Legendary singer S Janaki celebrates 86th birthday; here’s a look at her illustrious career

S Janaki. Photo: Justin Jose

Veteran singer S Janaki who is hailed as one of the most versatile playback singers in Indian musical industry has been charming the hearts of millions of music lovers with her magical voice. Having impeccable command over South Indian languages and their pronunciation, Janaki rendered her songs by respecting the unique sounds and rhythms of each language. As she celebrates her eighty-sixth birthday, music lovers are still in own of her scintillating talent. Janaki has rendered more than forty thousand songs in around eighteen languages. Be it the selfless love of a mother or the romantic tenderness of a lover, emotions were quite palpable in her voice. Generations of music lovers, especially admirers of film music, see Janaki as an epitome of graceful singing. Even as she turns eighty – six, her voice still has the freshness and tenderness of a teenager.

S Janaki was born on April 23, 1938 in the quaint village of Pallapattala in Gundur district. Nisthala Sreeramamoorthy and Sathyavathy were her parents. Even though she showed incredible flair for music at a young age, Janaki didn’t get the chance to seek proper training in music. She tried training with noted Nadaswaram artist Paidi Swamy for a few months; but, the guru said that God has blessed her abundantly with talent. S. Janaki’s formal training ended there!

In 1956, Janaki participated in a light music competition organised by the All India Radio and secured second place. Receiving the prize from the Indian President turned out to be a significant milestone in Janaki’s career. In 1957, she debuted as a playback singer in the movies. In that year itself, she sang in five different languages. Interestingly, her debut song was in Tamil.

Meanwhile, “Irul Moodukayo En Vaazhvil” from the movie ‘Minnunathellam Ponnalla’ was her first song in Malayalam. She then went on to sing some of the evergreen songs in Malayalam like Malarkodi Pole, Thumbi Vaa, Sandhyee, Aadi Va Kaatee, Naatha Nee Varum, Kiliye Kiliye, Kannum Kannum and Moham Kondu Njan.

In a career spanning more than six decades, Janaki has been honoured with countless awards and accolades. She won four national awards, forty-one state awards, an honorary doctorate from the University of Mysore, the iconic Kalaimamani award, Sursinder degree and many more.

S Janaki won the most number of state awards in Malayalam. She has been singing in Malayalam since the year she started singing in films. Interestingly, she retired from her active musical career by singing in Malayalam. It was Janaki who brought the National Award for Best Female Playback Singer to the state. Moreover, Malayalis showed their love by publishing a book about her illustrious career in music. Abhilash Puthukad wrote the book ‘Aalapanathile Thenum Vayambum’ about S Janaki’s life and her career. On her birthday, wishes are being poured from all over the world for our favourite Janakiamma.  

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