Nostalgia unlimited




In the year 1970, music director Vasant Desai introduced a new vani into Hindi filmdom - singer Vani Jairam. The film was Hrishikesh Mukherjee's `Guddi.' The semi-classical song `Bol re pappihara' became a hit and won Vani Jairam the prestigious Mian Tansen Award. Another song of hers in the same film - `Humko man ki shakthi dena' went on to become an all-time favourite prayer among school children.

The years that followed saw Vani singing for all popular Hindi music directors of the time - Chitragupt, Noushad, Madan Mohan, O.P. Nayyar, R.D. Burman, Kalyanji Anandji, Laxmikant Pyarelal, Jaidev and others. She was also singing for regional films in Marathi, Gujarathi, Bhojpuri and Oriya. Her songs in the film `Meera,' composed by Pandit Ravi Shankar, won her the Filmfare Award.

But by 1980, Vani Jairam had shifted her base to Chennai and had become a much-sought-after singer in Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam.

Explaining the reason for the shift, she says, "When I was singing for Hindi films, I used to often visit Chennai for concerts. People came to know that I was a Tamilian who sang Hindi songs. I began to get offers. I was very happy singing Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam songs. Initially, I shuttled between Bombay and Chennai. Then when the number of songs increased, I decided to settle down in Chennai.''

Was there a concerted bid at that time to keep her away from Hindi films by certain persons who could not accept her meteoric rise?

Vani Jairam smiles away the question.

Maybe it was all for the good, she adds, "Otherwise, I would have missed the joy of singing all those wonderful songs!"

Those `wonderful songs' were composed by top music directors such as K.V. Mahadevan, M.S. Viswanathan, Vijay Bhaskar, M.K. Arjunan, Dakshinamoorthy and Salil Chowdhury. And between 1976 and 1992, Vani Jairam won the National Best Singer Award thrice, once for a Tamil song and twice for Telugu songs.

As for Kerala's music lovers, Vani Jairam enchanted them with hits like `Sourayudhathil vidarnoru,' `Oru premalekhanam ezhuthi,' `Seemantha rekhayil,' `Ashadamasam,' `Maavinte kombilirunnu,' `Vaalkannezhuthi,' `Unaru unaru usha devathe,' `Dhoom thana,' and many more.

Vani, who had moved to Mumbai after her marriage to Jairam, says, "In Bombay, [Mumbai] it was he who encourgaed me to learn Hindustani music.''

She began intensive training in Hindustani music under Ustad Abdul Rehman of the Patiala gharana. Her strong foundation in Carnatic music, which she had been learning since childhood, helped her quickly grasp the technique of singing Hindustani. All the hard work bore fruit and she gave her first public concert in Bombay in March 1969. More light classical music concerts followed. Vasant Desai noticed her talent and she made her debut as a playback singer by recording Marathi songs for him. Then came `Bole re pappihara.'

Among music directors in Malayalam, Vani Jairam's favourites are M.K. Arjunan and Salil Chowdhury.

Her first Malayalam song `Sourayudhathil vidarnoru... ' was composed by Salil Chowdhury for the film `Swapnam.' Under M.K. Arjunan, she sang hits like `Thiru ona pulari,' `Thedi thedi,' `Vaalkannezhuthi,' `Maavinte kombilirunnu' and so on.

Even though she rarely sings for films, Vani Jairam continues to stage live concerts. She also has made a mark as a bhajan singer giving voice to the lyrics of Bhakti poets such as Tulsidas, Kabir, Surdas, Meera, Jayadeva, and Thukaram.

Vani Jairam has worked with the Kathak maestro Pandit Birju Maharaj for two cassettes of `Thumri Dadra Bhajan' and `Holi songs.' For her Gita Govindam cassette that was composed by Orissa's Prafullakar, Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra accompanied her on the pakhawaj.

"In Kerala, I have come mostly for `ganamelas.' Kerala has an appreciative audience and Malayalis have welcomed me wholeheartedly," she says.