In 2000-2001, Bombay Jayashri was a star in the Carnatic music circuit. And then, she entered the Tamil film music scene with ‘Vaseegara’ in Gautham Vasudev Menon’s Minnale, composed by Harris Jayaraj. That musical collaboration would go on to give the audience many gems over the years. Excerpts from a conversation between the singer and Baradwaj Rangan.
When you transitioned to ‘Vaseegara’ while singing ‘Lagja Gale’, I happened to wonder if ‘Vaseegara’ was a sad song. Although it is picturized as a duet, there is this thread of melancholy. Did you notice that before singing? Also, what made you decide to take up the offer to sing this song?
I had just arrived in Chennai from Coimbatore by train and received a phone call asking me to meet Mr Jayaraj. I presumed it was Malayalam director Jayaraj with whom I had worked before in movies such as Paithrukam and Kudumbasametham. I arrived at the location and was greeted by Harris. I asked for Jayaraj, and he told me: “Yes, I am Harris Jayaraj”.
He right away played the tune and asked me to sing. Lyricist Thamarai joined us later and we got along very well. It felt like a reunion of sorts and we finished the recording in two hours. On my way back home in an autorickshaw, my brother called, and as we discussed the recording, I sang the song to him amidst the din of traffic buzz. He couldn’t connect to the song. After the movie got released, I started hearing the song everywhere — streets, tea stalls, and even as ringtones. Initially, I was a bit worried since I was knee-deep into Carnatic music, but I felt I should explore and see where this goes. My younger fans came back to me saying they loved the song, and asked me to sing more like this.
So, did they mean “It’s okay if you sing, as long as it’s a melodious number”?
I don’t think they meant that, but they liked the lilt and the tone.
What was your introduction to Tamil film music?
I grew up with Hindi and a lot of Marathi music. We lived in Ghatla in Chembur. During occasions like Ganapathi Pooja and Navratri, we heard Sudhir Phadke, Shrinivas Vinayak Khale and Hridaynath Mangeshkar. In between hearing Hindi, Marathi and Malayalam songs, I was exposed to Tamil music too. Among the first songs I heard in Tamil, the one that stood out was ‘Paarthen Sirithen’ from Veera Abhimanyu written by Kannadasan, sung by PB Srinivas, P Susheela, and composed by KV Mahadevan.