03 May 2013

His Master's Voice-26

Pillavalu Gajapathi Krishnaveni (Telugu: పి.జి.కృష్ణవేణి, Tamil: பி.ஜி.கிருஷ்ணவேணி) aka Jikki (Telugu: జిక్కి, Tamil: ஜிக்கி), was a popular film playback singer from Andhra Pradesh,South India. She sang over nearly 10,000 songs in Telugu, Tamil, Kannada, Malayalam, Hindi and Sinhala languages.

Jikki was born in Chennai on November 3, 1935 to Gajapathi Naidu and Rajakanthamma, who had moved from Chandragiri, near Tirupati in Andhra Pradesh to Chennai for their livelihood. Her uncle Devaraju Naidu worked as music composer with celebrated Kannada theatre legend and movie pioneer Gubbi Veeranna and this gave exposure to the young good looking girl,Krishnaveni,to music and film world.

Jikki began her career as child artist in 1943 and played a minor role in a Telugu movie named Panthulamma directed by Guduvalli Ramabramham. In 1946 she once again hit the silver screen with the movie Mangalasutram, the rehash of a Hollywood movie'Excuse Me'.She was already being noted for her musical prowess and the lilting mellifluous voice although she did not go through any orthodox classical training in music. Soon a chance came her way to sing for the Tamil movie 'Gnanasoundari' in 1948 for which music was composed by the doyen of the film music then, S. V. Venkatraman. This was the turning point in her life. She sang for the heroine, when she was young.

The song Arul Tharaam Deva maathaavey Aadhiyey Inba Jothi... which will be succeeded by P. A. Periyanayaki (for the grown up heroine) became super hit and so did the film. This changed actress Jikki into Playback singer Jikki. Soon Jikki began to sing regularly not only in Tamil and Telugu but also in Kannada and Malayalam films. During those years as most of the Sinhalese films were produced in South India, she sang for Sri Lankan films movies too. She got many chances to sing in all southern languages.

She sung for almost of all music directors of that time. such as S. V. Venkatraman, G. Ramanathan, C. R. Subburaman, S. M. Subbaiah Naidu, S. Rajeswara Rao, T. Govindarajulu Naidu, R. Sudharsanam, S. Dakshinamurthi, C. N. Pandurangan, Adepalli Rama Rao, Emani Sankara Sastry, Master Venu, K. Vara Prasada Rao, T. A. Kalyanam, M. S. Gnanamani, K. V. Mahadevan, Pendyala Nageswara Rao, G. Aswathama, V. Dakshinamoorthy, T. G. Lingappa, P. Adinarayana Rao, P. S. Diwakar, T. R. Papa, T. V. Raju, C. S. Jayaraman, Ghantasala, Vedha, M. S. Viswanathan, T. K. Ramamoorthy, Rajan - Nagendra, Devarajan, M. Ranga Rao, Vijaya Bhaskar, Baburaj, K. Raghavan, K. G. Moorthy, T. Chalapathy Rao, R. K. Shekar, Brother Lakshmanan, Jeevan, Ilaiyaraja, Shankar Ganesh, Deva, and Hindi film music composers, Shankar Jaikishan and C. Ramchandra.

She sang immemorable duets with all the leading male singers with most with A. M. Rajah and others such as T. M. Soundararajan, Sirkazhi Govindarajan, Thiruchi Loganathan, Ghantasala, C. S. Jayaraman, P. B. Sreenivas, T. A. Mothi, S. C. Krishnan, V. N. Sundharam, J. P. Chandrababu, K. R. Ramasamy, A. L. Raghavan, R. B. Ramachandra, S. P. Balasubramaniam, K. J. Yesudas, Malaysia Vasudevan & Mano. She also sang duets with female singers with most notably with P. Leela and others like P. A. Periyanayaki, M. L. Vasanthakumari, T. V. Rathinam, P. Suseela, A. P. Komala, Radha Jayalakshmi, Soolamangalam Rajalakshmi, K. Jamuna Rani, S. Janaki, A. G. Rathnamala and Vani Jairam.

She was married to successful playback singer and music director A. M. Rajah. A.M. Rajah-Jikki duets have been super-duper hits. The Tamil movie 'Then Nilavu' was a big hit also because of these all time great singers. Jikki has also sung many songs in her husband's direction - songs that still play in radio stations. A mother of six children, Jikki lost her husband in a train mishap. He slipped and fell in between the tracks while boarding a train. This was one incident that she could never forget. After her husband's death she stopped singing for sometime. Then she came out of retirement and sang for Ilaiyaraja. She also started a music troupe with her two sons and performed in many countries including United States.

Unlike many singers she was not always after money. Once when she sang five songs for a Tamil film, She asked the producer 'Valampuri Somanathan' to reduce her remuneration because he had given her the opportunity to sing so many songs in a single movie, such is her dedication for singing!

She was honoured with "Ugadi Puraskaram" by Madras Telugu Academy and Government of Tamil Nadu awarded her "Kalai Ma Mani". She had been suffering from Breast Cancer and had surgery, but the cancer soon spread to her Kidneys and eventually the Liver. Several attempts were made to save her life by her close friend and singer Jamuna Rani which were supported by donations through musical nites, medical/financial support from Governments of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. Then Tamil Nadu chief minister J.Jayalalithaa and Andhra Pradesh chief minister N. Chandrababu Naidu had granted Jikki of Rs 100,000 (one lakh rupees) from the 'Dr. MGR' trust and Rs 200,000 (two lakh rupees) respectively after hearing her illness and her difficulty to meet the treatment expenses. Finally, she died on August 16, 2004 in Chennai.

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