Renowned playback singer and mother of popular advertisement personality and film maker, Rajiv Menon and Karun Menon, a civil servant attached to the Indian Railways, breathed her last this morning at a private hospital in Chennai at the age of 80.
Kalyani Menon’s debut in playback singing was with the Ramu Kariat directed Malayalam cinema, Dweep. After the success of the film, she never looked back. She has rendered in south Indian movies including Tamil and Telugu. Her popular song in Tamil was “Nee Varuvaayena Naan Irunthen.’ Music maestro, AR Rahman has made good use of her voice in many of his songs in the ’90s. Few hit songs of Kalyani Menon includes Kundanapu Bomma, Phoolon Jaisi Ladki, Omana Penne, Vaadi Saathukodi and Kuluvalile.
Born on June 23, 1941 is a trained Carnatic singer and began her film singing career back in the ’70s. Hailing from Kerala, Kalyani Menon picked up the early nuances of the Carnatic music from MR Sivaraman Nair. Initially, she gave several classical concerts before embarking on playback singing. The song ‘Kannerin Mazhayathum’ in the movie Dweepu (1977), with the musical composition by the late Malayalam film music legend, late MS Baburaj, which catapulted to instant fame. The same year, Kalyani Menon was part of Malayalam dance drama, Magdala Mariyam, directed by famous choreographer Dahananjayan, which was choreographed as part of the Vallathol Centenary celebrations. In this dance drama, she rendered the song penned by renowned Malayalam poet, late Vallathol Narayana Menon with the musical composition by Dhananjayan.
The foray into Tamil tinsel town was in the year in 1979, when she rendered the song ‘Sevvaaname Ponmegame,’ in the K Balaji’s film, Nallathoru Kutumbam, composed by Ilayaraja. This song occupied maximum airtime. Realising the potential of Kalyani Menon’s lilting voice, Balaji made sure that she was given opportunities in many of his movies in the early ’80s, out of which, the song which became a rage was, ‘Nee Varuvaayena Naan Irunden’ from the film Sujatha, which was release in 1980. Other prominent songs rendered by Kalyani Menon includes ‘Thanniya Potta Sandhosham Pirakkum’ from the cinema Savaal in 1981, ‘Yei Rajave Un Rajathi’ from ‘Vazhvey Maayam’ in 1082 and ‘Vidhi Varaintha Paathai Vazhiye’ from the movie Vidhi in 1984. She also rendered other songs during that time including ‘Naan Iravil Ezhuthum Kavithai Muzhuthum’ in 1982 from the movie Suba Muhoortham which was released in 1983 and ‘Theril Vanthaal Devathai’ from the movie Mookuthi Meengal, which was never released, nevertheless, the songs became popular.
After taking a sabbattical from film playback singing, Kalyani Menon forged allaince with AR Rahman to bring out a slew of musical albums right from ’90s to early part of the millenium. The songs Kalyani Rendered includes ‘Vaadi Saathukudi’ in Pudhiya Mannarkal in the year 1993, ‘Omana Thingal’ sequence in ‘Kuluvalile’ from the Rajainikanth movie Muthu in 1995. Kalyani Menon, later rendered the song from ‘Alaipaayuthe’, ‘Adhisaya Thirunamam’ from parthale Paravasam in 2001 in addition to the trilingual film, ‘Vinnaithaandi Varuvaaya’ in 2010, directed by Gautham Vasudevan Menon in Tamil, Telugu and Hindi. Her mellifullous rendition was there in the AR Rahman historic song, Vannde Mataram and Srinivas’s album, ‘Ussele,’ where she rendered along with P Unnikrishnan set to a trendy modern beat of yesteryear poet Gopalakrishna Bharathi’s ‘Eppo Varuvaaro.’
Besides Rajeev Menon, she also has another son, Karun Menon (IRAS), who is a senior Civil Service officer with Indian Railways. In her son Rajiv Menon’s movie, ‘Kandukonden Kandukonden, released in 2000 Kalyani Menon made a brief appearance as Aishwarya Rai’s music teacher. When the audio cassette release function, she received the first copy from actor Kamal Hassan.