Menon means melody

Not against peppy numbers.

Not against peppy numbers.  

EVEN AS it was hard-hitting the previous night with the event managers in the musical nite, Unni Menon, the possessor of the mellifluous voice, was `cucumber cool' the next morn in a star hotel, ready to board the afternoon flight. Engaging him for a while for a chat, Menon came out frank about his entry, experiences and present position in the industry.

As it is for almost other film personalities, his foray into the field of playback singing was only ``accidental''. Working in a heavy vehicles factory in Chennai was boring, and he had no idea what to do. With a lot of interest in music, Menon used to love watching recording. ``But I never wanted to become a singer, though I had an inclination for it,'' he says.

Chidambaranath, a Malayalam music director, booked him for a song in `Amuthum Thenum'. Neither the film nor his first number was released. Was it not a discouraging upshot for him? ``Not at all. In fact, I was only thrilled to hear my voice amplified through speakers. I reproduced what was taught,'' he says with a smile. However, he seems to regret having entered the Kodambakkam ground without taking to classical music, though Menon's learning process is on.

Now that young music lovers know him more with his string of recent hits — `Minallai pidithu' (Shahjahan), `Enge antha venilla' (Varushamellaam Vasantham), `Ennai thaalattum' and `Yaar intha devathai' (Unnai Ninaithu) — and listeners of devotional songs through `Sri Ram, Jai Ram', is it possible for them to know that he was introduced by Ilayaraja in the name, Vijay, through the `Pon Maane' song in `Oru Kaithyin Diary'?

Sentiment, the indispensable part of cinema and those attached to it, goaded him to switch over to his original name. After getting a break in `Roja', Menon is going great with 1500 film numbers and 500 devotionals to his credit. But never does he hesitate to accept that Yesudas was instrumental in his success, especially in Malayalam. ``He pushed me to the forefront, asking the music directors to retain my voice for the song recorded in the track.''

Talking about the opportunities in Malayalam, he says; ``They promote only a few and neglect the young talents who are abundant, unlike in Tamil. In fact, many of the good singers like Udit Narayanan and Shankar Mahadevan are from Kerela.''

Why is it that 90 per cent of his are melodies? Menon takes the way it comes. But it is not that he is against peppy numbers.

His advice for the aspirants is, ``equip yourself with formal training in classical music, and no vocalist should come up like me.''

And for the playback singers who made it in their initial stage without the knowledge of the classical music, this inkling remains a pockmark how so ever reputed you are. Take SPB, for that matter.

By Meyyammai AR.

Photo: S. James

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