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102, still going Sa Re Ga Ma

| DEEPTHI SREENIVASAN
Published : Jan 10, 2016, 9:49 pm IST
Updated : Jan 10, 2016, 9:49 pm IST

Pappukutty Bhagavathar sang for a movie at 98 and still renders Soja Raja Kumari on stage

Pappukutty Bhagavathar
 Pappukutty Bhagavathar

Pappukutty Bhagavathar sang for a movie at 98 and still renders Soja Raja Kumari on stage

‘Age is an issue of mind over matter,” said Mark Twain. “If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” The motto seems perfect for Pappukutty Bhagavathar, the singer of 102. Yes you heard right! He looks much younger than his age and more importantly, his faculties are intact.

For the uninitiated, Pappukutty Bhagavathar or Joseph as he was originally christened, has been a singer of repute for the theatre and stage shows in Kerala for many decades. He shot to fame once again by lending his voice for a song in the Malayalam movie Marykundoru Kunjadu when he was ‘just 98’. Nothing stops him from doing public performances even today and he is all geared up to sing at two functions organised to honour him later this month in Kerala.

As you walk into his house located at Perumbadappu in Kochi, what you notice first are the cupboards overflowing with trophies and the framed certificates on the walls. Briskly but carefully he walks up to his sofa and sits with pride in front of those glittering memorablia. “Yes, these are all mine and that statute on the table was given to me by singer Yesudas on the occasion of my 100th birthday,” says Pappukutty. Yesudas himself has been an ageless wonder at 76, flitting between continents to do shows, recording songs and retaining his golden voice.

“I first stepped on the stage to be part of a drama when I was seven. Those days, actors had to sing too and I was good at both. At the age of 12, I started learning Carnatic music. Since then, I had sung and performed in nearly 10,000 stages across Kerala.”

During his heyday, he earned the nickname ‘Kerala Saigal’. “I sang Soja Raja Kumari during my 100th birthday celebration as well. I can sing it even now,” he says confidently, sliding his hands over his carefully dyed and oiled hair.

When the predictable question about the secret behind his longevity comes, he glances at his wife Baby who is 17 years younger than him. “I never encouraged or allowed him to drink alcohol,” says Baby who was the president of the local anti-liquor committee. Elaborates Pappukutty, “I have always been a teetotaler and I never touched cigarettes. She ensured that my diet is right and that I never over eat. I have no diabetes or other age-related illnesses. I believe good habits have added years to my life and quality to my voice.”