South India’s answer to Latha Mangeshkar, P. Susheela (Pulapaka Susheela) fondly called as “gana kokila” and “gana saraswathi” turned 84 this year. But even as she has travelled thus far along the path of time, her voice has retained the familiar freshness and sweetness. It is no surprise that everybody who listen to her has one question coming to their mind: How does she retain that endearing sweetness of youth despite the advancing age? She has the answer, “its god’s gift to me. I owe it to god”. All music lovers irrespective of generation love this down to earth singer and her beautiful voice.
Her beautiful voice takes us to a different world. The most noteworthy feature of her voice is that she can sing for any heroine. It’s a big surprise that she has even sung for supporting actors. Susheela Amma modulates her voice to match the situation of song capturing the required mood. Her pitch and modulation of her voice produce magnificent resonance.
P. Susheela started singing at the age of nine, and made her debut at the age of sixteen in 1952. She hails from well-to-do family from Andhra Pradesh. Her parents wanted little Susheela to be a great classical singer like MS Subbhalakshmi. She came to madras in 1951 to enroll for the Sangeetha Vidwan course. Music director Pendyala Nageswara Rao spotted her at children’s radio concert and took her as lead singer for Kannathalli, and the rest was history.
She had been a bridge connecting two generation of music directors, having worked with Ilayaraja sir and his son Yuvan Shankar Raja.
It also comes as another surprise that how she has managed to sing over 5000 songs in Malayalam without even knowing the language. Her journey in Malayalam industry began with “Pattu Padi Urakkam”. Interestingly, after learning the lyrics, she made clear that she cannot sing as the pronunciation was very difficult. But Dakshina Murty sir was adamant that she must sing the song. She was not able to pronounce ‘na’. After a big struggle the song was recorded and the hit song was born. It was a smashing hit of the time. She is, in other words a genius. She conquered the Malayalam film industry in no time. G. Devarajan master had made 250 songs just for her voice the same way Madan Mohan had done for Latha Mangeshkar in Hindi.
Her most beautiful songs include Rajashilpi (Panchavan Kadavu), Pattu Padi (Seetha), Kannu Thurakatha (Agniputhri), Ezhu Sundara Ratrikal (Aswamedham), Priyathama (Shakuntala), Nalamthana (Thillana Mohanambal), Unnai Kanatha Kannum (Idhaya Kamalam) and Kannukku Mei Azhagu (Puthiya Mugham).
P. Susheela has entered Guinness world book of records for singing 17,695 songs in six Indian languages. But she has actually sung more than 40000 songs because of her hard work and her backbone, yes-her husband Dr. Mohan Rao. Her husband has devoted his life for her voice, supporting her through her career.
If you are still not her fan, listen to ‘Janaki Jaane’ from Dhwani movie or ‘Malarnthu Malaratha’ from Paasamalar, you will definitely become an ardent fan of her.