P Susheela, the South Indian Nightingale, turns 88!

Of the 40,000 songs the playback singer has sung, about 19,000 are in Telugu, 10,000 in Tamil, 5,000 in Kannada language, and 900 in Malayalam.

ByPrakash Pecheti

Published Nov 13, 2023 | 12:49 PM Updated Nov 13, 2023 | 12:55 PM

P Susheela playback singer

Playback singer P Susheela, fondly known as “Gana Kokila” (South Indian Nightingale) by her contemporaries, turned 88 on Monday, 13 November.

One of the soulful voices in the country, the veteran playback singer sang over half a lakh songs across different languages.

As she celebrates her 88th birthday, here’s a sneak peek into her life and singing profession:

Susheela is one of the few singers to be employed by AVM Studios on a monthly remuneration.

She was also given a trainer to hone her artistic and linguistic skills. In many interviews, the singer said she considered the legendary MS Viswanathan her mentor.

Of the 40,000 songs she sang in various languages, 19,000 are in Telugu, over 10,000 in Tamil, over 5,000 in Kannada, and over 900 in Malayalam.

She also sang over a hundred songs in other languages like Hindi, Padugu, Sanskrit, Bengali, Sinhalese, Oriya, Marathi, and Tulu.

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Milestones 

Susheela debuted in the Tamil film Petra Thaai in 1952 with a duet with AM Raja. Subsequently, the song was made in Telugu version with Susheela’s voice and Ghantasala as her co-singer.

She debuted in Kannada with the film Madiddunno Maraya in 1954.

Singer P Susheela

Singer P Susheela. (X)

Her contribution to the film Missamma in 1955 received critical acclaim. This was when she successfully created a fan base for herself in the music industry.

Susheela debuted in the Malayalam industry in 1960 for the film Seeta. The songs were composed by V Dakshinamurthy.

She won the First National Award for the song “Paal Polave” from the Tamil drama Uyarndha Manithan in 1969. The single also won her a Tamil Nadu State Award the same year.

She bagged the National Award again for the song “Chittukuruvikkenna” from Savaale Samaali (Tamil) in 1971.

Between 1960 and 1985, the singer was an undisputed queen ruling the music industry in Tamil. This was when Susheela started accepting the contracts of devotional compositions in various languages.

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Comeback after 13 years

After 13 long years, Susheela made a comeback with the 2007 romantic thriller Sila Nerangalil.

She launched a trust in 2008 to help the musicians and singers. The trust is aimed at providing pension schemes to the musicians, sponsoring music programmes, and offering monetary aid to poor and needy music students.

In November 2017, amidst speculations being spread about her death, Susheela released a video from the USA where she toured the country for about a month.