Recognition for a voice artiste

Sharing the microphone with stalwarts in various fields.

Sharing the microphone with stalwarts in various fields.  

FOR THANKAMANI, who bagged the Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Akademi award for broadcasting announced last week, voice has been her metier.

All the accolades that she had won over the past three decades of her career can be attributed to her unmatched vocal virtuosity. Whether it is the announcement `Akashwani, Thrissur' familiar to thousands of radio listeners or the myriad characters that she has immortalised through innumerable radio plays, Thankamani's voice has singular warmth.

Childhood was not all that rosy for Thankamani, daughter of the great social reformer, playwright and poet M.R. Bhattathiripad. Her ambition was to learn Hindi to become a teacher so that she could augment the meagre income of her father. But it was only natural that MRB's daughter developed an insatiable urge for theatre. Her introduction to All India Radio (AIR) was as a child artiste at the Kozhikode station of AIR in 1967. Selected as a casual announcer next year, she was promoted as a permanent announcer in 1974.

A senior announcer at the Thrissur station of AIR at present, Thankamani is perhaps the only member of the staff who has worked at this station right from it inception in 1973. The teething constraints of a new station in recording productions such as radio plays are still fresh in her memory. C.L. Jose's `Vishachumbanam' was the first production from this station.

"At the Thrissur station, I had the rare privilege of sharing the microphone with stalwarts in various fields and I believe that this has moulded the artiste in me," Thankamani avers. She remembers how celebrities such as P.J. Antony, Balan K. Nair, Pariyanampetta and M.S. Namboodiri were frequent visitors to the studios.

Thankamani cannot recall the number of roles she has portrayed so far. But a role that lingers in her memory is that of a mentally challenged girl in the play `Prahelika.' And it continued to be a mark of her identity for a long time whenever she met radio listeners.

Soon, she got opportunities to hone her skill as a dubbing artiste. Film director Vincent approached her for his film `Theerthayaathra.' She lent her voice to Supriya. She has also dubbed for Suhasini in Shaji N. Karun's `Vanaprastham,' for Sridevi in `Thulavarsham,' for Mini Nair in `Niyogam' and `Desadanam,' for Archana in `Piravi,' for Aswathi in `Swam' and for Nirmala in `Oru Cheru Punchiri.'

She got the State film award for dubbing in 2001 for lending her voice to Suhasini in `Theerthadanam.'

But it was dubbing for the Malayalam version of Richard Attenborough's `Gandhi' that she found challenging. Recalls Thankamani, "It was with great trepidation that I dubbed for Rohini Hattangadi who portrayed Kasturba in the film."

When novelist C. Radhakrishnan wanted his award-winning novel `Nizhalpaadukal' to be recorded in an audiocassette, Thankamani was his choice. She is also the only woman to give an eyewitness account of the Elanjithara melam of Thrissur Pooram in a live broadcast in AIR. `Hridayapoorvam' and `Ganasallapam' are programmes that have endeared her to her listeners.

G.S. Paul

Photo: K.K. Najeeb

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