Truly an inspiration for the upcoming generation of musicians and singers, Susheela Amma as she is fondly called by her fans, ruled the roost for four decades
Five time National Award winner and a Padma Bhushan awardee, Susheela Amma is a veteran in the field of music. Musically inclined since she was a child, she started learning classical music from her father, Mukund Rao. She says, “Appa was my first guru. After that I had a guru called Murari who taught me the basics of music. I came to Chennai when I was 16 and recorded my first song called ‘Yedhukku Azaithai’ for the movie ‘Petra Thai’ for A. M. Raja in 1951.” This nightingale has lent her golden voice to more than 3500 films in all the South Indian languages, Hindi, Tulu, Badaga, Oriya, Bengali and Sinhalese.
Susheela Amma has sung around 60,000 songs in her mellifluous voice. “I have extensively recorded for Viswanathan-Ramamurthy duo, MS Viswanathan, KV Mahadevan. To them, music was everything and the amount of variety they achieved without technology is amazing. Recording for each music composer has been a different experience for me.” This melody queen has several Telugu songs to her credit. She is known for the care she takes in pronouncing lyrics, even if language is a barrier.
When it comes to choosing a favourite number from her repertoire Susheela Amma says, “All songs that I have sung are special. But ‘Anubavam Pudhumai’ from ‘Kadhalika Neramillai’ holds a special place in my heart. The song has a beautiful tune and is picturized well!” Who can forget her melodious rendition of ‘Nenjam Marapadhillai’, ‘Chittu kuruvi’, ‘Rajavin Parvai’ and numerous other songs?
She started a trust called the P Susheela Trust four years back to honour musicians and singers. Members of the Trust are MS Viswanathan, Vairamuthu, Balasaraswati Devi and Jamuna Rao. “We have a monthly pension scheme from which a few musicians benefit. It is not something big, but a small help I render towards my music fraternity. Every year, a senior artist is conferred with a P. Susheela Trust award and the Lifetime Achievement Award. I mainly started this Trust because I wanted to give back something to the music world for having brought me to the position I am in right now.” Some of the recipients of these awards are TM Soundararajan, PB Sreenivas, S Janaki, SP Balasubramaniam and KJ Yesudas. Music concerts are held every year and the proceeds go towards the Trust.