Vani Jairam on ‘Guddi’, leaving Hindi cinema, and not singing at weddings

She got her break in playback singing with ‘Guddi’ in 1971, but did not work much in Hindi cinema. This gave her the chance to work with great South Indian music composers

Vani Jairam, obitiray, conversation, Guddi, Bole re papihara, Odiya, South Indian composers, Chennai
Vani Jairam did not mix her bhajans with any other form of music, saying that it would be like "wearing denim pants with bharatnatyam jewellery

The veteran singer Vain Jairam, who passed away today, always came across as an unassuming and dignified lady. In an interview she had given to this journalist many years ago in her modest apartment in Nungambakkam in Chennai, she had opened up about whether she had regrets about leaving Hindi cinema. That topic was the elephant in the room how she had disappeared from Bollywood even after getting instant fame from her songs in her very first Hindi movie Guddi in 1971,  ‘Bole re papihara’ and ‘Humko Mann Ki Shakti Dena’.

Jairam said she looked at the experience in a positive way. To her, it was a “blessing in disguise”.

‘Tremendous variety of songs’

“Indian films do not begin or end with Hindi films,” she said, adding that since she had less work in Mumbai, she had the chance to work with great South Indian music composers. She was appreciative of the fact that it opened other doors, allowing her to tour different states in India and sing a “tremendous variety of songs”. For example, she pointed out, she was a leading Odiya playback singer for 11 years. “I am aware that if I had stuck to Hindi films, I might not have explored other forms of music,” she had said.


But, to Jairam, her most cherished moment in her long musical journey remained her first film song ‘Bole re papihara’ enjoying a top slot for 16 weeks in a row in the Binaca Geet Mala programme. By the end of the interview, she opened up and confessed: ” I wish there had not been so much politics played around me. If I had been in Hindi films, I could have given many hits.” But, she honestly had also moved on.

Simple and dignified

The years of fame, accolades and experiences sat easily on her. The National Award winner led an ordinary, simple life in her compact, cosy flat in Nungambakkam and cooking lunch for her husband who passed away in 2018.

In the course of the conversation, Jairam explained why her superstardom did not affect her. “Many writers have compared me to water on a lotus leaf. I am so into my art but I am also detached,” she revealed. She had explained her philosophy to life thus: ” I’ve lived like this because my music director Vasanth Desai used to say, ‘You must not do anything cheap and be able to look at yourself in the mirror at the end of the day’.”

Also read: There can only be one Lata Mangeshkar, says Vani Jairam

Living by principles

This playback singer of 36 years lived by certain principles. “I don’t sell my art. I don’t sing in weddings or temples,” she had pointed out. She loved singing her bhajans as they were a form of yoga for her. “It’s a great way to relax the mind in a world today where no one is happy,” said Vani Jairam. She did not mix her bhajans with any other form of music, saying that it would be like “wearing denim pants with bharatnatyam jewellery.”

She dismissed the question that she had turned into a bhajan singer because her work in films had dwindled. “That’s not true. I have been singing bhajans since 1969 in sammelans held at Mumbai’s Rang Bhavan,” she said. But, known for her vocal range and ability to adapt to any difficult composition, Jairam was able to switch from devotional to film music with ease.