Rocking at 74

L. R. Eswari. Photo: S. Ramesh Kurup   | Photo Credit: S. Ramesh Kurup

L. R. Eswari may not be as celebrated as melody queens P. Suseela and S. Janaki are but she certainly did make her presence felt in the music industry. Although she is known for racy dance numbers, this singer with a versatile voice did render some melodious tunes too. Take ‘Omana Pattumayi’, a beautiful composition by K. Raghavan for the movie Archana or ‘Kakkakkuyile cholloo’, her melting duet with Yesudas, for instance.

“‘Kakkakkuyile cholloo’ is one of my favourite Malayalam songs. It was beautifully tuned by V. Dakshinamoorthy. He was such a talented composer and I enjoyed working with him,” says Eswari. Some of her biggest chart-toppers in Malayalam cinema, she says, were Muslim songs, most of them composed by M.S. Baburaj. “‘Oru kotta ponnundallo...’ and ‘Pullimanalla mayilalla...’, both from Kuttikkuppayam, are still among the most popular Oppana numbers, 50 years after they were first heard,” she says.

Another song from the film, ‘Ummaykkum bappaykkum...’ proved how at home Eswari was in a soulful melody, too. But, it was fast numbers that she continued to get to sing. Those songs, such as ‘Oru kudukka ponnu tharam...’ and ‘Ee chiriyum chiriyalla...’, both from Subaida, and ‘Kurukuru mecham pennundo...’ and ‘Madhurapoovana...’, both from Kuppivala, were hits and she established herself as a singer to reckon with in Malayalam cinema.

Full of gratitude

“I would have loved to sing more melodies in Malayalam, but I believe I got the songs that I was destined to get. I am grateful to composers such as Baburaj, Raghavan, Devarajan, Dakshinamoorthy and M.S. Viswanathan, who also gave me some evergreen songs in Tamil. It was Viswanathan (along with his collaborator T.K. Ramamurthy) and K.V. Mahadevan, who helped me find my feet as a playback singer,” the 74-year-old reminisces.

Her first big hit was ‘Varaayen thozhi varaayo...’ ( Pasamalar), composed by Viswanathan-Ramamurthy in 1961. “When I was given the song, Viswanathan told me that I would make it big as a singer, if I sang it well. He had so much confidence in that song. It became popular instantly and it is lovely to see it being played during marriages in Tamil Nadu even now,” says Eswari, who began her career as a chorus singer.

She has several hits in Tamil, including ‘Pattathu rani...’ ( Sivantha Mann), ‘Elandha pazham...’ ( Panama Pasama) and ‘Chithira poovizhi...’ ( Idaythil Nee), a duet with Suseela. Her last song was also in Tamil, in 2012, ‘Kalasala kalasala...’ ( Osthi).

She hasn’t sung in Malayalam for a long time, although her last song in Mollywood, ‘Ayala porichathundu...’ ( Venalil Oru Mazha) was a big hit. “I like performing at live shows,” she says. Age certainly has not withered her enthusiasm.

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Printable version | Sep 17, 2021 8:20:07 AM |

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