Dr. V Krishna Mohan remembers clearly the first time that he saw Sujatha. It was the year 1971. A wedding was taking place at Guruvayur. Yesudas was scheduled to give a performance. He had invited his friend Mohan to attend it. As Mohan sat on the stage, he saw a seven-year-old girl, wearing a white frock, make her way from the audience towards the platform. Mohan was 19-and-a-half years old at that time.
Soon, Sujatha stood beside Yesudas and sang ‘Mazhavil Kaavadi’ from ‘Nellu’. Thereafter, she sang Lata Mangeshkar’s ‘Aaja Re Pardesi’ from the Hindi film, ‘Madumati’. “I was struck by her voice,” says Mohan. “She sounded like a professional.”
Thereafter, when Sujatha came and sat next to him, after the performance, he leaned sideways, and said, “You have an amazing voice.” Sujatha smiled shyly.
The next day, at the Guruvayur temple, they met accidentally. Sujatha immediately told her mother, “This was the uncle I was sitting next to, on the stage, yesterday.” Thereafter, the combination of Baby Sujatha and Yesudas created a storm in Kerala. “I saw her in different concerts,” says Mohan. “Soon, through Yesudas, she came to my house in Palakkad. My parents are avid music lovers.”
In 1979, Mohan, an accomplished singer himself, was practising as a doctor at Palakkad. Soon, he began looking out for a life partner. When Chembai Vaidyanatha Bagavathar, the doyen of Carnatic music, whose disciple was Mohan’s mother, and Yesudas heard about it, they suggested the name of Sujatha. “Both of them felt that it would be better for Sujatha if she got married into a household which is passionate about music,” says Mohan. “My mother was also very keen. I thought about the pros and cons and finally agreed.”
The marriage took place on May 9, 1981.
And Mohan keenly remembers the couple’s first overseas trip to America in 1982. At the inaugural concert in New York, Sujatha tripped over certain wires on the stage and dislocated her kneecap. She had to be rushed to the hospital. Thereafter, for the 21-city tour, Sujatha sang from a wheelchair. “Many people thought she was handicapped,” says Mohan.
This incident highlights Sujatha’s dedication to music.
“She is willing to give her life for a song,” says Mohan. “During a recording session, Sujatha frequently forgets about food and other activities.”
When they go abroad for a concert, Sujatha is not keen to do sightseeing, especially on the day of the performance.
“She wants to preserve her voice,” says Mohan. “Sujatha will also not speak much, in order not to strain her throat. So, we maintain ‘mauna vratham’ (silence). There are many singers who will say, ‘Let us go out and enjoy ourselves.’ But Sujatha is not like that. This is the attitude of Yesudas and she has been influenced by that.”
And unlike many singers, she does not say ‘yes’ to each and every concert she is asked to perform. “Sujatha will check everything about the organisers, equipment, stage, audience, and the food,” says Mohan. “If the sponsor is strong and sincere, and will protect her performance, then only will she say yes.”
Sujatha has other qualities that Mohan admires. “She is a good interior decorator,” says Mohan. “By nature, she is methodical and a good mother.”
In fact, Sujatha withdrew from the music scene when she was pregnant with her daughter, Swetha. “She was absent for five years, from 1981-85,” says Mohan. “Many people thought she had retired. We felt she would not be able to make a comeback.”
But Sujatha had a resurgence in her career through Priyadarshan’s film, ‘Chitram’ in 1988, and composer A.R. Rahman’s Tamil version of ‘Roja’ in 1991, in which she sang ‘Pudhu vellai mazhai’. It became a big hit and Sujatha has not looked back ever since.
As an artiste, she is over-sensitive. “If Sujatha sings a single note wrong, she gets very upset,” says Mohan. “She will tell me, ‘I did not sing well’, although nobody else would have noticed the mistake.”
As a result, Mohan is careful in the way he deals with his wife. “I cannot talk roughly with her, the way some husbands do, with their spouses,” he says. “I have to be careful about what I say. I developed a non-interfering attitude. You cannot question her all the time. It was tough initially, but I have learnt to get along with Sujatha.”
Mohan pauses and says, “All this is possible only when there is love. Without love, no marriage can last.”