Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Hitting The High Note

COLUMN: Spouse's Turn 

Louhanath talks about life with the singer Cochin Mansoor

By Shevlin Sebastian

Photos by Suresh Nambudiri 

On August 8, 1990, Cochin Mansoor went to meet Louhanath at her home in Cheranalloor. “The first thing that struck me about him was his large moustache,” says Louhanath. “He wore colourful clothing: dark green shirt and a cream pant.”

Mansoor said, “What is your name?”

Louhanath smiled and remained silent.

You are shy,” said the singer. “Let me tell you about myself. My name is Mansoor. I work in Cochin Stars troupe. I am 5' 6” tall. I stay near the Kaloor bus stand. These are my details.”

Louhanath smiled and thought to herself, ‘I like the way he speaks’.

And Mansoor also liked her. This was the first girl that he had met. They both said yes. But there was a delay of more than a year for the marriage. That was because Mansoor’s niece had suffered an accident and he also had a busy singing schedule. Eventually, the wedding took place on December 22, 1991, at Cheranaloor.

One day, after the marriage, Mansoor had a programme at Eloor. Thereafter, he went to Thiruvananthapuram and many other places. “My relatives teased me by saying that my husband had gone missing,” says a smiling Louhanath.

It was only on December 31, that Mansoor took Louhanath to see a mimicry show at Edapally in which he was taking part. And when Louhanath saw Mansoor performing, she immediately realized he is a talented person. “In one segment, he dressed up as a wife who was having problems with her husband,” says Louhanath. “It was quite funny.”

But today, Mansoor is known as a singer of the Malayalam hits of the 1960, 70s and 80s. In fact, he has an unbelievable repertoire of 7800 songs. “Anybody can ask him about any song and he can tell the name of the singer, music composer, the actors, the name of the film and the year,” says Louhanath. “But he loves best the songs of Vayalar [Ramavarma]. In fact, I tell him he has two fathers: bapa and achan. Bapa is his own father, while achan is Vayalar Sir.”

Meanwhile, when asked about his plus points, Louhanath says, “Mansoor is a laid-back person and very caring of our children [college students Rehana, 22, and Shahana, 18]. When they were small, he would buy them so many toys. Whenever he returns from a programme, he will always bring gifts.  And the girls would look forward to it.”

As for his negative points, whenever Mansoor and Louhanath have a fight, he will not speak for the next few days. “He told me that he does not want to argue, because that will strain his vocal chords,” says Louhanath. “So he remains silent.”

Mansoor is very careful about his voice. “Whenever he goes for a programme, he takes hot water in a flask,” says Louhanath. “Mansoor avoids sunlight at all costs, as he believes that it will affect his voice. So he always goes out with an umbrella. And even when it is sunny, on his morning walk, he will open his umbrella. And people do find it odd. His friends tease him about it. When he goes to sleep, he puts cotton in his ears, because the fan is switched on and he does not want to catch a cold. On my part, I avoid giving him cold food.”

But this beautiful voice came under tremendous strain, on November 29, 2009, when Mansoor attempted to set a Guinness Book of World Records, by singing non-stop for 24 hours on an open stage at Changampuzha Park, Kochi. But his effort lasted for 19 ½ hours. The problem was that since it was held in November, there was a lot of fog and mist at night and that affected his voice.

At the 19th hour, Dasettan [Yesudas], who was monitoring the performance from America, with the help of a friend, Benny, called and said Mansoor should stop, otherwise his voice will get damaged,” says Louhanath.

Mansoor attempted one last song, the classic ‘Periyare’, which was a request from the then Forest Minister Binoy Viswam. But he was unable to carry on.  

Mansoor was then admitted to Punarnava Ayurveda hospital. “There was a fear among the people that Mansoor would lose his voice,” says Louhanath. “It was an anxious time for me. I prayed very hard to God to save his voice. Many people went and prayed at the mosque.”  

Medicine was rubbed on Mansoor's neck. For three days, he had to remain silent. “Finally, by God’s grace, on the fifth day he recovered his voice,” says Louhanath.

It took Louhanath some time to recover from the experience. “It is not easy to live with an artist,” she says. But Louhanath has found an outlet. For the past ten years, she has been working in a play school, ‘Little Gems’, which is near Amrita Hospital. “I feel happy and peaceful when I am with the children,” she says.  

Finally, when asked to give tips for a successful marriage, Louhanath says, “You should adjust to the shortcomings of your spouse. Nobody is perfect. As an artist my husband meets lots of people, men and women. But I don't ask him about each and every person. I trust him. It is important to have trust in each other. Otherwise, it will create problems in the marriage.”

(The New Indian Express, Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram)

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