Born On: April23, 1938
Born In: Repalle village, Andhra Pradesh
Career: Playback singer
Popularly known as the 'Melody Queen of South India' because of her voice modulation capabilities, S. Janaki is a devotee of Lord Krishna and Shirdi Sai Baba. Due to her versatility in the knowledge of languages, she has sung numerous songs in several Indian languages and a few foreign languages. Along with being a versatile singer, she is also a wonderful lyricist and music composer in Tamil and Telugu movies. She has sung more than 20,000 songs by now in different languages and won 4 National Awards for Best Female Playback Singer and 31 awards from different states, which is, itself, a huge achievement. She has worked with almost all the music directors of her time. She, along with S.P. Balasubramanyam and Ilaiyaraaja, is one of the most popular singing combinations in South India.
S. Janaki was born in a Telugu Brahmin family in Pallapatla, Repalle village, in Guntur district of Madras Presidency, now Andhra Pradesh. Like other music geniuses, she had been extremely devoted to music right from her childhood. Her keenness to know more about music resulted in her first stage performance just at the age of 3. In order to learn the basics of music and become a professional singer, she took formal training in music from Sree Paidiswamy, a Nadswaram Vidwan. On her uncle's advice, she moved to Chennai and joined AVM Studios as a singer and there began her career with a Tamil film 'Vidhiyin Vilayattu' in 1957 under the music directorship of T. Chalapati Rao.
Janaki recorded her first song on April 4, 1957, which was a pathos number under the music direction of T. Chalapati Rao. The very next day, she sang her very first Telugu song, "Nee Aasa Adiyaasa Chejaare Manipoosa Brathukantaa Amavaasa Lambaadolla Ramdaasa…," for the film 'M.L.A.', produced and directed by Sri Tilak, which helped her gain the requisite name and fame. It was a sorrowful number again, sung as a duet with Late Ghantasala Venkateswara Rao, which is remembered even today as one of the classics of Telugu film music. The song was penned by Sri. Arudra, and was sung under the music direction of Sri. Pendyala Nageswara Rao. She turned historic with her first experimental song (light classical), 'Singaravelane Deva' in 1958, composed by Late S. M. Subbaiah Naidu for the Tamil film 'Konjum Salangai' as her voice competed with the Nadaswaram played by Late Karaikuruchi Arunachalam. The song was appreciated and applauded by one and all in the South as well as in the North, thereby bringing in lots of laurels.
Janaki went on to sing even the Telugu version of this song, 'Nee Leela Padeda Deva' in the film 'Muripinche Muvvalu'. Subsequently in 1961, Pendyala gave her a break with a solo song "Neeli Meghaalalo Gaali Kerataalalo Neevu Paade Paata' in the film 'Baavaamaradallu' in 1961. Two years later, Janaki debuted in Malayalam films. Incidentally, her first Malayalam song turned out to be a grieving number for the film 'Minnunnathellam Ponnalla', which was recorded at AVM Studios. Pronouncing Malayalam words was a big challenge for her. But she worked hard on the language, under the guidance of music composers and lyricists, and managed to speak it clearly. A fan of hers, Leela Chacko, called her up frequently, sometimes even in the wee hours. Janaki remembers that Leela became one of her good friends, and by speaking to her, Janaki's Malayalam improved.
Comprehending her work in the industry for more than four decades, she has sung thousands of songs for almost five generations of heroines. She sang several unforgettable songs with the association of the maestros of music. She even rendered thousands of songs in Kannada; thus, leaving a lasting impression in the hearts of Kannada fans. Apart from being a prolific singer, Janaki is also a good lyricist and a very good music composer. Seeing her caliber, producer Ramoji Rao chose her as the music director for his Telugu film 'Mouna Poraatam' in 1988. She is the third lady music director in Telugu cinema, after Bhanumati and P. Leela. While she was well-versed with all the four South Indian languages, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, and Malayalam, she even sang in a number of other languages, such as Hindi, Sinhalese, Bengali, Oriya, English, Sanskrit, Konkani, Tulu, Saurasthra, Baduga, Japanese, and German.
Janaki married V. Ramprasad and lives in Chennai, along with her son Murali Krishna. Krishna has acted in some movies and has established his own audio business, while his wife, Uma Murali Krishna is a classical dancer.
Awards & Accolades
National Film Award for Best Female Playback Singer for 'Senthoora Poove', '16 Vayathinile', Tamil Film, 1977
National Film Award for Best Female Playback Singer for 'Ettumanoorambalathil', 'Oppol', Malayalam Film, 1981
National Film Award for Best Female Playback Singer for 'Vennello godari andham', 'Sithara', Telugu Film, 1984
Kalaimamani from the Government of Tamil Nadu, 1986
National Film Award for Best Female Playback Singer for 'Inji Idippazagha', 'Devar Magan', Tamil Film, 1992
Cinema 'Achiever Award' from the Government of Kerala, 2002
Special Jury Swaralaya Yesudas Award for outstanding performance in music, 2005
Honorary Doctorate from University of Mysore for contributions to Kannada Cinema, 2009
1938: Born in Pallapatla, Repalle village, in Guntur, Madras Presidency
1957: Came to Chennai and recorded her first Tamil song for 'Vidhiyin Vilayattu'
1963: Debuted in Malayalam films with 'Minnunnathellam Ponnalla'
1977: Received first National Film Award for Tamil film '16 Vayathinile'
1981: Bagged second National Film Award for Malayalam film 'Oppol'
1984: Honored with third National Film Award for Telugu film 'Sithara'
1992: Won fourth National Film Award for Tamil film 'Devar Magan'
2009: Conferred upon with Honorary Doctorate from University of Mysore for contributions to Kannada Cinema.