhooshan are Sanskrit words connoting ornaments)