KOCHI: K J Babu aka Zero Babu reminisces about the golden melodies of an era when his contemporaries like legendary playback singer Baburaj mesmerised Malayalis with their evergreen renditions. There is a story behind ‘Zero’ Babu’s peculiar name.
Once he sang and performed a song called ‘Open Zero’ for P J Antony’s play. In the play, Babu played the role of a man who is fed up with life owing to the cotton gambling game that prevailed in the past. ‘Open Zero’ was the name of the game.
A native of Ernakulam, the veteran singer has sung in 90 films and 10 plays with well-known artists like Devarajan, P J Antony, Dakshina Moorthy Swamy, Arjunan Master, P S Divakaran, K J Joy, Jithin Shyam, M A Majeed, Ponkunnam Varkey etc.
Zero Babu began his musical journey at the age of 12, skipping school. He pursued his passion for music as part of his attempt to find a platform to launch himself. He used to bunk classes to watch some of the well-known musicians and stage artists perform at the Tansen Music Club, Ernakulam.
All these drew him closer to the world of music.
This continued for some days, he recalls.
“One day, Maradu Joseph, a stage music director asked me to sing a song before his clubmates. I sang a Hindi song of Lathaji from the film ‘Hawala’ which was playing to a packed hall then.” The group was stunned by his performance and made him sing the same song thrice over.
After this incident he started singing regularly at the club. Zero Babu sang the female voice as he was just 12 years old.
Later, P J Antony, popular dramatist, asked him to sing a few songs for his plays. This move, however, did not go down well with Babu’s father who wanted him to take up a job if he was not interested in studies.
The turning point came when Babu got an opportunity to sing in P J Antony’s play ‘Avakashikal’. “My father happened to listen to me singing my debut song on stage.
Ever since, he has encouraged me to continue with my passion for music,” he remembers.
“At the age of 12, I got a golden chance to work in T K Pareedkutty’s film ‘Rarichan Enna Pawran’. He called me for an interview.
After the interview, I took out a ‘tobacco cigarette’ and started smoking, a common practice those days. What I didn’t know was that they saw me smoking. After a year K Raghavan, the music director of that film, told me that I was rejected for smoking,” says Babu.
By that time, he had decided to stick to music instead of acting.
His debut film was ‘Kudumbini’ for which he sang at the age of 18. He composed music for the debut film of Sathyan Anthikad - ‘Kurukkante Kalyanam’ and for Fazil’s ‘Marakkilla Orikkalum’.
Ever since, Zero Babu has sung for artists like Prem Nazir, Sathyan, Vincent, Sudheer, Mammootty, Mohanlal, K P Ummar, Adoor Bhasi, S P Pilla and Thikkurissi Sukumaran Nair. His last work was for the film ‘Visa’.
Zero Babu has received the Sangeetha Nataka Academy Award and has done many stage programmes in Dubai, Singapore and Malaysia and has an orchestra in Chennai. He has four children - Sooraj, Sulfikar, Deepa and Sabitha.