Vani Jairam was born on November 30 in Vellore in Tamil Nadu, in a family of musicians. Her mother is the disciple of Ranga Ramunaja Iyengar, a great veena exponent. Kadaloor Sreenivasa Iyengar, who taught Vani’s sister music, was fascinated by her observation and grasping power. He taught her a few Deekshidar kritis when she was hardly five.
The fifth daughter in a family of six daughters and three sons, Vani always secretly yearned for a career in film playback singing. Considered to be a child prodigy, Vani Jairam claims to have recognized the different ragas of Indian classical music before the age of five. In addition, she has recorded thousands of devotionals and private albums and also participated in numerous solo concerts in India and abroad.
Vani Jairam studied Carnatic music under the tutelage of Kadalur Srinivasa Iyengar, T. R. Balasubramanian and R. S. Mani. Her Hindustani light-classical music guru was Ustad Abdul Rahman Khan.
After her marriage to Jayaram, she settled in Mumbai, a city where she realized her dream.
Vani got married to Mr. Jairam in 1969.
Knowing Vani Jairam’s singing skills, Jairam persuaded Vani to get trained in Hindustani classical music and she enrolled under Ustad Abdul Rehman Khan of the Patiala Gharana. Her rigorous training under him made her quit her bank job and take up music as her profession. She learned the nuances of various vocal forms such as Thumri, Ghazal, and Bhajan under Khan’s tutelage and gave her first public concert in 1969.
Renowned for her vocal range and easy adaptability to any difficult composition, Vani Ji has often been the choice for several composers across India through the 1970s until the late 1990s. She has sung in several Indian languages, such as Tamil Hindi, Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada, Marathi, Odia, Gujarati, and Bengali languages.
Vani Jairam was introduced to the composer Vasant Desai who was recording a Marathi album with singer Kumar Gandharva. Upon listening to her voice, Desai roped in her to sing the song
for the same album along with Kumar Gandharva. The album released too much popularity among the Marathi audience and the duet song was well received. She sang with the veteran vocalist of Agra charan Pt. Dinkar Kaikini in movie “Meera”. The music was given by none other than Pt. Ravi Shankar.
In 1970, she realized her childhood ambition of becoming a film playback singer when the veteran Hindi film music director, Vasant Desai chose her voice for the Hindi feature film Guddi. She recorded three songs for that film. Bol Re Papi Hara, her song from the film, based on the Hindustani raga Miyan Malhar, instantly made her a household name in the different corners of India.
Vani Jairam recorded her first Telugu song for the film Abhimanavanthulu (1973).
The song “Eppativalekaadura Naa Swami” composed by S.P Kodandapani was a classical dance-based song. Vani Jairam songs for the film Pooja in 1975.
Anahata Nee Roopam
Poojalu Cheya Poolu Tecchanu
Ennenno Janmala Bandham
Brought her to the forefront in Telugu cinema. The songs “Poojalu Cheya” and “Ennenno Janmala Bandham” became household hits and cemented her position. It was for K. Vishwanath’s musical film Sankarabharam (1979), Vani towered her popularity.
Vani Jairam went on to collaborate with director Viswanath and music director K. V. Mahadevan for many films like Seetamalakshmi (1978),
Sankarabharanam and Swati Kiranam. Later in 1990, the same team produced the film Swati Kiranam which was again musically noted, and all the songs sung by Vani were received well. She received her third National Film Award for the film.
Apart from K. V. Mahadevan, Vani recorded many Telugu songs for Rajan – Nagendra, Satyam, Chakravarthy, M.S Vishwanathan, and Llayarjun. She recorded most of the dubbed songs from Tamil composed by Ilaiyaraaja.
While Vani Jairam’s popularity continued to soar in Bollywood cinema, she started getting offers from the South Indian industry. In 1973, she recorded her first Tamil song for the film Thayum Seiyum under the music direction of S. M. Subbaiah Naidu.
However, the film remains unreleased to date and the song remained in the cans. Her first released song was a duet romantic song with T. M. Soundararajan for the film Veettukku Vandha Marumagal (1973). The song “Or Idam Unnidam” was composed by the duo Sankar Ganesh, with whom, Vani went on to record maximum songs in Tamil cinema. Immediately after this, she was employed by one of the most successful director-composer duos, K. Balachander and M. S. Viswanathan, for their successful film Sollathaan Ninaikkiren.
Thus began her long association with the top-rated music directors in Tamil cinema. Her biggest break came through the song “Malligai En Mannan Mayangum from the film Dheerga Sumangali (1974), again composed by M. S. Viswanathan. The song received laurels and accolades for both its composition and vocal rendition.
The songs “Ezhu Swarangalukkul“
Made her popularity soar to heights and she became known as the singer who would always get selected to sing difficult compositions. She was flooded with singing offers from all the top-rated music composers including –
M. S. Viswanathan
K. V. Mahadevan
G. K. Venkatesh and Vijaya Bhaskar.
In 1977, The first recorded her voice for Ilaiyaraaja’s composition in the film Bhuvana Oru Kelvi Kuri
With Ilaiyaraaja, Vani went on to record many popular songs in the 1980s for the films such as –
Mullum Malarum (1978)Rosappo Ravikaikaari (1979)
Anbulla Rajinikanth (1984)
Nooravathu Naal (1984)
Vaidehi Kathirunthal (1984)
Oru Kaidhiyin Diary (1985) and Punnagai Mannan (1986).
In 1994, composer A. R. Rahman recorded Vani Jairam’s voice for the film Vandicholai Chinraasu for a duet song with S. P. Balasubrahmanyam.
Later in 2014, she recorded a portion of the Thiruppugazh composed by A.R Rahman, for the period film Kaaviyathalaivan and followed it with the song “Narayana” in the film Ramanujan.
Vani Jairam recorded hundreds of Tamil songs both in solo and duet formats. Many of her duet songs have been recorded along with T. M. Soundararajan, P. B. Srinivas, K. J. Yesudas, S. P. Balasubrahmanyam, and Jayachandran.
Vani Jairam made her Malayalam debut in 1973 by recording the solo song “Sourayudhathil Vidarnnoru” composed by Salil Chowdhary for the film Swapna. The song became hugely popular giving good credibility to Vani and gave her career a breakthrough. She went on to record over 600 songs in Malayalam cinema. Vani collaborated with all the popular Malayalam composers such as M. K. Arjunan
M. S. Viswanathan
R. K. Shekhar
M. S. Baburaj
A. T. Ummer
M. B. Sreenivasan K. Raghavan
Vani Jairam’s rendition for the song “Aashada Maasam“, composed by R. K. Shekhar for the film Yudhabhoomi (1976) met with wide appreciation and further increased her popularity. In 1981, she sang “Kanana Poikayil Kalabham” along with K. J. Yesudas in the composition of M. K. Arjunan for the film Ariyapedatha Rahasyam directed by P. Venu. After a long hiatus, Vani returned to Malayalam cinema in 2014 by recording a duet song for the film 1983, and followed it up with a duet song in Action Hero Biju (2016).
Some of Vani’s Malayalam songs including –
Etho janma kalpanayil
Poo kondu poo mood (Palangal)
Manjil chekkerum (Raktham)
Onnanam Kunninmel (Airhostess)
nanam nin kannil (kelkatha sabdham)
Manju pozhiyunnu (Uthradarathri)
Vani Jairam’s first film ever in Bollywood was the breakthrough film Guddi. And after that Vasant Desai decided to launch her.
She met Vasant Desai and he offered Vani to record three songs in the film amongst which the song “Bole Re Papihara“
Featuring Jaya Bachchan in the lead role, became a talk-of-the-town song and gave her instant recognition.
Composed in Miyan Ki Malhar raag, the song donated her classical talent and subsequently fetching her many laurels and awards including the Tansen Samman (for the best classical-based song in a Hindi film), the Lions International Best Promising Singer award, the All India Cinegoers Association award, and the All India Film-goers Association award for the Best Playback Singer in 1971. Her other song Humko Mann Ki Shakti
Dena became a school prayer since the release of the song in 1971 and continues to be even now. She toured entire Maharashtra state accompanying her mentor, Desai, and taught many Marathi songs for school children.
She went on to sing a few songs each for music directors of Hindi cinema, which remain popular, including the Chitragupta song, a classical Naushad compositions More Saajan Souten Ghar from Pakeezah (1972), and Dulhan Badi Jadugarni
A duet with Asha Bhosle in Aaina – 1977 Madan Mohan composition Pyar Kabhi Kam Na Karna Sanam, a duet with Kishore Kumar in the film Ek Mutthi Aasmaan (1973), R. D. Burman song Zindagi Mein Aap Aaye, a duet with Mukesh in Chhalia (1973), Shyamji Ghanshyamji composition Teri Jheel Si Gehri from film Dhuan Ki Lakeer, a duet with Nitin Mukesh, and the solo song Aa Balam composed by Kalyanji Anandji in the film Dharm Aur Qanoon.
She sang several songs composed by O.P. Nayyar from the film Khoon Ka Badla Khoon (1978) including duets with Mohammed Rafi and also with Uttara Kelkar and Pushpa Pagdhare). She sang the duet song Maine Tumhe Paa Liya with Rafi composed by Laxmikant Pyarelal in Jurm Aur Sazaa, and a duet with Manna Dey in Parinay (1974) composed by Jaidev and the solo song Pee Kahan in Solva Sawan (1979) by Jaidev.
Vani Jairam has made recordings in Gujarati, Marathi, Haryanvi, Bengali, Proya, English, Bhojpuri, Rajasthani, Bagada, Urdu, Sanskrit, Punjabi, and Tulu.
She has been awarded many prestigious awards, among them are Best Female Playback Singer for states of Gujarat (1975), Tamil Nadu (1980), and Orissa (1984). One of her most famous Marathi songs, “Runanubandhachya”, is a duet with the classical Hindustani singer Kumar Gandharva. This song was composed by Vani’s mentor Vasant Desai for a Marathi drama called Dev Deenaghari Dhaavlaa.
Naushad -More Saajan Souten Ghar (Pakeezah), Dulhan Badi Jadugarni (Aaina)
Madan Mohan – Pyaar Kabhi Kam Na Karna Sanam (Ek Mutthi Aasman)
R.D Burman – Zindagi Me Aap Aaye (Chhalia),
Shyamji Ghanshyamji – Teri Jheel Si Gehri (Dhuan Ki Lakeer), Aa Balam (Dharam Aur Qanoon)
O.P Nayyar – Khoon Ka Badla Khoon,
Laxmikant – Pyaarelal – Maine Tumhe Paa Liya (Jurm Aur Saaya)
Jaidev – Pee Kahan (Solva Saawan)
Pandit Ravi Shankar – Mere Toh Girdhar Gopal.
National Film Award
Best Female Playback Singer Tamil – 1975.
Best Female Playback Singer Telugu – 1980.
Best Female Playback Singer Telugu – 1991.
Filmfare Award For Best Female Playback Singer – 1980.
Gujarat State Film Award – 1972
Tamil Nadu State Film Award – 1979.
Nandi Award For Best Female Playback Singer – 1979.
Odisha State Film Award for Best Singer – 1982.
Mian Tansen Award Best Film Playback singer of ‘Classical Song’ – 1972.
Film World award – 1992.
Lifetime Achievement Award from Tamil Nadu Government – 2004.
Kumukara Award for her outstanding contribution to film music in general and all four South Indian Languages – 2005.
Lifetime Achievement Award from Music Mirchi – 2014.
Asiavision Award – Best Playback Singer Award 2014.
Lifetime Achievement Award from Raindrops on Women Achievers Award Ceremony Chennai – 2015.
Red FM Music Awards – 2016
Vanitha Film Awards – 2017.
Ghantasala National Award – 2017.
North American Film Awards New York – 2017.
M.S Subbulakshmi Award given by Sankara Nethraiya – 2018.
Pravasi Express Awards Singapore, Lifetime Achievement Award – 2018.