KJ Yesudas, the eternal singer of the Malayalam film industry, completes five decades in his illustrious career this year. Keralites can never forget his songs. His songs always lingers on in the minds of music buffs.
Yesudas has recorded more than 30,000 songs in Malayalam, Tamil, Hindi, Kannada, Telugu, Bengali, Gujarati, Oriya, Marathi, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Tulu, Malay, Russian, Arabic, Latin and English.
Yesudas was born at Fort Kochi on January 10, 1940, to Augustine Joseph and Alicekutty.
His father, who was a well-known Malayalam classical musician and stage actor, was his first guru. Later, he joined the RLV College of Music and Fine Arts at Tripunithura. For a brief period, he was with Sri Vechur Hari Hara Subramania Iyer, after which he took advanced training from Chembai Vaidyanatha Bhagavatar, a maestro in classical music. Although he is a Carnatic music expert he mastered Hindustani music also.
When he was young he planted a mango tree in his ancestral house. Even though the house has been sold and converted into a restaurant called ‘Mango Restaurant’ the tree is still there and it has been preserved. Whenever he comes to his hometown, he used to pour water on this mango tree.
Yesudas began his career in playback singing in the Malayalam film, Kaalpadukal in the early 1960s. Some of his popular songs include Padatha veenayum padum, Sanyasini, Chandra Kalabham, Akkareyanende thamasam, Chutta muthal chudala vare, Prana sakhi, Eswaran orikkal virunnini poyi, Kanaka simhasanathil, Thamasamenthe.
The government of India honoured him by awarding him the Padma Shri in 1975 and Padma Bhushan in 2002. On November 14, 1999, Yesudas was presented with an honorary award by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation for ‘Outstanding Achievements in Music and Peace’ at the ‘Music for Peace’ award in Paris.
He is the only singer who has been accorded the title of Asthana Gayakan (Official Singer) of Kerala State. Yesudas was awarded the National Film Award for the best male playback singer seven times. He won for his songs in Achanum Bappayum (1973), in 1974 for Gayatri, in 1977 for Chit Chor (Hindi), in 1983 for Megha Sandesham, in 1988 for Unnikale oru katha parayam, in 1992 for Bharatham and in 1994 for Swapnam.
He received the best male playback singer award by the Kerala government 23 times.
He had started singing when the Malayalam film industry was in its infancy and after fifty long years he still sings for the heroes of the present generation. That is why he is called the evergreen singer of the Malayalam movie world.