A day after the country celebrated the election of tribal leader Draupadi Murmu as President of India, a tribal folk singer from Palakkad of Kerala received the national award for best singer.
The laurels came to Nanjiamma (62) for his song in the Malayalam film ‘Ayyappanum Koshiyum’, written and directed by KR Sachidanandan. “It was unexpected. Well, I can go to Delhi for the first time and I can also meet our beloved president,” she said in her first reaction.
Originally from Attapadi, she used to graze sheep and do agricultural work before making inroads into the world of garlands. She dedicated the award to Sachi (KR Sachidanandan), who died in 2020. She also had a role in ‘Ayyappanum Koshiyum’, which was also selected as the best Malayalam film, as the lead actor’s mother-in-law Biju Menon. “Sachi was God to me. He encouraged me a lot to sing in a natural way. He took me to a stardom I never dreamed of,” she said.
The award-winning tribal song is written by her in the Irula language and composed by Jakes Bejoy. It became a big hit after it was released on YouTube in 2020, receiving 10 million views within a month. The song was a big hit even before the release of the film, an action-thriller centering on a conflict between a wealthy planter, Koshi Kurian, and Deputy Inspector Ayyappan Nair.
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She once complained to reporters that since her song became a hit, people had stopped calling her for farm work under the Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme. “They say they can’t hire a singer and an actor for such a job because they feel bad about it.” The film fraternity and art lovers helped her build a new house and she was moved from the hut where she lived with her family members.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and Opposition Leader VD Satheesan congratulated singer and crew of ‘Ayyappanum Koshiyum’, who also won the National Award for Best Supporting Actor (Biju Menon) and Stuntman (M Sasi ). The Hindi remake of the film starring Abhishek Bachchan and John Abraham is in the works.
The winners of the 68th National Film Awards were selected by the 10-member jury headed by Hindi filmmaker Vipul Shah and the awards were announced by jury member Dharam Gulati on Friday.