Do you remember the first song you recorded?
How can anyone forget their first song? It was composed by music director Subaraman for a Telugu film. Unfortunately, the film didn’t get released. It was in 1951, and now I’m 75. I’ve sung in 12 languages and have lost count of the number of songs; according to my fans, it should be 30,000 to 40,000.
You don’t sing much these days?
It’s not that I’ve stopped singing. I still give concerts in different places. These days, nobody knows who sings with whom. Recently, I sang a composition by M. S. Viswanathan for a Tamil film with my good friend T. M. Soundararajan.
You have started giving awards instituted in your name like Lata Mangeshkar in the North. One can’t help wondering why Lata has not thought of recognising talent from the South.
I feel our Mellisai Mannar (MSV) should not only get the Lata Mangeshkar Award but also the Dada Saheb Palke Award. This year, the Dr. P. Susheela National Award goes to S. P. Balasubramaniam.
Who’s your favourite among the young crop of singers? In what way does your Trust encourage young talent?
I like all the up and coming singers as well as those who have made a name for themselves such as Chitra and Swarnalatha. Our Trust encourages youngsters from Andhra Pradesh by giving them a gold medal. It is yet to start in Tamil Nadu.
What’s your take on remixes?
I don’t say remixes are bad. Only hit songs are remixed. I feel the new song only helps recall the original version.
Recently, A. R. Rahman appreciated your voice…
Rahman has a heart of gold. I’m happy to have sung for him. He has brought laurels to India. I wish him all the very best.