Updated: Jul 4, 2021
Consonance and dissonance
K P Udayabhanu
Popular Malayalam playback singer and music director K P Udhayabhanu is one of the most humble musicians known to me. Had been fortunate enough to work with him for his 'Old is Gold' programs which introduced and provided opportunities for many budding singers to meet and sing along with him and other senior artists like P Leela, Madhuri and C O Anto.
'Kili Chilachu', a film song composed by him, is one of my favourites since childhood.
Though he's very amiable, he is solemn during song rehearsals and had greed for perfection. Some naive newcomers mistook his serious demeanour as ego and used to gripe that he's conducting music shows to earn big money while not paying much for their work. They didn't know the modesty and magnanimity of this great artist. In 1965, he was at the height of his career when music director K V Job invited him to sing two songs for the movie 'Rosy'. The great singer K J Yesudas, then a novice, was assigned to sing one song. After recording his song, while Yesudas was biding his time playing cricket with a group of boys at a ground near the studio in Fort Kochi, he was asked to report back to the studio. When he reached the studio, he realised that K P Udhayabhanu, who is assigned to sing two songs, insisted that Yesudas should sing one of them. He believed Yesudas is the right person to sing that particular melody. The music director heeded his demand, and Udhayabhanu was happy and contended just with the other song, which is a duet. The song 'Alliyambal' offered to Yesudas later became a huge hit.
From the year 2000 onwards, I often met Bhanu sir at M G Road, right in front of the Government Secretariat or at the nearby Sivan's Studio entrance. Whenever I meet him there, it's always the same routine. He invites me for tea; we walk towards Hotel Arul Jyothi and has some small talk with tea. Once we leave the hotel, he inquires about a printing press in Ernakulam. He was pretty impressed with the printing quality of my album sleeves and posters and wished to contact them for some of his work. I provide him with the name, address and location of the printing press before we part. It happens precisely in the same order, the next time too. Finally, one day I told him that it's the umpteenth time that I'm telling him the address. He held my hand and said, "please come," and led me into a side road towards a parked sedan. His driver came running from nowhere, and Bhanu sir asked him to get him a notepad kept in the glovebox. He handed it over to me and asked me to note down the details. After writing the particulars, I said, "Sir, I won't give you these details if you ask me again", and we had a hearty laugh before we parted.
Unfortunately, my fortuitous quip came true. Afflicted with Parkinson's disease, he couldn't visit his favourite place anymore. Being away for a while, I lost touch with him, and when I returned, I didn't see him at the usual spots. Later, when I visited his residence, he was bedridden and couldn't even remember me. He breathed his last on 5 January 2014.