Veteran playback singer P. Jayachandran is a class apart. He is the recipient of the Kamukara award for 2011.
P. Jayachandran has not changed, nor has his voice. The singer, who has been in the film industry for more than four decades, is still the merry amateur. He is outspoken, full of fun, loves to talk, share a laugh, enjoys music and is one who, in this very professional field, has not bothered to market himself.
Jayachandran's voice has a sort of liquidity to it. You can spot it a mile off, which is remarkable in this time of musical clones. And his voice is still as dulcet as ever. The singer is this year's recipient of the Kamukara award.
“People who matter to me have consistently told me that I need to change with the times. But, frankly, I can't. Maybe I'm wrong but that's how I am. I can't make small talk with a music director in the hope that he would consider me for his next film. And if at all he does and gives me a couple of songs, how is that going to matter?” asks the singer who nostalgically lives and loves the music of what he calls the ‘golden era.'
Not surprising for someone who was groomed and nurtured during that phase. “There are singers who have been able to reconcile with the changing trends and times. But I'm not like that. I miss singing in the studio with the orchestra; a system, I believe, that brings out the best in a singer. I have been fortunate to be groomed by some of the greatest composers, sung with some amazing singers, and been in the company of stalwarts of the film industry. After all this, I find in the kind of music churned out today, this ‘instant' system of making, singing, and recording songs, a huge fall.”
Jayachandran has a point when he says that a majority of people involved in the industry today have no inkling about music. “I have found producers, directors and even music directors dictating terms with very little knowledge about the subject. So I keep to myself these days, choosing to sing only those songs which I can do justice to.”
Unlike most singers, who often sound diplomatic when it comes to music directors, Jayachandran is frank and firm in his views. Although he has high regard for V. Dakshinamoorthy, M.S. Baburaj, K. Raghavan, M.K. Arjunan and Raveendran, he considers M. S. Viswanathan (MSV) and G. Devarajan to be the greatest of them all. “I was introduced to Tamil films by MSV. My first song in Tamil was for ‘Manippayal…' I don't know what this great person saw in me. He seemed to have confidence in me and my singing. Later on MSV gave me a lot of songs in Tamil and Malayalam. In fact, my first Kerala State award was for his song ‘Suprabhatham….' in ‘Panitheeratha Veedu.'
“Devarajan Master was more than a guru, a father figure. I owe my singing career to him. Listen to my early songs and you'll notice how flawed and loose they were. Devarajan Master corrected it. He taught me how words must be rendered to make it effective. Those were lessons in voice culture.”
Jayachandran remembers how Devarajan Master would put a singer at ease at recordings. “He used to make us rehearse for days. We were asked to sing at a difficult pitch and we did till our throats became sore. Then for the recording he would set the song in a scale that was comfortable to the singer. With all that hard work gone in, the recording would invariably turn out good. He was a maestro. Devarajan Master was perhaps the only music director who was in complete command. No one, not even the producer, could arm-twist him to make compromises.”
More than 15,000 songs in various South Indian languages and Hindi, National and State awards for best singer, Jayachandran considers himself lucky to have reached where he is today.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I think I could achieve all this. I always loved music, but never thought singing would be my career. Songs have played a significant role in my life. The lab assistant in college was ‘bribed' with a song (‘Kannuneer muthumaayi…') to help with my chemistry practical exams. Then, while working for Parry & Co. in Chennai I used to sing after finishing for the day. There were objections that I was too loud and distracting. When these protests became too vociferous I decided to quit. It was a turning point.”
Jayachandran had to go through the grind in the beginning but never looked back once he got the right breaks.
“Again, I think I was very lucky. I came into the scene when legends ruled and music was very integral to films. Music directors were kind to me. For instance, ‘Neelamala poonkuyile…' (‘Ponnum Poovum') was originally sung by S. P. Balasubramaniam but Raghavan Master insisted that I sing it. The producer and director did not agree but Raghavan Master stuck to his guns.”
If there is something that Jayachandran regrets it is not being able to formally train in classical music. “I used to play the mridangam from my schooldays and was part of St. Cecilia Music Club troupe. I never missed a chance to listen to a Carnatic concert. But I went only to listen to the mridangam, such as the magical double taniavarthanam by Palakkad Mani Iyer. But I never was able to learn it scientifically.”
Stickler for tradition
However, being a stickler for tradition, Jayachandran feels that if had learnt Carnatic music he would not have been willing to compromise on the music to sing film and light music. “This would have affected my singing career. I did not take the risk. In fact, Devarajan Master once told me that he would have given me more songs if I had studied Carnatic music.”
Despite his lack of classical training Jayachandran went to render some memorable semi-classical songs such as the award-winning ‘Ragam sreeragam…'
“In all these songs I was just trying to imitate the music directors as best as I could,” he says. Interestingly, Jayachandran has sung just one Hindi song – ‘Milo wahaan wahaan…,' with Alka Yagnik from the film ‘Ada.' It was a huge hit.
Jayachandran's solos are still evergreen.
“I don't think I have done anything great. The singers with me have contributed a lot. Throughout the years I have just uttered some sounds, which the lyricists and music directors have turned into wonderful tracks. I'm nothing as a singer.”
‘Pinneyum inakili…' ‘Aalmaram' (with S. Janaki)
‘Yamune Yadukula rathidevan…' ‘Rest House' (S. Janaki)
‘Seethadevi swayamvaram…' ‘Vazhvemayam' (P. Susheela)
‘Malikabaanan thante…' ‘Achani' (P. Madhuri)
‘Sharadindu malardeepam…' ‘Ulkadal' (Selma George)
‘Palazhipoomanke…' ‘Prasnam Gurutharam' (Vani Jayaram)
‘Shishirakaala meghamidhuna…' ‘Devaragam' (K. S. Chitra)
‘Swayamvara chandrike…' ‘Chronic Bachelor' (Sujatha)
‘Ariyaathe ariyaathe…' ‘Ravanaprabhu' (K. S. Chitra)
‘Kallayikadavathe…' ‘Perumazhakalam' (Sujatha)
Keywords: P. Jayachandran