Updated: Jul 4, 2021
Consonance and dissonance
Prakash is the eldest son of the legendary Malayalam film actor Sathyan.
I met him first at Tharangini Studio (the music company owned by the great musician K.J.Yesudas). I used to visit Tharangini Studio for recordings and meet some artists, and it's there that I entered a studio console for the first time in my life. Prakash occupied the studio's front desk, and though nearly blind, he could easily recognize anyone from their voice.
Tharangini Studio was doing peak business those days, and Prakash was quite busy from early morning till evening. He lived alone in a room that is a portion of a house at Plamood in Trivandrum. Though much senior to me, within a short time, he considered me his best friend.
He had a fascination for colourful poster calendars, as he can see large pictures if held close to his face. I used to collect colourful posters from wherever possible and hand them over to him when I meet him.
His mother, Jessy Sathyan, stayed with his younger brother at his parental home in Manacaud, about 5 km away from where he stayed. As I had a vehicle, I visited the studio and took him to his mother whenever he wanted to meet her. By around 6 pm, he would say, " Anuj, it's 6, right?" and prepare to wind up his work and leave. On the way, we stop at Eastern bakery in East Fort, from where he buys cupcakes for his mother. After spending some time talking and having tea with her, we return, and I leave him back in his room. On the way back, seldom he asked my assistance to visit a tailor but has never sought my help to buy provisions, visit a barbershop or even consult a doctor.
We never talked about his late father, who is one of the greatest actors in Malayalam cinema. In fact, we never discussed movies as he probably might have rightly guessed that I'm not much fascinated with the topic. Yet, one day while talking about music, I mentioned certain marvellous pieces in movies that went unnoticed without receiving the attention they deserve. He grew curious and asked me to name one. I referred to the short song
'Mahal-thyagamey' from an old Malayalam movie 'Snehaseema' (1954) and a few other songs. Snehaseema is a Malayalam movie based on a Malayalam novel retelling Alfred, Lord Tennyson's 'Enoch Arden'. The mentioned piece is depicted as a background song in melancholy by an empyreal disembodied voice glorifying sacrifice out of love. In astonishment, he asked how I know such old songs, which were released decades before I was born, and apologetically he admitted that he doesn't remember such a song even though it's from a hit movie with his father in the lead. All attentive, his face turned towards me, as his drooping eyelids looked like he's watching the floor; he asked, " Anuj, can you please sing it?". Usually, I never sing if people request me out of the blue, but I sang the first few lines in a soft voice, stopped, and asked him whether he can remember the song. He said, "No, please sing the full song". I sang with my eyes closed, and once over, I opened my eyes to see him weeping. As if I didn't notice it, I diverted the topic to something cheerful before I left his room.
My visits to the studio and our visit to meet his mother continued for a long time, but eventually, I often got busy with my studies, travel and many other activities that I couldn't meet Prakash as I used to. He called my number, and though I got the messages that he conveyed, I couldn't meet him in person for some time. He even left messages hinting at golden opportunities and breakthroughs for me.
On returning home after a long trip, I glanced through the day's newspaper, and right on the front page, I saw the headline, "Jessy Sathyan no more".
Few days after the funeral at LMS church, I visited Tharangini Studio inadvertently at about 6 pm to meet him. As he's always at the reception desk facing the entrance, visitors to the studio may think he's watching them. I approached him and, standing a few meters away, facing him, asked, " Do you remember this voice?". He mumbled, "Anuj", and following a pause, he asked, "Anuj, it's 6, right?" and extended his hand. Without uttering a word, he stood holding my hand. Often, a sigh speaks volumes. He released my hand with a sigh when someone interrupted. I left, promising him that we shall soon meet again. That didn't happen as I was too busy with my activities.
Prakash Sathyan died this day ( 15 April ) in 2014.