Revealing Bombay Jayashri

Cineswami tells us more about the Oscar-nominated singer of Pi’s lullaby from Life of Pi

Samir Sarkar is a happy man these days. Samir Sarkar who? You may well ask. He is the Indian line producer of Ang Lee’s Life of Pi. While on a location scout in Pondicherry, Sarkar, a native of the former French colony, gently suggested Bombay Jayashri’s name as a possible singer for the Pi’s lullaby track in the film. His joy knew no bounds when the great Lee and composer Michael Danna listened to Jayashri’s dulcet tones and instantly decided to get her to sing the haunting lullaby. An Oscar nomination duly followed.

But who exactly is Bombay Jayashri? Unlike many of her limelight-seeking contemporaries, Jayashri is a chanteuse who just sings, and sings well, and accolades follow. Jayashri is a trained Carnatic singer who honed her craft under the tutelage of violin maestro Lalgudi Jayaraman. While her fame in the hallowed portals of Carnatic music is assured, not much is known about her outings in the world of cinema. The fact is that she has sung for the likes of AR Rahman, Ilaiyaraaja, Harris Jayaraj, Yuvan Shankar Raja, Ousepachan and Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy.

She won the Tamil Nadu State Award for Best Female Playback Singer in 2005 for a song in the Tamil original of Ghajini. Bollywood music aficionados would have heard her mellifluous voice in Rehna Hai Tere Dil Mein, Force and Phir Milenge. She was also one of the main voices for Shabana Azmi in Mahesh Dattani’s classical music themed Morning Raga.

Azmi tweeted: “Congratulations to Bombay Jayshree for her Oscar nomination. She did the playback for a song in Morning Raga and I love her voice.” Actor Siddharth, who will soon be seen on Indian screens in Deepa Mehta’s Midnight’s Children, tweeted: “Bombay Jayashree at the academy awards! What an amazing honour for a great artiste. India has Rahman to thank for all these honours.” “It doesn’t matter that Rahman is not the composer and that Micheal Danna is. I attribute all of this great honour to A.R. Rahman,” Siddharth added.

The last time India tasted success at the Oscars was when AR Rahman and Resul Pookutty brought home the coveted statuettes for their work on the British film Slumdog Millionaire. Here’s hoping that Jayashri wins for her work on the American-Taiwanese co-production Life of Pi. In India, the film has surpassed distributor Fox Star Studios’ wildest expectations. The film, which released in November last year in 2D and 3D in English, Hindi, Tamil and Telugu is now officially the highest grossing Hollywood film of 2012 having grossed more than Rupees 90 crore, waltzing past The Amazing Spider-Man and The Avengers. Clearly, Indian audiences have a spot in their hearts for well-told Indian-themed films. Now, if only our Oscar committee were to wake up and send original and non-plagiarised films as India’s official entry, there might be a chance that a home-grown Indian film might win something at the Academy Awards? Cineswami lives in hope….

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