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Updated: January 28, 2013 19:32 IST

‘I deserve much more’

S. R. Ashok Kumar
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S. Janaki
S. Janaki

Veteran playback singer S. Janaki declined the Padma Bhushan, saying the honour had come too late to her. S. R. Ashok Kumar catches up with her

S. Janaki, whose name is synonymous with music, has been singing for more than five decades. She has been in the news for the past few days following the announcement of the Padma awards by the Central Government. She has decided not to accept the Padma Bhushan for which she has been chosen this year. When the award was announced, the legend was in Kerala visiting the holy shrine of Guruvayoor. In a telephonic interview, she stated the reasons for declining it. Excerpts:

On refusing the award…

I felt I have achieved a lot and therefore deserve much more than a Padma Bhushan. After saying no to it, I have been receiving non-stop calls from friends and fans who have appreciated my stand. I felt I should have been recognised earlier; I can’t help thinking the South is constantly being neglected.

Neglecting the South…

‘Bharat Ratna’ is an award that should be given to anyone who has rendered yeoman service to the country. The South too has abundant talent that deserves to be honoured. Maestro M.S. Viswanathan or Illaiyaraja has not been given the Bharat Ratna nor even Sivaji Ganesan. The Government, I feel, is neglecting the South. It’s a small group that decides who must get the Bharat Ratna or the Padma awards. Even people from the South who have got national recognition so far such as director Bapu and playback singer P. Leela deserve much more. Each is a legend in his/her own field. That’s why I felt someone had to do something about it.

Over five decades…

I started my career around the age of 15 or 16 (1957) and have been singing without a break. I have sung some wonderful songs for children, teenage girls, elderly women and in fact even boys and men. I have captured a range of emotions through my songs. After singing some 40,000 songs in 17 languages and getting four national and several state awards, I felt what they have given me now, after being in the field for 55 years, is too little. I think I deserve more, don’t I? P. Leela was given a Padma award posthumously. Why can’t the Government recognise people’s contribution when they are alive?

The best so far…

I was given the Best Singer Award by former President of India Rajendra Prasad for the song I sang in an All India Radio competition when I was a kid. More awards followed and I was happy to receive them all. But the doctorate I got from the Mysore University is really special to me. Apparently that university rarely makes such a gesture.

The easiest and the toughest…

Everybody used to say the ‘Singaravelana Deva’ song was very difficult to sing. But it was easy for me. The song I sang recently under the music direction of L. Vaidyanathan for a Kannada film was the toughest. It starts with the words ‘Siva Siva’ and is in two ragas — Thodi and Abogi. I was accompanied on the violin by M.S. Gopalakrishnan who said they could play the ragas and the gamakas on their instrument effortlessly, but singing them was not so easy. ‘What Janaki amma has done is remarkable.’

Her latest song in Tamil…

It’s for a Dhanush film under the music direction of Anirudh. The young composer is very talented and is sure to go places.

True, Janakiamma is a legend, she is right in saying that south indians get a raw deal in every field. Having said that, no one can aspire for a particular award, howsoever justtified it is. A polite refusal to accept the award would have conveyed her displeasure.

from:  devendhar
Posted on: Jan 31, 2013 at 08:03 IST

First of all, without any iota of doubt is a great singer. In her own
rights, she can either accept or reject the award based on her
reasoning. Although, it may be a fact that South Indians may have been
overlooked for some prestigious awards, I do not like individuals
making statements that they deserve more. She is a professional singer
and was paid for her services. period. She happened to be in a
profession that is being noticed by many for which she was recognized
and awarded. There are thousands of them who do their job thoroughly
and sincerely with passion (Teachers, Doctors, Public Servants and many
more) who may neither have thousands following them nor have been
recognized even once publicly. Hence, I humbly submit that at least
she was recognized and should feel grateful.

from:  Ganesh Krishnamurthy
Posted on: Jan 29, 2013 at 23:18 IST

@amit : Do you have any idea of who is S.Janaki...???
When she started her singing Sonu Nigam was hardly 2 or 3. Sung in all the 17 languages over 40,000.. Do you think that she doesnt have the right to express her anger.. India is big and its not just Hindi.. Grow up and start respecting artists beyond boundaries and languages. South Indians know most of the North Indian singers and love their songs. But, its not the case with the North Indians. So that they dont even know a part exist below Madhya Pradesh. Just to remind you abt her legacy.. There were so many songs that were simultaneously made in Hindi and in south indian langauges and in all those cases, Singers like Lata Di and Asha Di requested her to sing first and then they would sing later. Thats the respect they get from renowned artists. Its not that north Indian singers are bad.. they are extremely talented and down to earth. Thats y they have acheived more but the common man needds to know beyong Hindi. grow up

from:  swamy
Posted on: Jan 29, 2013 at 17:36 IST

The problem gets compounded when Padma Sris are bestowed on 'not so deserving' category of people - especially when the stalwarts were/are neglected. MSV is a notable omission. I wonder if TMS, PS & Manorama were given any Padma award. A pity that Nagesh wasn't recognized.

from:  Chandramouli
Posted on: Jan 29, 2013 at 15:58 IST

bharat ratna is for excellency in any field....when lata mangeshkar can
get bharat doubt other singers who are equal or more than her
should get...being silent for years dint work out and that's the reason
she came out with an explanation...
Hats off Janaki garu. You have done it rightly.

from:  siri
Posted on: Jan 29, 2013 at 14:21 IST

One cannot comment on her claim that she deserves the Bharat Ratna
award as 1.there are parameters determining the selection and 2. her
own view will naturally be subjective. Nevertheless,there is no doubt
whatsoever in her claim that artists in the South have always received
a raw deal in the matter of these awards. She is spot on there. The
instances she has cited are absolutely justified. Especially
considering some of the personalities who have been awarded the Bharat
Ratna and the Padma awards over all these years, the perception of a
clear bias in favour of North Indians and against South Indians and
also what is more saddening, a touch of political patronage too, is

from:  N.S.Rajan
Posted on: Jan 29, 2013 at 12:32 IST

I don't know,why all great artists, say such things in moments of glory, inviting unpleasant comments.
Smt Janaki's greatness will never be doubted.
I wish she had accepted the award.

from:  S.Loganathan
Posted on: Jan 29, 2013 at 11:38 IST

Again playing a south indian card for a award. No award should be given to such people who think only of their region and not the nation as a whole. This mentality prevails in south and it reflects in S. Janaki's comment. There are many others in the country who also deserve recognition,but she remembers only south. Disgusting attitude and thinking.

from:  Amit
Posted on: Jan 29, 2013 at 10:20 IST

No doubt that she deserves much more.

However, she should not have said it. That is to be acknowledged by

She must have just rejected the award without any justification or
explanation. Silence can do a lot more than noise. But it takes time and
demands patience and maturity.

from:  Sundararajan
Posted on: Jan 29, 2013 at 10:07 IST

She has all right to accept or reject the award. However she have
had a very successful and glorious musical legacy, and she must be
happy with what she got from the great musical career. and I
wouldn't think she must be honored with bharat-ratna.

from:  Jose
Posted on: Jan 29, 2013 at 04:15 IST

Bharat Ratna is for a person who sacrificed whole life in the interest
of the Nation but not for singers, actors and sport people.

from:  Lingesh
Posted on: Jan 29, 2013 at 00:14 IST
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