As told to Fred Cochin by veteran singer and his longtime friend Sujatha Mohan. They revive memories of music concerts of yesteryears, life amid pandemic and more
For veteran singer Sujatha Mohan, who has umpteen soul-stirring songs to her credit and still continues to touch the hearts of millions with her mellifluous voice, every day is a fresh experience, and she looks at them, as if it’s the first.
When Freddie and Sujatha indulge in a conversation, there is a splurge of mutual respect and warmth. Their voice itself exudes the heartwarming moments they have had, during the singer’s sojourn in the US, in the yesteryears, as part of her musical concerts abroad. Sujatha says, “When I think of Freddie chettan, it is the feeling of unconditional respect and love that comes to mind.”
She goes on to recollect how she had stayed in Fred’s house in the US back then, along with her mother, singer KJ Yesudas and wife Prabha.
The duo in an animated voice, say that they aren’t the kind, who have been in constant touch with each other. However, that has not taken away the enduring charm of their camaraderie.
Fred takes a stroll down memory lane, transposing one to a few concerts of hers abroad, “I still remember the song Sandhye Kanneerithende from the film Madanolsavam, which she used to render on stage. As soon as she crooned Sandhye, a few of us would respond to the same from the side of the stage uttering, ‘Endho’, leaving everyone there in splits.”
He goes on to add that he used to express remarks about the way she positions herself, while singing.
“She used to position one hand behind her and the one other holding the mike. Suju was so habituated with that posture all the time on stage.”
Sujatha responds with a wide smile, and says that this memory dates back to a long time ago, where she had such a posture and was quite young, back then, as she giddily says she no longer has that trait.
When asked about how different music concerts used to be back then, she says, “During those days, sponsors were comparatively less, and the ones, who were there, were well known to all of us. When we used to go abroad for concerts, we mostly stayed in the sponsors’ house, as they all were familiar and struck companionship with each other. While those days, there was some sort of closeness between the organisers and the singers, these days it is more of business trips. Other than that, concerts have been the same over the years.”
The audiences in the US always prefer Malayalam songs considered to be classic, which trigger a sense of nostalgia, she adds. “Melodies, especially the ones from the 80s sung by Janaki Amma and Susheela Amma are still much revered in the US, and have been the go-to songs for music lovers in the US. However, the audiences in Dubai go for the most recent songs, even more new than the ones music aficionados prefer in Kerala.”
When it comes to programmes abroad, most of them revolve around festivals, according to her. “The fervour during festival time is altogether different among Malayalis in foreign countries, whether it is Onam, Vishu or Christmas. I remember how there was a sense of unity among Malayali associations, unlike now, where there has been a few arguments.”
Sujatha says how no matter what situation they are in, ‘A show is always a show for us’. She adds, “We, as performers, make sure to give it our best, be it the preparation or the actual performance. While the songs are well received by a section of the audience, a few may have concerns, regarding the selection of the song.”
The one aspect that they give priority to is inclusion of all age groups, while zeroing in on the songs. “People seek fast-paced songs, if the audience includes more of the younger lot.”
Fred goes on to ask how the pandemic era has affected the singer or the individual in Sujatha, and she says, “Like how every section of the society had to bear the brunt of the pandemic, even I had to witness workwise restrictions, as most of our work or programmes couldn’t materialise. I couldn’t attend the finale of Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Keralam because of the same, and its next season is on hold now.”
The lockdown gave a lot of life lessons to all, she says. She highlights, “It pointed out that it was outlandish on our part as humans to hoard things that aren’t even required. It also drew attention to how much of unnecessary spending we have been used to, in daily life. It opened our eyes to the fact that being with family and spending time with them is utmost important.”
She says as recording outdoors didn’t happen, she had to learn recording videos herself and the technicality of it. “That said, when all this is over, I would want to record songs in a studio, as you wouldn’t have to worry about anything other than singing.”
So, does she miss performing in concerts? She says, “Of late, I haven’t been committing to many concerts like before, however, my daughter Shweta Mohan has been really missing performing for the audience in concerts. She enjoys the adulation of the audience and fans, the prepping up that comes ahead of the performance.”
She has also been judging music reality shows, and it was media personnel Sreekandan Nair sir who persuaded her into being part of one, for the first time named Top Singer. And then one came after the other such Super Singer in Tamil, Sa Re Ga Ma Pa in both Tamil and Malayalam.
Fred eagerly asks about her recent rendition, and Sujatha gleams with pride, as she mentions Neelambale song from the film Priest, which has actor Mammootty as the protagonist. “It feels good that the song has come out really well, as it’s been almost two or three years that I have sung a solo song. It is composed by Rahul Raj and the lines are penned by Harinarayanan, and I think he has done an excellent job. It has been showered with positive comments by fans and well-wishers alike.”