The late 50’s fifties saw the entry of a 19-year old singer capturing everyone’s attention with her magical voice, easily traversing thehighest and the lowest octaves with ease. Sishtla Sreeramamurthy Janaki, popularly now known as S Janaki had the looks that could light up the silver screen. Yet she chose to stay behind it lending her voice to almost all the leading ladies of her times, across all south Indian movie productions, for starters.
Though her debut ( first released movie) was Citadel’s Magnalanattu Mary (1957) – a duet with PB Srinivas, what shot her into prominence in Tamil was Konjum Salangai (1962). Legend has it that S M Subbiah Naidu, who was in the look out for a singer to sing his challenging song Singara Velanin Deva for the film Konjum Salangai (1962), where the singer had to match or rather compete with the Nadaswaram, was recommended this young lady’s name by none other than P Leela, a proficient classical vocalist herself who was offered the song in the first place. With not much of classical training, young Janaki’s performance got noticed by the South Indian film fraternity.
We Indians are known for our lavish celebrations, be it our festivals or our weddings. There is a celebration for all occasions. For an adult, it starts with the wedding with a lot of pomp and show, then its formal reception, the Shanthi Muhurtham which is prevalent in Tamil Nadu, Valakaappuduring pregnancy, the celebrations associated with the 28th day after child birth, the Naming ceremony, Kaathu kutthu – the list is never ending. Even death is celebrated in our country, where the funeral procession is with dance and music.
The silver screen had always fascinated me right from childhood. I have heard stories about my mother’s childhood in the late 40s, when my uncle took his sisters, my mother and her siblings, for a “devotional/mythological” movie which released in the first talkies in their neighborhood. It was a tribute to bamboo pylons, teak struts, thatched roof and smelly Rexine seat backs for the privileged. And not knowing what a cinema really was, they sat facing the projector thinking that that’s where the action is. My uncle was so embarrassed that he didn’t know where to look. 🙂