Vani Jayam – We will miss you

Ms. Janani Sampath, blogger and journalist shares some interesting information of her interview with Vani Jayaram

 “Just last week she was chosen for Padma Bhushan and now gone.  Life is strange and cruel.” Adds  Janani.

The article :

Vani Jayaram gets a well – deserved Padma Bhushan.  Better late than never.  In November 2012,  just a few days before her 67th birthday, I interviewed her for a feature story.  It was early evening on a Saturday, when I met her at her Haddows Road apartment.  Her husband Jairam sir opened the door and asked me to wait for a few minutes.

She came to the hall where I was seated and greeted me with a smile and a ‘good evening’ in a soft tone.  After a warm exchange we began the interview.  She asked me why I was interviewing her when she was not even in the  scene.  I said it was a feature for her birthday. “Oh,  I am a simple person ma. I don’t celebrate birthdays like stars,” she said with amusement.  

We continued the conversation about her guru, her debut in playback singing with Vasant Desai and her vast body of work with legends like Pt. Ravi Shankar,  M.S. Viswanathan (MSV), Salil Chowdhury,  Illayaraja and many others across Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam, Bengali, Odia film music industries.

She rendered a portion of a song from the Malayalam movie Thomasleeha to illustrate the rich music of those days.  I watched her in awe as she sang the visibly difficult piece.  She laughed at me as I gasped at her and clapped animatedly.  “That was Salil Da,  such a fantastic composition.  Very challenging one too” she said.   On her singing in the Hindi Film industry,  she said “you know my first song was in Hindi.  There were days when I recorded double shifts – Morning in Madras (Chennai) and evening in Bombay ( Mumbai).  That was my routine for years.  I have nothing to complain or repent”

It was time to take photographs for the article.  The photographer asked her to pose, she hesitated, saying she doesn’t even keep a bottle of talcum powder.”   “ You look gorgeous mam” we assured her.  At the end , I realized I hadn’t clicked a picture with her. She was one of those few artistes I wanted a photo with after the interview.  “I was wondering why you never asked earlier” she said as we took one.  After the story appeared, she called acknowledging it.  And thanks for honoring your word” she said ( this was about a few incidents that she did not want to talk about in the interview)

A month later, I called her when Pandit Ravi Shankar passed away in the US.  She recounted her work with him in Meera, with the same warmth in her voice.   A few months later when the iconic TM Soundararajan passed away,  I contacted her for her for a tribute.   She sobbed uncontrollably mourning the loss and I apologized for disturbing her.  She called back a day later to tell me how anguished she was with the news.

We meet innumerable people in our lives,  some just once.  Only a few make a lasting impression on us.  Vani Mam has been one such person.   Her humility, grace and simplicity are a rarity.  And these are rarer as a combination in one person among achievers.  RIP Vani Mam.  You will live in our memory for ever.

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