Reputed Indian singer Kattassery Joseph Yesudas known to the world as KJ Yesudas celebrated his golden jubilee in singing for films on November 14th this year. It was on Nov 14th 1961 that Yesudas recorded his first film song for a Malayalee film at a Chennai studio.
Thereafter in fifty –years of singing for films Yesudas has sung over 50,000 songs in 17 Languages.He has won numerous awards and is regarded as a unifying voice of India. He turned seventy last year
The first Yesudas song I remember listening to was in Sridhar’s classic romantic comedy “Kaathalikka Neramillai” (1964) where he sang the duet “Enna Paarvai,Unthan Paarvai” with P. Susheela.
The song was picturised on Muthuraman and the gorgeous Kanchana who was making her debut in the film.
The first Yesudas solo in Tamil that I recall is “Neeyum Bommai,Naanum Bommai, Nenachuppaarthha Ellaam Bommai” in the Tamil film “Bommai” (1965)directed by maestro S. Balachandar (not to be confused with K.Balachandar)who also composed the music.
Then came the Malayalam classic ”Chemmeen”(1966) which won the Indian President’s gold medal for best film.” Chemmeen”captivated Sri Lankan or Ceylonese film goers at that time and proved the inspiration for the Sinhala film “Sath Samudra”.
For many of us our first taste of Kerala was Chemmeen and soon we were all warbling “Kadalin Akkarai Ponore, Kaanaa Ponnina Ponore, Poi varumpo dhenna kondu varum-kai niraiya……..” and chorusing” Saagara, Kadappurathu Utsavamaayi, Saagara,Therappurathu Malsaramaayi……..”
Both were sung by Yesudas.
More Tamil songs followed like “Paruvamuttuppalagumpothu” and “Koonthalile Nei thadavi” both duets with S.Janaki. There was also the sad solo ”Kaatrinile,Perunkaatriniley” in “Thulabaram”.
It was however in the seventies of the last century that KJY came into his own in Tamil films. One reason for this was popular film star MG.Ramachandran’s (MGR) tiff with the legendary playback singer TM Soundararajan. MGR began promoting Yesudas.
This in turn helped him to get chances in more and more Tamil films. With the advent of Illaiyarajah in 1975, Yesudas’s star was on the rise in Tamil films.
For more than three decades the voice of Yesudas has enthralled Tamil audiences. His diction in Tamil is at times flawed and his rendering has been the butt of jokes.
Nevertheless he was loved and adored. His mellifluous voice tenderly caressed us gently and soothed us at times. There was a passionate yearning which gave us an emotional ”feel” and grabbed our souls. An enchanting voice that entranced.
Among the numerous songs in Tamil sung by Yesudas my favourites are “Kalaivaaniye” in “Sindhubhairavi”, “Amma endralaikkaatha Uyirillaiye” in “Mannan”, ”Unnidam Mayangugiren” in “Then Sindhuthey Vaanam” and “Athisaya Raagam” (Abhoorva Ragam).
Another song I love is his Christian devotional song in Tamil “Unaiyandri Enaik Kaakka, Ulaginil Yaarullar, Marithhaayin Puthalvaa, Devaa”.
I have also been fortunate in listening to him sing live on many occasions. He has visited Canada several times and I have made it a point not to miss a performance.
Vijay Yesudas renders “Amma endralaikkaatha Uyirillaiye”
Yesudas celebrated his golden jubilee with his Canadian fans last month in a performance held in Brampton, Ontario. His son Vijay an accomplished singer in his own right was also there.
I’ve been planning to write a detailed article felicitating Yesudas on his golden jubilee for weeks but unfortunately did not find the time or energy so far. I do hope to do so soon.
As for now I thought of writing a brief piece on the celestial singer.
DBS Jeyaraj can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org