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Her tantalising voice will live forever ...

Jikki, whose innumerable melodies in films mesmerised listeners, passed away on August 16. RANDOR GUY dwells on her life that was marked by success, though she had her share of trials too ...



Jikki

P.G. KRISHNAVENI, more popularly known as Jikki, the nightingale of yesteryear South Indian Cinema, shall sing no more. Now caressing, now appealing, now cajoling, her pleasantly melodious voice was always tantalising.

During a career lasting over four decades and more, Jikki sang thousands of songs in Telugu, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam, Hindi, and Sinhalese too. Indeed she was the first among the Telugu film singers to sing for a Hindi movie when she recorded a song specially written and composed by Gemini Studios for the Hindi version of the Telugu-Tamil folklore blockbuster "Pathala Bhairavi."

When Raj Kapoor decided to do his Hindi film "Aan" directed by Raja Nawathe, in Telugu and Tamil, Jikki was chosen to sing . The Telugu version, "Prema Lekhalu" (`Love Letters,' written by the celebrated Telugu writer, scholar and poet Arudra) was a major hit and according to some critics it fared better than the Hindi original version! The songs penned by Arudra and rendered by Jikki became extremely popular contributing to the success of the movie. One of her songs "Pandhitlo Pellavuthunnaadhi ... " and the same song in the Tamil version, "Avan" — "Kalyana Oorvalam Varum ..." became super hits and are still fondly remembered by film music buffs.

A native of Chandragiri, near Tirupati, Jikki and her parents Gajapathi Naidu and Rajakanthamma moved to Chennai for a living. While the father struggled to make both ends meet , his little daughter Jikki showed a distinct flair for singing.

Obviously music ran in her genes for her uncle Devaraja Naidu worked as music composer with the celebrated Kannada theatre legend and movie pioneer Gubbi Veeranna.

Jikki began her career as a child artiste and appeared in a minor role in the1943 Telugu movie, "Panthulamma" directed by Gudavalli Ramabramham. Jikki appeared as a young girl who learnt a song from the musician-heroine, the star of later days and producer, Lakshmirajyam.

A few years later she appeared in another memorable movie "Mangalasoothram" (1946) (or "Excuse Me!"), a rehash of a Hollywood movie. with Jikki took her bow in Tamil Cinema in the hit film of 1948 Citadel version of "Gnanasoundari" produced by the noted art director-filmmaker F. Nagoor and Joseph Thaliath Jr. The change-over from young girl to womanhood was done with a song. Jikki sang for the young girl (Baby Rajamani) and P. A. Periyanayaki sang for the heroine (M. V. Rajamma). The song, "Arul Thaarum Deva Maathaavey Aadhiyey Inba Jothi...' became a super hit and so did the film. Soon Jikki began to sing regularly not only in Tamil and Telugu but also in Kannada and Malayalam films.

During those years as most of the Sinhalese films were produced in South India she sang for Sri Lankan movies too. At that stage she and P. Leela vied for the top slot with Jikki doing better. She sang in hundreds of films and many of them became hits. She married the successful playback singer and music composer A.M. Raja.

Even though she bore him six children, it was not a happy marriage as Raja in spite of his talent was not an easy man to get along with or please. Her difficult married life was one of the reasons for the slide in her career, and the other was the emergence of P. Susheela climbing fast on the ladder.

Raja died in a tragic train accident, and afterwards she sang in a few films. She organised a music troupe with her two daughters and performed in many countries including the U.S. Even as a young woman she was enormously bold. She had sung a song for a top movie company and due to some kind of manipulation her song was rejected. She walked up topeople in charge and gave them a piece of her mind. Unlike many singers she was not always after money.

Once when she sang five songs for a Tamil film, she asked the producer Valampuri Somanathan to reduce her remuneration because he had given her the opportunity to sing so many songs in a single movie. Jikki sang thousands of songs during her career and it is difficult to make a choice. However mention must be made of some of them.

The list includes, "Mayakkum Maalai Pozhudhe Nee Po Po..." ("Gulebakavali"), "Thulladha Manamum Thullum..." ("Kalyanaparisu") "Yeru Pootti Povaayae..."("Kaalam Maari Pochchu") "Yaaradee Nee Mohini" (a duet in "Uthamaputhiran," the first `Rock and Roll' number in Tamil cinema, composer G. Ramanathan), and the immortal duet "Varaayi ... " ("Manthrikumari,") and "Oorengum Thaedinaen ... ("Thaen Nilavu") all in Tamil ...

"Eruvaaka Saagaloy..." ("Rojulu Maaraayee"), "Pandhitlo Pellavuthunnaadhi ..." ("Prema Lekhalu") "Lalalalee" ("Rajeswari," the song is a take-off on Naushad's hit number in "Daastaan") , and several others. The list is only illustrative and not exhaustive!

Her voice might have been silenced but her songs shall ring in our ears forever ...

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