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4-min read

I'm What I'm Because of Janaki Amma: SP Balasubramanyam

Legend SP Balasubramanyam speaks to News18’s Poornima Murali and recalls the icon that is Janaki Amma. Here are some xcerpts from the interview.

Poornima Murali | News18.com

Updated:September 25, 2016, 4:01 PM IST
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I'm What I'm Because of Janaki Amma: SP Balasubramanyam
Legend SP Balasubramanyam speaks to News18’s Poornima Murali and recalls the icon that is Janaki Amma. Here are some xcerpts from the interview.

For three generations of South Indians – whether Tamil, Telugu, Kannada or Malayalam – S Janaki has been a household name. In a career spanning 60 years, she has sung over 48,000 songs and has won 32 state film awards in various languages – she once famously refused Padma Bhushan for the award being “too late”. Janaki Amma, as she is respectfully called in the film industry, has now decided to call it a day. Her latest project in Malayalam would be her last. Here, another legend SP Balasubramanyam speaks to News18’s Poornima Murali and recalls the icon that is Janaki Amma. Excerpts from the interview...

Never dreamt of being a singer: I became a playback singer thanks to Janakiji. I never dreamt to be a singer, all that I wanted was to be an engineer.

Took Janakiji's advice seriously: But life had other plans. Janakiji heard me sing in a competition way back in 1961 and suggested I should try playback singing. I was a little hesitant, but she insisted that I have the talent, that I was different from others. I took her advice.

Our combination fetched fantastic hits: And as it happened, in film playback singing I sang the maximum number of songs along with her. I am not very sure how many I have sung with her but I think our combination has fetched fantastic hit numbers. She is one of the finest in the country because she is very proficient any language. Not many know that she is a very good lyricist. She writes lyrics in Telugu, Tamil and Hindi. She composed some numbers and she did music for a film by Ramoji Rao for which I served as her assistant. She asked me to be her assistant and I arranged the orchestra. These are beautiful memories I have of Janakiji.

Janakiji is the most versatile singer: I learnt the dynamics of singing from her. She is extraordinarily proficient in controlling her voice. Janakiji stands straight before the microphone but the dynamics she gives to her vocal cords is something exemplary. I am unable to fathom it even now. I don’t know how she sings and her expression without any variations in the body language. We all move our hands and shake our head and close our eyes but she doesn’t do anything. If you listen to her, between a letter and a letter, she gives so much of dynamism and so much of expression, very very deep into the lyrics of the song. Whatever is the language she is singing, she first understands the lyrics and gives the best according to the situation. That is something extraordinary. She is the most versatile singer I have come across.

Janakiji gave me so much of liberty: I was nervous when I was singing for the first time with seniors including Janakiji. But they made me comfortable and they treated me like a son and gave me all the liberties. As my work increased, I troubled my singers particularly Janakiji because I was singing at least 5-6 songs everyday and had to rush from one studio to another and they had to keep pace with me and come on time for the shoot. They were very cooperative during those times. Janakiji has given me so much of liberty.

She has been an avid traveller: If she decided to retire from professional singing, it is her will and pleasure. I really appreciate her saying that she wants to relax. She has been an avid traveller, she likes to travels by car. And she is not the one for too much formality. She just goes and knocks on the doors of her fans and will just announce: “I’m going to stay with you for a couple of days.” That is the way she lives. She enjoys her life.

People may say they miss her. But of late, she has not been singing that many songs. It is quite natural she decided to call it a day. We should welcome her decision. We have enough of the songs which she has already given to us and we can really enjoy all the numbers she sang from Day One till now.

She never snubbed anybody: I have been doing a reality show in Telugu for the past 19 years. Couple of times she has come as the chief guest but she refused to give marks to the kids. She says she does not want to say anything negative. For the first time when she came as the chief guest, I asked her to give marks for contestants and she gave 100/100 for all. She will never snub anybody and she will never hurt anybody’s feeling by pointing out flaws in some one else’s singing. She is always gracious enough to say: “You are very good. You are the best.”

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| Edited by: Kriti Tulsiani
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