Veteran playback singer Vani Jairam, who sang over 10,000 songs across several Indian languages, died in the city on Saturday. She was 77 years old.
In a career spanning over five decades, the renowned singer had lent her voice to several songs across 19 languages which included Tamil Hindi, Telugu, Malayalam, Marathi, Odiya and Bengali. Armed with a voice that lent itself effortlessly to any raga, and rasaa, she delighted audiences across the country
Born on November 30, 1945 in Vellore, as Kalaivani, Vani Jairam was trained as a Carnatic singer and later learnt Hindustani classical music as well.
Her big break in films came with the Hindi film Guddi in 1971, where she sang three songs for composer Vasant Desai. Her mellifluous rendition of Hum ko mann ki shakthi dena in particular, has been hailed over the years. A few years later, she began to sing for Tamil films as well, with her song Malligai En Mannan Mayangum from the 1974 film Dheerkasumangali becoming a huge hit.
Over the course of her career, Vani Jairam worked with many renowned composers including Ilaiyaraaja, M.S. Viswanathan, Madan Mohan, R.D. Burman, and K.V. Mahadevan across languages and sang with singers S. P. Balasubrahmanyam, P.B. Srinivas and K.J. Yesudas among others.
Apart from multiple State awards, she also received the National Award thrice - in 1975 for her songs from Apoorva Ragangal and in 1980 and 1981 for her songs in the Telugu films Sankarabharanam and Swathi Kiranam. She also recorded several devotional albums, and performed all over the globe extensively.
Padma Bhushan award
The Government of India, last month, announced that Jairam, who completed 50 years as a playback singer in 2021, would receive the Padma Bhushan award, the third-highest civilian award, for her contribution to music.
In a short interview to The Hindufollowing the announcement of the Padma awards, Jairam said that she was very thankful for the support of her fans who had been listening to her songs for the last 52 years. She was remembered by members of the film fraternity and music industry as someone extremely soft-spoken and humble, and as an artiste whose career and craft had inspired many singers over the years.
According to Chennai Police sources, Jairam was alone at her home when she passed away. Her domestic aide Malarkodi, who came in on Saturday morning, found the house locked from inside and there was no response when she rang the doorbell. She went to the neighbour’s house, and they, in turn, called Jairam’s sister Uma, and alerted the police. Thousand Lights Police personnel got to her house and opened the door using the extra key from Ms. Uma, who had also reached by then.
Police sources added that it seemed that Jairam had fallen and hit her head on a table. There was a slight injury mark on her forehead. The body was sent to the Government Royapettah Hospital for a post-mortem. Police were treating this as an unnatural death and began an investigation. Her body was later taken to her residence on Saturday evening.
Condolences poured in from political leaders and members of various film industries. Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that the talented singer would be remembered for her melodious voice and rich work, which covered diverse languages and reflected different emotions.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.K. Stalin, said that Jairam’s death was an irreplaceable loss to the music industry. Tamil Nadu Governor R.N. Ravi visited Jairam’s residence and paid tributes.