ON THE sunny and tranquil Saturday afternoon at Gulmohor Park, surrounded by palms and silver oaks, sunbirds and ‘muniyas’ chattering incessantly and sh-shooing each other; there she is - the one who gave one of theirs, papiha, a new character. Rather one who gave the rebellious Guddi a voice – Vani. A voice that quietly asserted itself in the heydays of the mighty Lata.
She sang for most of the illustrious composers of seventies, but stayed in shade. Her duets with Rafi, Kishore and Mukesh kept her name in the minds of listeners. Manna Dey and Mahendra Kapur too, Vani makes a rejoinder with childlike simplicity.
Vani was in the City to perform at a programme organised by Chinmay Mission on Saturday. Alongside in the shade is Jayram, and the two together spark instant recognition.
Where have you been was the natural question that comes to an admirer’s mind. ‘‘Here only,’’ was her quick response. “I have been visiting Indore all these years but spent most of my time in the south,” she added.
Despite her talent being acknowledged even by Madan Mohan, celluloid politics kept her out of Mumbai. But, the film industry down south welcomed her with open arms. She stayed on top for 11 consecutive years in Oriya besides singing in most Indian languages and of course, winning laurels while she was at it.
Much has been said about her contribution to the music of Gulzar’s Meera. As Pt Ravi Shankar said, after Lata’s reluctance to sing, several singers made a beeline to seize the opportunity, except her. When he chose Vani it was by divine intervention.
Steering away from tinsel town had been a blessing in disguise, she agrees contemplatively. “When singing devotional songs I am in communion with higher power acting as a medium between him and listeners.” Vani revealed that after every concert, no matter what the scale, she asks herself in front of a mirror if she delivered what was expected of her. Something Vasant Desai taught her in her initial years, which she still abides by. And doesn’t she instill a sense of strength when one listens to ‘Hamko man ki shakti dena’?
Talking about Indore, there was a hint of disappointment. Clearly she longed for the City’s old character that is disappearing behind the façade of high-rise development. Vani Jayram shares a special rapport with Malwa. She happens to be the only singer with whom Pt Kumar Gandharva recorded a couple of light emotional songs – Rinanubandhache and Uthi uthi Gopala.
While Vani crusades ahead with concerts worldwide, her associations with the likes of Birju Maharaj and Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra, and scores of international awards, cassettes and CDs of her music recorded by well-known labels still elude the listeners.