S. Janaki Dead? How A Story About The Indian Singer’s Retirement Turned Into A Viral Death Hoax

S. Janaki is not dead — just retiring.

The popular Indian singer found herself the subject of an international death hoax this week after rumors spread claiming that the beloved 78-year-old had died. It appears it started through Janaki’s actual retirement announcement, as the singer affectionately known as the Nightingale of the South announced this week that she was bringing an end to her career in singing.

As India.com noted, the S. Janaki death hoax spread very quickly and even prompted close friend and fellow singer SP Balasubrahmanyam to go on Facebook and dispel the rumors.

“Since this morning lots of rumours about Smt. S. Janaki, the Nightingale’s health condition. All fake. I just talked to her. She is hale and healthy better than ever. Spread the good news.I don’t know how some idiots do this mischief. Sadistic. Long live the queen of Melody [sic].”

Unfortunately for S. Janaki and her fans, the death hoax has overshadowed what was supposed to be a historic moment in her career. The singer, who has recorded close to 50,000 songs in Malayalam, Telugu, Kannada, Tamil, Hindi, and Odiya, announced her retirement, and India.com noted that she did so in dramatic fashion.

“She decided to call it quits with a Malayalam song in the Malayalam movie 10 Kalpanakal that starring Anoop Menon and Meera Jasmine in the lead.

“In an interview S Janaki said, ‘It will be my final song. I will not be recording anymore nor will I be singing at any functions.'”

The S. Janaki death hoax made international headlines and joined a number of other fake stories about the demise of celebrities. Although a number of Indian celebrities and politicians have been targeted for death hoaxes, the phenomena is a largely American one.

There have been some notable death hoaxes in India, including a recent story claiming that actor Shreeram Lagoo had died. The story spread so fast that Lagoo’s friend, Gargi Phule, spoke up to clear the air.

“Many people have been calling me about the same but I think its a rumuor. I haven’t spoken to Mr Lagoo yet but I called up Atul Pethe (theatre-person) and Mr Lagoo’s driver as well and both of them said he was fine,” she said, via the Times of India.

In the United States, there is a steady stream of stories claiming that actors, athletes, and politicians have died — and usually under fantastic circumstances. The most recent one is targeting actor Brad Pitt, claiming that he took his life at a shooting range after news of his divorce from Angelina Jolie made headlines.

The hoax, which spread on Facebook, was actually an attempt to get readers to click a link that would expose their personal information, Snopes noted. Those who did click through to the story found a short and crudely written notice about his alleged death.

“Brad Pitt, 52, a multiawarded American actor and husband of Angelina Jolie, 41, shot himself in the head at a shooting range on Sunday. He was under significant stress because the couple ‘were going through a divorce and he had a history of depression’, sources have said.”

That approach has been common among many American death hoaxes that have gone viral in recent years. Like the Brad Pitt death hoax, they are often just a ruse to gain access to someone’s personal information or infect a computer with malware. In other cases, the stories are a way to drive traffic to parody news sites.

But the rumors claiming that S. Janaki had died appear to have arisen more organically, as some readers misinterpreted her retirement announcement. Whatever the case may be, it appears that S. Janaki is still very much alive, even if her storied career is now over.

[Featured Image by Sebastian Widmann/AP Images]