Songs like ‘Anuraga Nadakathin...’, ‘Kanana Chayayil...,’ sung in his soulful voice still reverberate in the mind of every Malayali. For K P Udayabhanu, who reigned the music scene of Kerala throughout sixties, the golden era of Malayalam film music, his life has always been a journey in tune with music.
The veteran music director’s contribution towards music extends beyond playback singing to music direction, composing and forming music foundations and choral groups. This Padmashree recipient’s tryst with music began from early childhood.
He says, “One of my uncles, K P Appukutta Menon was a scholar in music who instilled the passion for music in me. I enrolled at Tyagaraja Sangeeta Vidyalaya, Kalpathy at an age of seven where I learned music from stalwarts like Palghat T S Mani Iyer, M D Ramanathan, Palghat Rama Bhagavathar and Flute Krishna Iyer. The maestros of music laid my foundation.” Udayabhanu joined All India Radio as an announcer in 1955 which was a turning point in his career. P Bhaskaran, K Raghavan, Thikkodian, Santha P Nair and K Padmanabhan Nair were all working with All Indian Radio then. “Music director K Raghavan, offered me a chance to sing in the 1958 film ‘Nair Pidicha Pulival’. It was the beginning of a great camaraderie and music.”
Over the years, Udayabhanu had sung more than sixty songs including evergreen numbers like ‘Ponvalayillenkilum...’ (Kuttikuppayam), ‘Thamara Thumbi Vava..’ (Puthiya Aakasham, Puthiya Bhoomi), ‘Vellinakshathrame..(Ramanan), ‘Kannilenthanu...’ (Rosi), ‘Puthan Valakkare...(Chemmeen).
Along with those with a philosophical touch, he had sung humorous and trendy songs. His songs in movies like ‘Laila Majnu’, ‘Ramanan’ were popular among the youth.
“Films has given me some valuable friends. Raghavan Master brought me to films. If Baburaj composes the music of a film, I will definitely have a song. So was my companionship with Devarajan Master. I have closely watched the growth of Yesudas. I still remember him singing his first song for the movie ‘Kalpadukal’ in 1961. Similarly I remember P Jayachandran whose voice still retains its purity,” says Udayabhanu.
The singer had also composed the music of a few films including ‘Kili Chilachu’ (Samasya), penned by ONV and sung by KJ Yesudas. He says, “pathos was a recurrent bhava of many of my songs. That was not a deliberate act from my part. When once such a number clicks, we are offered songs of the same genre,” says Udayabhanu.
At this age of 76, Udayabhanu keeps tab of all the film songs. ‘Rakkilli Than...’ (Perumazhakkalam), Ammamazhakkarinu...(Madambi) are his recent favourites. Of late, in 2000, he sung the song ‘Kaatu Paranjadum...’ in the film ‘Thanthonni.’ He says, “Thej Mervin, the composer, compelled me to sing for the movie. I do not think much change has come to the singing.”
Quiz him about the deteriorating standards of the recent songs and he says, “The new composers and singers are equally talented.
They cannot be blamed for the declining standards.
The trend of today is to hear once and forget.”