The nightingale of Malayalam turned 50 on Saturday but her songs are ageless. Just as her voice.
K.S. Chithra has been Malalayali’s favourite female voice for three decades now. And she continues to sound as fresh, as lovely as she did when she sang “Manjal prasadavum…” (Nakhakshathangal), one of the biggest hits early on in her career, in 1986.
All the innocence and sweetness of a teenaged heroine, played endearingly by the late Monisha in the MT-Hariharan classic, was captured by Chithra’s voice. She won a national award for that.
In the same album as Nakhakshathangal were the songs of Panchagni, in which she had rendered another beautiful melody, “Aa raathri manju poyee…”
The two compositions by Bombay Ravi, making a spectacular debut in Malayalam cinema, helped Chithra gain in popularity; that album, released by Tharangini, remains one of the most successful in Malayalam cinema’s history.
Jerry Amaldev’s “Alorungi arangorungi…” (Ente Mamattikuttiyammakku) and “Aayiram kannumayi…” (Nokketha Doorath Kannumnattu), Shyam’s “Poomaname…” (Nirakkoottu) and her mentor M.G. Radhakrishnan’s “Rajanee parayoo…” (Njan Ekananu) had already proved that she was no ordinary singer.
She was the first choice for top composers such as Jerry, Johnson, Ouseppachan and Raveendran and she gave one hit after another. A matchless voice, the ability to give emotion to every word and the very little time she took to learn a song made her the favourite with just about every music director.
For some three decades, almost every Malayalam film heroine sang in her voice.
She may not now be as busy , with today’s composers wanting to try out so many different voices as possible, for a variety of reasons, but very often she reminds us she is in a class of her own.
Just rewind to her rendition of M. Jayachandran’s “Hrudayathin madhupathram…” (Karayilekku Oru Kadal Dooram).
Chithra has admirers across southern India and even in Bollywood. Her first national award was for the Tamil film Sindhu Bhairavi. Ilayaraja’s “Padariyen padippariyen…” was pure magic, both in composition and rendering.
Her “Kehna hai kya…” (Bombay) for A.R. Rahman was chosen by the music critics of Guardian and Observer as one of the world’s ‘1000 love songs everyone must hear’ and was praised for her “extravagant vocal gymnastics”.
Chithra’s voice knows no boundary.