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Magic with melody

Jency, who charmed listeners with her unique timbre, returns to playback singing after a couple of decades



Her voice lingers Jency

When director John Mahendran called up excitedly and said, “Jency is in town. She’s recording a song for my next film,” I wasn’t sure I’d heard him right. The singer who has given voice to some of Ilaiyaraja’s most scintillating melodies had settled down in Kerala more than two decades ago. “Twenty three to be exact,” smiles Jency, when you catch up with her after the recording. It is a song for Srikanth Deva.

She couldn’t believe her ears when she got a call from John asking her to sing a song for his next film starring Jeevan and Prakash Raj. “It’s a beautiful melody. We wanted a different voice that has an inherent tinge of sadness about it. We could only think of Jency,” says John.

“It’s a cute composition,” Jency certifies. “I was quite apprehensive because I was at the mike after a long time. But Srikanth Deva and John were very encouraging and we recorded it quite fast,” she smiles. “I’m still surprised that John thought of me.”

The hiatus

“And I’m glad she agreed,” John intervenes. “I just had to tell her that director Mahendran is my dad. She has sung two hit numbers for him — for Mullum Malarum (‘Adi Pennae …’) and Johnny (‘Oru Iniya Manadhu…’ and ‘En Vaanile’).”

It was Yesudas who introduced Jency to Ilaiyaraja. The very ambience of the studio, with a large, imposing orchestra, was unnerving. “But Ilaiyaraja taught me the song patiently,” she recalls. She went on to sing about 40 numbers in Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam. Most of them were for Ilaiyaraja, though she did do a couple of numbers for Shanker-Ganesh and Chandra Bose.

Why the long spell of hibernation? Jency laughs a little but the sadness at the loss of time is almost palpable. “Probably I should have come back earlier,” she pensively notes. “Marriage, a secure job as a music teacher in a Government School, children …well that was it.”

“But I did try,” she suddenly remembers. About 18 years ago Jency came to Chennai with her husband and met Ilaiyaraja. “He was very cordial and asked me to come over to the studio the next morning. But my little son had an accident that day. It was a head injury and a scan had to be done. In the tension, I forgot my appointment with him. Later I rushed to the studio, but Janaki had already recorded for the song. I was scared to explain things to him, and walked out quietly.” She pauses and adds: “It was God’s will.”

Jency’s duets and solos of the past such as ‘Mayilae Mayilae …’ ‘Kaadhal Oviyam …’ two of Ilaiyaraja’s signature tunes of the 1980s in Jency’s voice still ring in my ears. The nostalgia lingers long after the conversation has concluded…

MALATHI RANGARAJAN

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