Upset at the recognition coming late, singer S Janaki on Saturday refused the Padma Bhushan award given by the government even as her family said only the Bharat Ratna would do justice to her reputation.
What offended Janaki, 75, was also the fact that artistes junior to her and “less accomplished” had been honoured by the government, which ignored the south in giving awards.
“In art and culture, the south has produced some of the best in the country. I wish the government had taken care of that,” Janaki, who is now in Kerala to attend a wedding, said, adding she learnt about the award through the media. “I have been singing for 55 years. I consider the recognition of my fans the highest award,” she told reporters in Palakkad.
However, Janaki, who has sung more than 20,000 songs in Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam and Hindi, said she had no grouse against anyone. “I have no complaint against the government. I don't think it has done anything wrong.”
Her son, Murali Krishna, told Hindustan Times on the phone from Hyderabad that he and his mother were not happy at the timing of the award. “Only the Bharat Ratna would be in the fitness of things. By giving this award so late, the authorities have insulted themselves.”
“A chronic asthma patient, my mother has been an inspiration not only to people in general but to those affected by asthma,” he said, adding “once, some 12 years ago, I took her to a studio for recording from the hospital bed and then back to hospital after the recording. Such was her professionalism.”
The first thing she told her son on Friday night when news came in was: “I don’t want any of these awards. I am not singing for them. It is god’s gift that I am singing and that is it.”
“There is so much talent here that has not been given due recognition at the right time,” Murali Krishna said.
In 2005, historian Romila Thapar had refused the Padma Bhushan because she was unwilling to accept a government award.