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Kalyani Menon learned classical music from the famed guru ‘Sangeethabhooshanam’ M.R. Sivaraman Nair. She soon made a mark as a classical vocalist of merit and then gradually branched out into singing for films as well. ‘kanneerin mazhayathum’, the song that Kalyani sang for the legendary composer M.S.Baburaj in Ramu Kariat’s 1977 film Dweep, is a tender, tremulous song, punctuated by moments of moving poignancy.

She made her debut in Madras in 1977, through the famed Dhananjayan’s Malayalam dance drama ‘Magdalana Mariyam’ that was choreographed for Madras DD as part of the Vallathol Centenary celebrations. Kalyani sang Vallathol Narayana Menon’s lines that were set to tune by the Dhananjayans.

Kalyani’s first film song in Tamil was under IR’s baton, and the song ‘sevvaanamE ponmEgamE’, which she sang along with JC, T.L.Maharajan & B.S.Sasirekha in K.Balaji’s Nallathoru Kudumbam (1979), did find frequent airtime. And Balaji continued to ensure that Kalyani sang in some of his films in the early 80s- ‘nee varuvaaiyena’ (Sujatha/ 1980/ MSV), the
hilarious ‘Devadas’ dance drama (‘thaNNiya pOtta sandhOsham piRakkum’) that she sang along with Kamal (Savaal/1981/MSV), the breezy duet with SPB- ‘aei rajavE un rajathi’ (Vaazhve Mayam/1982/GA) and the reflective ‘vidhi varaindha paadhai vazhiyE’ (Vidhi/1984/S-G). Kalyani also sang a memorable duet with KJY for S-G – ‘naan iravil ezhuthum kavithai muzhuthum’ (Suba Muhoortham/1983). Another song that stays on in memory, thanks to Radio Ceylon, is Kalyani’s wonderful duet with JC ‘thEril vandhaaL dEvadhai, enai thEdi vandhaaL thaaragai’ (from an unreleased film called Mookuthi Meengal).

And Kalyani Menon was soon forgotten by tfm, and would have probably remained so, had not A.R. Rahman brought her back to sing ‘vaadi saathukkudi’ in Pudhiya Mannargal, and followed it up with giving her that ‘omana thingaL’ piece in ‘kuluvalilE’ (Muthu). Her recent songs for ARR include ‘alaipaayuthE kaNNa’ (Alaipaayuthe) and ‘adhisaya thirumaNam’ (Paarthaale Paravasam). Kalyani featured in ARR’s historical ‘Vandhe Maataram’ album; and also in Ussele, the album by Srinivas, in which Kalyani & Unnikrishnan sang Gopalakrishna Bharathi’s ‘eppO varuvaarO’ set to a modern beat.

Her talented son Rajeev Menon has never failed to acknowledge his mother’s constant encouragement and support for all his endeavors. As a mark of respect, when the audio cassette of his magnum opus Kandukkonden Kandukkonden was released in a grand function, Kalyani Menon was called to receive the first cassette from Kamalhasan. Kalyani had also made a brief appearance in the film as Aishwarya’s music tutor.

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