Chennai: Fans wonder whether playback singer Jency Anthony will make a comeback in Tamil movies. That is something that has been on their minds since the news of music maestro Ilaiyaraaja and playback singer K.J. Yesudas working together in the movie Tamilarasan after a gap of several years. After all, it was Yesudas who had put in a word about Jency to Ilaiyaraaja decades back.
"Last year I retired from the school where I taught music to students up to VII standard. Now I have started music classes in a small way," Jency told IANS over phone.
It is a quiet life, far removed from 1978 when she burst onto the Tamil movie music world with her unique voice singing Vaanathu Poongili in "Tiripurasundari". It was Ilaiyaraaja's composition. What followed was right out of a dream.
Over the next four years she sang mega hit numbers like ‘Adi Penney' in "Mullum Malarum", ‘Ennuyir Neethane' (Priya), ‘Thamthana Namthana' (Puthiya Varpugal), ‘Kathal Oviyum' and ‘Vaadi En Kapakizhange' (Alaigal Oivathilai), ‘En Vaaniley' (Johnny), ‘Deviga Ragam' (Ullasa Paravaigal), ‘Meenkodi Theril' (Karumbu Vil), ‘Iru Paravaigal' and ‘Aayiram Malargaley' (Niram Maaratha Pookal) - all from Ilaiyaraaja's magic book.
Then, she left the scene suddenly. She walked away from the fame and the adulation, from the cine music world itself, married to a businessman, settled down as a music teacher in a Kerala government school and started singing devotional songs in Malayalam.
But four decades later, the Tamil cine songs she had sung continue to enchant and tug at the heartstrings.
"Hers was a breezy and haunting voice. It was a unique voice. Had only she continued, she would have sung several hundreds of songs," says V.Raman, Director of Lakshman Sruthi Musicals, a big music troupe in the state.
"I will label it a soothing velvet voice. It is not easy to get a singer to sing exactly like Jency for stage shows as her voice is difficult to imitate," says U.K. Murali, Managing Partner, Udhaya Raagam UK Murali Innisai Mazhai music troupe.
Some would say there exists a slight melancholy her voice.
In all she might have sung about 90 songs in Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam movies, majority of them in Tamil.
Her Tamil hit song rate was enviably high. That may be due to the fact that almost all her songs were composed by Ilaiyaraaja.
"My husband Gregory was in the automobile business. After a heart bypass operation, he is now into share trading. I have two children - Nithin Gregory, working in the US and daughter Nubia Lijo who is married and living in Australia," Jency said.
"When I was five years old, I used to sing prayer songs. My father realised I had the talent and put me in a music class. My first song was in a Malayalam movie. I used to sing in stage shows. Singer Yesudas, at my request, had told Ilaiyaraaja about me and one day I got a call from Chennai," Jency recalled.
Musing about her singing days Jency said: "I used to go to Chennai to record my songs and catch the next train to Kochi. My father Anthony, a building contractor, used to accompany me."
Sitting in Kerala, Jency was not aware about people's craze for the songs she had recorded.
"I won't know whether the film got released and the reception of the songs sung by me. Now I am listening to my songs and seeing the movies," she said.
"Ilaiyaraaja had asked me to stay in Chennai for more songs. But my father was not in favour of shifting from Kochi. Further, at that time, Susheela and Janaki were big singers and there were doubts whether I would get many songsto sing," Jency said.
"Initially, Ilaiyaraaja gave me soft songs. I got more of melody and solo songs. I didn't have any serious training in classical music. I had then passed lower and higher grade in music," Jency said.
"She got less complicated songs. It may have been due to her lack of strong training in classical music. Otherwise, I don't see any pattern in the kind of songs she got to sing for Ilaiyaraaja," Jerson Anthony, her brother and a music director told IANS.
"During those days, recording was done live with orchestra. Prior to recording, the music director, movie director and lyrist would tell me the situation and also the emotions they wanted in the voice," Jency recalled.
"Director Bharathiraja would even act and show the kind of emotion that was needed in the song," she added.
"Relatives and friends were appreciative when they realised that I had started singing in movies. As usual there would be requests for songs and I would sing before anybody made requests," Jency said.
"I didn't ask any music director for an opportunity as I was not living in Chennai. I have sung for Shankar-Ganesh, Gangai Amaran, Chandra Bose," Jency said.
"My children came to know about my Tamil cine songs and their popularity during their college days. It was my son Nithin who first came to know from his classmates from Tamil Nadu who used to listen to the cine songs in their hostel rooms," Jency said.
"Once Internet came into existence and songs were uploaded, I gained more popularity several decades after I quit singing in Tamil movies," she laughs.
Similarly, even at my school, they didn't know about the songs I had sung in Tamil movies. While joining the school, I had just told the school authorities I had sung in movies.
"Only later did the students come to know about my movie songs. They hosted a big party in my favour sometime back," Jency said.
Her favorite songs she says are ‘Kathal Oviyum' in "Alaigal Oivathilai", ‘Geetha Sangeetha' (Anbe Sangeetha), ‘Eru Paravaigal',' Poothu Nikkudhu Kaadu' (Echil Eravugal) and ‘En Gaagam Indru Arangerum' (Eera Vizhi Kaaviyangal).
"Yes, it is true, I sang a couple of lines in the En Gaanam Indru Arangerum song. But I don't know why I like it," she said.
When asked whether she gets royalties Jency said: "I got some initially and later those stopped. I have given the application now to the body concerned. Nowadays singers can earn handsome money for five years from one hit song. But that was not so for me."
(In the series 'Where are they now', IANS profiles singer Jency Anthony who once sang Ilaiyaraaja's mega hit compositions before quietly walking away from the Tamil film music industry)