Saturday, November 1, 2014

The Nightingale of Tamil Cinema.

      Nightingale is a bird adored for its capacity to sing beautifully and powerfully.Many poets have sung in praise of the Nightingale for its melodious voice.John Keats one of the noted romantic poets in English, has paid rich tributes to the bird in his poem''Ode to a Nightingale''.He calls the nightingale''light winged Dryad of the trees''and ''immortal bird''born to sing in ''full-throated ease''.There are a few human voices,with utmost sweetness and felicity in enthralling music lovers, through a perfect rendition of  timeless songs.Among playback singers, once a way, we come across gifted voices of extraordinary charm adorning the film industry.This is how female voices like Latha Mangeshkar and P.Susheela have established a grand status as playback singers.
     Tamil Cinema in general and Tamil film music in particular, is greatly indebted to P.Susheela for her mighty and monumental contribution,as a playback singer of fascinating felicity and immaculate charm in her voice.Starting from the Nineteen Fifties,she became the one and only female Tamil playback singer, with an extraordinary ability to combine clarity,force,sweetness and symphony in any song that was offered to her.She has been endowed with  splendid vocal cords to enchant, energize and enthuse the listeners irrespective of the language in which she sang.
     Though P.Susheela started her film career in the early Nineteen Fifties,her hey days in Tamil Cinema were between 1960 and 1985.Some of her earliest solo hits were 'Unnai Kan Thedudhe' {KanavaneKankanda Dheivam} 'Azhaikkadhe Ninaikkadhe'{Manaalane Mangaiyin Baagyam} Unakku Mattum'{Manapandal}'AalayaManiyin Osaiyai Naan Kettein','Kadhal Siragai Kaatrinil Virithu'{'Aalayamani}Athaan Ennathaan'{Paava Mannippu} 'Ettadukku Maaligaiyil Etrivaitha En Thalaivan'{Paadha Kaanikkai} 'Kangaikkarai Thottam' {Vaanambaadi}'Maalai Pozhudhin Mayakkathile'{Bagya latchumi} 'Kangal Enge Nenjamum Enge'{Karnan}'Paartha Gnabagam Illayao'{Pudhiya Paravai} 'Ninaikka Therindha Maname' {Ananadha Jothi}'Sonnadhu Needhaanaa'{Nenjil Oer Aalayam} 'Unnai Naan Sandhithein' [Aayirathil Oruvan} 'Unnai Kaanaadha Kannum Kannalla' {Idhayakkamalam} and'Kannan Varuvaan Kadhai Solluvaan' {Panjavarnakkili}.
      P.Susheela was the busiest playback singer in all South Indian languages and her busy schedule did not ever deter her vigorous spirit of performance that legitimately resulted in winning awards at the state and national level.It is a proud fact that she was the first woman playback singer to win the national award for her most captivating rendering of the song 'Naalaiyindha Velaiparthu Odivaa Nilaa'for the AVM block buster film Uyarndha Manidhan that also happened to be the 150th film of Chevalier Sivaji Ganesan. Incidentally, she got the State Govt.award too,for the same song.
     The next national award she won, was for her highly sprightly and energy loaded song 'Sittukkuruvikkenna Kattuppaadu' from Malliyam Rajagopal's most successful film Savaale Samaali,another Sivaji Ganesan film.This beautifully composed song, both in lyrical beauty and musical richness, celebrated the grandeur of freedom and it was the nightingale's voice that seemed to liberate every music lover, from the entanglement of 'the weariness the fever and fret'of life. Hearing this great song in the incomparable voice of P.Susheela was an exalting experience. What a free flow of breeze it was and how forcefully Susheela's voice infused the gist of freedom as an ennobling experience. Susheela again got the Tamil Nadu State Government's award for singing the sweet number'Brindhaa Vanathukku Varuginrein' in Sivaji Ganesan's Latchumi Kalyaanam.Far beyond these numbers, there were a few immortal songs, that P.Susheela sang for a few dance sequences with songs such as,'Mannavan Vandhaanadi'{Thiruvarutchelvar} 'Nalandhaana' and 'Maraindhirundhu Paarkum Marmamenna' {both from Thillaanaa Mohanammbaal}
      P.Susheela's best duets were with T.M.Soundarajan.Songs like"Mullai Malar Mele'{Uthama Puthiran}'Naan Pesa Ninaipadhellaam' {Paalum Pazhamum}'Malarndhum Malaraadha'{Paasa Malar}'Anru Vandhadhum Adhe Nilaa' {Periya Idathu Penn}'Thottaal PooMalarum'{Padahotti} 'Aadaludan Paadalai Serthu'{Kudiyirundha Koil}'Poomaalaiyil Oer Malliagai'{Ootty Varai Uravu}'Vizhiye Vizhiye Unakkenna Velai',and 'Chinnavalai Mugam Sivandhavalai'{both from Puthiya Bhoomi} are a few samples of the immortal numbers in their most matching combination of voices. Almost every song she sang with TMS was a right and ripe combination of the female voice with that of the male,not going out of tune at any stage.
      The TMS/P.Susheela duets were of a classic brand, because both were known for established norms of voice pattern, voice clarity,vocal thrust and precision in pronunciation of words.Their voices travelled along on the musical track with one hundred percent fusion calling for repeated hearing.The other male voices with whom Susheela's elegant voice occasionally joined were those of P.B.Srinivas{'Paal Vannam Paruvam Kandu'from Pasam' and 'Ennaruge Neeyirundhaal' from Thirudaadhe were outstanding pieces of meldy and sweetness},A.M.Raja {'Thingalurangiya Pothum Thenralurangiya Podhum' from Petra Magana Vitra Annai would remain as an immortal number}Chidambaram Jeyaraman{'Vinnodum Mugilodum' from Pudhayal was simply exuberant} Sirkazhi Govindarajan {Sirikkinraal Inru Sirikkinraal from Nallavan Vaazhvan was a pure piece of soothing melody}and S.P.Balasubramanyan{ several beautiful duets particularly 'Aayiram Nilave Vaa' from Adimai Penn and 'Iyarkaiyennum Ilaya Kanni' from Shanthi Nilayam need a special mention}.
      Apart from her mind blowing solo songs, sad melodies and duets,there is a galaxy of joyous numbers that came to dominate the audience imagination.Some of the songs that actually stole our hearts and keep the scenic sequence also lingering in our memory are' Theidinein  Vandhadhu' {Oottivarai Uravu}''Aadai Muzhudhum Nanaya Nanaya''{Namnaadu} 'Kannan Ennum Mannan Perai Solla Solla' 'Ammammaa Kaatruvandhu Aaadai Thottu'{ both from Vennira Aadai}'Sithirai Maadham Pournami Neram' {Raman Ethanai Ramanadi}'Renga Renagaiyya'{Varumaiyin Niram Sigappu}and 'Oraayiram Naadagam Aadinaal {Sumathi En Sundhari}.Besides these most valued songs, there were a few beautiful numbers that P.Susheela sang with other female singers like L.R.Eswari and Jamuna Rani.Songs that need a special mention in this category are,'Thoodhu Sella Oru Thozhi Illaiyena'{Pachai Vilaaku} 'Malarukku Thenral Pagaiyaanaal'{Enga Veettu Pillai}both with L.R.Eswari and 'Punnagai Mannan Poovizhi Kannan'{Iru Kodugal }with Jamuna Rani.
     As a playback singer P.Susheela was leading Tamil film music nearly for three decades .It was a tone capable of conquering human emotions with a spontaneous reach that made her deliver her notes, with utmost confidence, ease and magnificence.With an incomparable voice sweetness, she sang powerfully and beautifully, not only film songs, but also religious songs like 'Maanika Veenaiyendhum Maadhevi Kalaivaani' and 'Idaividaa Sahaaya Maadha,Inaiyilaa Dhevamaadha' to be broadcast frequently on the AIR even before she became popular as a playback singer.The charismatic appeal in her voice throw, was inimitable and she sang with full throated ease to transport human imagination to 'magic casements and fairy lands' like the nightingale that enthralled John Keats.It is in this unique respect,she became the nightingale of Tamil Cinema.


  1. Excellent Essay on Gana Saraswathi/South Indian Nightingale P. Susheelamma. Her first song in 1950 was for the legendary C R Subburaman for an unreleased film in Telugu. Next came "Adhrusta Deepudu" (1950) in which she sang a duet with A V Saraswathi. The composer was Adhepalli Rama Rao of Kanavane Kan Kanda Deivam fame. She was busy in Telugu even before "Petra Thai" (1952) singing for legends such as Adi Narayana Rao, MSV-TKR (Chandirani) . Equally she has been busy in Kannada as well in the early 50's singing for Maestro Sudarsanam, Brahmanna, G K Venkatesh,,....

  2. By the end of 50's the Nightingale had already sung for Galaxy of Stalwart composers to name a few, Goplsamy Ramanatha Iyer, S V Venkataraman, Vasant Desai, Saluri Rajeswara Rao, Galipenchala, MSV-TKR, C Ramachandra, Chitragupt, Ramesh Naidu, K V Mahadevan, Naushad. As one historian puts, the songs have been equally split between the North of the Vindhyas (Lata) & South of the Vindhyas (Susheelamma), together they defined "feminism" in Indian celluloid providing voices for over 350 heroines (the highest number ever) spanning 50 years. In Telugu alone (in the words of ANR) Susheelamma was "the go to voice" for almost 5 decades - from Anjali Devi to Rambha....a feat indeed (over 150 heroines)