Malappuram: A visually challenged playback singer from Kerala has called off her engagement after her fiancé apparently demanded she give up her singing career as a pre-condition for marriage.
Vaikkom Vijayalakshmi, 35, who broke into the world of playback singing in 2013 with a hit Malayalam song, had got engaged to Santhosh, 39, a native of Thrissur, on December 14. The wedding had been set for March 29.
“He wanted me to take up a music teacher’s job on the pretext that my music career wouldn’t put food on the plate forever,” Vijayalakshmi told The Telegraph over the phone on Sunday from Malappuram in northern Kerala, where she was to perform at a concert. She added: “He also used to taunt me over my blindness. But what prompted me to take the call was his demand that I stop singing.”
The singer’s decision marks a milestone on a long and winding road littered with the wreckage of glittering careers that several women had given up – voluntarily or otherwise – after they got married.
Manju Warrier, one of the most acclaimed leading actresses in Malayalam cinema, had taken a 15-year sabbatical after she married an actor. Manju returned to the screen after she separated from her husband, managing to carve a niche for herself in her second coming too.
Vijayalakshmi’s refusal to toe the line also comes at a moment of introspection in the Malayalam film industry. An actress was assaulted last week in a car in Kerala, prompting many to suspect a conspiracy involving some players in the movie industry although police are yet to say so. Actor Prithviraj Sukumaran, who, incidentally, was the lead actor in the first movie ( Celluloid) for which Vijayalakshmi sang, had yesterday taken a vow not to enact misogynistic roles.
on Sunday, Vijayalakshmi said Santhosh had initially agreed to move into her home in Vaikkom, a scenic south Kerala town surrounded by backwaters, just 35km from Kochi. He had also agreed to let her continue with her music career.
“Everything was fine in the beginning, and he had agreed to my condition that I would never compromise with my singing career,” Vijayalakshmi said. “But he recently began placing conditions, one of them being that I should completely stop singing at concerts.”
Born blind, Vijayalakshmi had learned classical Carnatic ragas by listening to audiotapes of K.J. Yesudas, whom she calls “Guru” and who is an accomplished classical vocalist apart from being the most renowned playback singer in Kerala.
It was her unusual voice, which experts say is particularly apt for period movies, that gave her the edge in the competitive world of playback singing.
“(Being blind) I faced so many hardships learning to sing. Why should I stop it just to marry someone who doesn’t appreciate my music?” Vijayalakshmi said.
Comments could not be obtained from Santhosh: his whereabouts were unknown and no one could provide his phone number. His parents are dead and he is currently believed to be jobless.
The engagement owed to a matrimonial advertisement in a Malayalam daily. “We picked him from about 600 applications and decided to proceed since we thought he would live with us,” Vijayalakshmi’s father Muraleedharan said.
“He used to work in Bahrain but had returned to Kerala. We wanted a son-in-law who would be there for my daughter, whose disability is well known. Nothing else mattered.”
Muraleedharan said Santhosh’s uncles and friends had made efforts at a patch-up but in the absence of any clear assurance from the man himself, they fell through.
R. Karunamoorthy, an exponent of the tavil, a percussion instrument, expressed shock when this newspaper contacted him. “I had attended her engagement ceremony and promised to play at her wedding,” he said.
The nadaswaram and the tavil are integral to traditional south Indian weddings.
“As a musician I can understand her decision to keep music above everything else,” said Karunamoorthy, who lives near Vijayalakshmi’s home in Vaikkom.
Music composer M. Jayachandran, who gave Vijayalakshmi her first break in movies, agreed.
“She can’t have a peaceful life without her music, for which she is so abundantly blessed with talent,” he said.
-The Telegraph Calcutta