KOCHI: With a career spanning over six decades and around 48,000 songs in 17 languages, S Janaki rightly earned the title of ‘The Nightingale of Indian Cinema’. Malayalees’ love for the Andhra-born singer is immense, evident from how the radio once played her songs continuously. This was how Abhilash Pudukad, a native of Thrissur, turned out to be one of her biggest fans.
Abhilash’s work on Janaki titled ‘Alapanathile Thenum Vayambum’ holds the world record for being the largest book on a singer. The book, released in two volumes, has 900 pages and stories on the selected 2,140 Malayalam songs by her. ‘The Eternal Nightingale’, the English translation of the book by Lakshmi Nandakumar, will be released on Sunday in Kozhikode.
“My mother used to sing Janaki amma’s songs during my childhood. It was her voice that I listened to the most on cassettes and radio. After some time, I started getting Janaki amma’s cassettes for my mother,” says Abhilash. Soon he started collecting her songs. “I collected around 10,000 songs in Malayalam and Tamil. When CDs were introduced, I started getting them too. I was always amazed at how a non-Malayali could sing Malayalam songs with such clarity and feel,” he adds.
However, the turning point happened in Abu Dhabi. “I met Dr Sreekumar through a Yahoo Group of Janaki amma fans. After a few days, he called me and handed over the phone to Janaki amma. I went speechless. Later, he asked me to come over and meet her. I went and took her blessing, clicked a photo and made her sing two lines of ‘Keshadi Padam Thozhunnen’.” What surprised him was that Janaki rang up his mother and talked.
“Soon, we started talking to Janaki amma and that was the beginning of a beautiful relationship,” says Abhilash. Though not a writer, his admiration for the singer was the driving force for his first book. “I met stalwarts like Sreekumaran Thampi, ONV Kurup, Dakshinamoorthy Swami, Johnson Master, Poovachal Khader, Shyam and many others. What I understood from them is that she was a singer with deep knowledge of Malayalam language.”
‘Alapanathile Thenum Vayambum’ won the honours from India Book of Records and the Record Holders Republic, UK. He was also conferred with an honorary doctorate from World Record University, London. “Five sets of my book were handed over to British Library.”
He is currently working as a Planning and Estimation engineer in Securetech, Abu Dhabi. “The English book was first launched in Abu Dhabi by my company CEO Abdulla Al Neaimi. Incidentally, he is a great fan of Janaki amma. So, he took the initiative to get it translated. Also Lakshmi has done a really good job.” The launch function will be held at Woodies Bleisure Hotel at 4 pm.