A brief score
After a flash of promise in the Seventies, singer Sreekanth faded into oblivion.
WHILE SINGING the song, Ithihaasangal janikkum munbe, set to tune by G. Devarajan, Sreekanth was ill, but tried hard to hide it.
"The song was a dream number. If I said that I was running a fever, Devarajan maash would have turned that song over to someone else. To date, maash doesn't know that I had been ill that day," he says. The song, which marked the acme of Sreekanth's career, is still remembered.
Sreekanth has had just a cursory training in classical music. But he was noticed when he won the first prize in the All-India Light Music competition conducted by All India Radio in 1972. He went on to sing more songs of the light music variety. The break came two years later, when singer-composer M. G. Radhakrishnan sent Sreekanth over to Devarajan, who was then scouting around for a new singer with experience at the AIR.
Devarajan suggested that Sreekanth hone his skills in classical music. "Devarajan maash requested (M.) Balamuralikrishna to teach me, but the maestro was otherwise engaged," says Sreekanth. He then learnt under Somasekhara Babu, a student of G. N. Balasubramaniam.
Sreekanth's career as a singer in films was brief. Starting in 1974 at the age of 23, with the song Abhilaasha mohitha in `Bhaarya Illatha Raathri', Sreekanth sang in over 60 films, mostly in the Seventies.
Other songs of his that were noticed are Kailaasa Shailaadrinaatha (`Swami Ayyappan'), Chandrakiranangal (`Amma') with Vani Jayaram, Mrigaanga bimbam udhichu (`Romeo') and Paarvana sashikala (`Neela sari').
The early numbers that he sang had been the creation of the legendary duo: Vayalar-Devarajan. They had named him as Sreekanth. "My name is Sasidharan. In Chennai, there was another singer on the up, with the same name. To avoid a mix-up, Devarajan and Vayalar renamed me," he says.
After 1978, few songs came his way and Sreekanth left Chennai for Thiruvananthapuram. This spelt finis to his career in films. To eke out a living, he turned to singing at ganamelas, as he had done while in high school. In 2001, he sang for a film, but the film remains in the cans.
TV gave a new lease of life to this singer. He says, "Besides being featured on Doordarshan, I recently sang 13 songs for the Amrita TV channel."
But for a play of Providence, Sreekanth's career might have charted a different course. "I was to sing the song, Chandrakalabham Chaarthiyurangum theeram, composed by Devarajan maash. To get it right, I practised for three weeks. But in the end, the chance slipped by as the producer was adamant that Jesudas sing it. The song went on to become an all-time hit. As compensation, I was offered the song, Baghawan, Baghawan, Prakrithiyae srishticha in the same film. This song went unnoticed. The loss saddens me," Sreekanth says.
He also feels that he should have stayed back in Chennai. "After I returned, I became so frustrated that I even developed an aversion to music," he says. He did try to go back to Chennai three years ago. "Music director Ravindran asked me to come over. Johnson too was enthusiastic about it, but nothing worked out," he adds.
Sreekanth, now 52, remembers with gratitude the thousand rupees he was paid by Maryland Subramaniam for his first song. He is supremely grateful to his mother, Ponnamma, too. "She egged me on to sing in music troupes and to enter for the AIR competition," he says.
Ponnamma feels her son has been singularly unlucky. "He started out well, but ended at the bottom of the stack." What consoles her is that his song, Ithihaasangal janikkum munbe, is still remembered by music-lovers, with nostalgia.
PRAKASAM K. UNNI
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