Veteran singer Vani Jairam passes away in Chennai aged 77

Vani Jayaram
Singer Vani Jairam. File photo: Manorama

Chennai: Veteran singer and Padma Bhushan recipient Vani Jairam passed away at the age of 77 at her Chennai residence on Saturday. Renowned for her vocal range and easy adaptability, Vani Jairam was one of the prominent playback singers in south India. In a career starting in 1971 and spanning over five decades, she also recorded thousands of devotionals and private albums.

She has sung over 10,000 songs in 19 languages including Malayalam, Tamil and Kannada. Vani Jairam, who has worked with renowned musicians such as S M Subbaiah Naidu and Ilaiyaraaja, has won the National Awards for the best female playback singer three times. She has also won state government awards from Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Gujarat.

Her recent works in Malayalam include "Manathe marikurumbe" in 'Puli Murugan' and “Pookal” in 'Action Hero Biju' and "Olanjaalikuruvi" in '1983'. It was music composer Salil Chowdhury who introduced her in Malayalam with the film 'Swapnam', in which she sang the song ''Sowrayudhathil".

Vani was born in the Vellore district in Tamil Nadu. Her parents originally named her Kalaivani. However, when she started singing for Hindi films, she added her husband's name and changed it to Vani Jairam. Her father Duraisamy Iyengar worked at Indo-Japan Steels Limited in Kolkata. Her mother Padmavati was a singer and used to play the veena as well.

An Economics graduate, Vani got a job at the State Bank of India. She married Mumbai native Jairam, who was working as an executive secretary at the Indo-Belgium Chamber of Commerce.

Vani always attributed her growth as a professional singer to the constant support and guidance she received from Jairam, a music aficionado and sitar expert.

Vani's most popular songs in Malayalam include "Vaalkannezhuthi vanapushpam choodi", "naadan paatile maina", "Etho janma kalpanayil", "Poo kondu poo moodi", "Manjil chekkerum", "Onnanam kunninmel", "Nanam nin kannil","Manju pozhiyunnu", "Thiruvonapularikal", "Dhoomthana", "Seemantha rekhayil", "Manjani kombil", "Nimishangal", "Hrudayathin madhura", "Neelambarathile", "Navaneetha chandrike", and "Oru raaga nimishatil", among others.

She has sung duets with the legends of Hindustani music, including Mohammed Rafi, Kishore Kumar, Mukesh, Manna Dey and many others.

National film awards

In 1975, Vani won the Best Female Playback Singer (Tamil) for her songs in 'Apporava Raagangal'. In 1980, she won the honour yet again for her songs in the Telugu film 'Sankarabharanam'. In 1991, she won the national award a third time for the song "Anathineeyara Hara" from the Telugu film 'Swathi Kiranam'.

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