Chittur, Palakkad, Kerala, India
|Died||12 September 2010 (aged 37)
|Genres||Playback singing, Carnatic music|
Swarnalatha (1973 – 12 September 2010) was an Indian playback singer. From 1987 onward, she rendered nearly 7,000 songs in many languages including Tamil, Kannada, Telugu, Hindi, Malayalam, Urdu, Bengali, Oriya, Punjabi and Badaga.
She won the National Film Award for Best Female Playback Singer for her rendition of the song "Porale Ponnuthayi" from the film Karuththamma. The song was composed by A. R. Rahman, under whose musical direction she recorded many memorable songs. Her distinctive voice, which could effortlessly reach high octaves, quickly made her a name to reckon with in the playback music industry.
Personal life and career
She was born in Athikkodu near Chittur, Palakkad, Kerala, to K. C. Cherukutty and Kalyani. Her father was a good harmonium player and singer. Her mother also had interest in music. Swarnalatha was trained on the harmonium and keyboard. Swarnalatha's family later moved to Bhadravathi (Paper Town) in Shimoga District, where she had her education. Born in a family of musicians (father K. C. Cherukutty was a singer and harmonium player, while sister Saroja was her music guru initially). Swarnalatha took to music when she was in her teens.
In 1987, she shifted to Chennai, where she met M. S. Viswanathan. M.S.V. introduced her to the film industry through a duet with K. J. Yesudas, "Chinnanchirukiliye Kannamma" from the film Neethikku Dhandanai. Subsequently, many other music directors approached her to perform their songs. She was recruited by legendary musicians like Ilaiyaraaja and A. R. Rahman. She also recorded a few Hindi songs, the most notable one being "Hai Rama Yeh Kya Hua" from Rangeela along with Hariharan.
She was one of the most versatile singers of her times, as she was able to sing melodies like "Maalayil Yaaro Manathodu Pesa" from Sathriyan or "Porale Ponnuthayi" from Karuthamma as well as Rahman's experimental songs like "Mukkabla" from Kadhalan or "Mottu Vittadha" from Pavithra. Swarnalatha was the first female playback singer to fetch the National Award in A. R. Rahman's music for the song "Porale Ponnuthayi". Once in an interview, she said that she was moved to tears when she finished the recording of this song and received praise from A. R. Rahman. She recorded many other memorable songs with music directors Deva, Vidyasagar, Harris Jayaraj, Anu Malik, Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, Raj-Koti, Yuvan Shankar Raja, Mani Sharma, Hamsalekha and many others.She had sung all the songs of Lata Mangeshkar and Shamshad Begum in the movie Anarkali(Tamil dubbed version of the Hindi movie mughal-e-Azam) and she was praised by the acclaimed Bollywood music director late Naushad Ali.
Swarnalatha died at a private hospital in Chennai at the age of 37 due to cardiac arrest followed by interstitial lung disease (lung infection) after being admitted because she had difficulty in breathing. The singer had been undergoing treatment for lung infection for over a year and had not recorded for films during the period of infection.
Legendary music composer M S Viswanathan, who gave the then 14-year old Swarnalatha a break in films, described her as a very talented singer. She is believed to have approached him first, when she wanted to launch her career in film music. He gave her a chance in the film Needhikku Thandanai. "I was shocked on hearing the news. Swarnalatha was introduced to films by me, and was highly talented in music" he said.
Awards and recognitions
She got National Award from Government of India When she was 21 years old.She won Cinema Express Awards four times.
National Award (Silver Lotus Award)-(Rajat Kamal)
- 1994 - National Film Award for Best Female Playback Singer for "Porale Ponnuthayi" from Karuththamma
Tamil Nadu State Awards
- 1991 - Tamil Nadu State Film Award for Best Female Playback for "Povomma Oorkolam" from Chinna Thambi
- 1994 - Tamil Nadu State Film Award for Best Female Playback for "Porale Ponnuthayi" from Karuththamma
- 2000 - Tamil Nadu State Film Award for Best Female Playback for "Evano oruvan" from Alaipayuthey
- 1991 - Best Female Playback Singer for "Povomma Oorkolam" from Chinna Thambi
- 1995 - Best Female Playback Singer for "Muquala Muqapala" from Kadhalan
- 1996 - Best Female Playback Singer for "Akkadannu nanga" from Indian
- 1999 - Best Female Playback Singer for "Ulunthu vidaikayile" from Mudhalvan
- 1994- Kalaimamani Award by the Government of Tamil Nadu for her contributions towards Tamil music.
- 2002 - The song "Rakkama Kaiya Thattu" from the movie Thalapathi (1991) was among the songs listed in a BBC World Top Ten music poll. It was performed by S. P. Balasubrahmanyam and Swarnalatha 
Notable Tamil film songs
In Ilaiyaraja's music
The numbers based on the same tune ‘Povomaa Oorkolam’ and ‘Nee Yengae Enn Anbae’ from the film Chinnathambi was huge hits. Songs like these made Swarnalatha the singing voice of Khushbu who was ruling the roost as a Super Star for whom fans had built a temple. Government of Tamil Nadu honoured her with the award of Best Singer for the song ‘Povomaa Oorkolam’.
With her song ‘Aattama Therottama’ in the film Captain Prabhakaran she proved that she was incomparable in singing peppy dance numbers as well. Many songs, one different from the other, from Ilayaraja-Swarnalatha combine like ‘Maasi Maasam Aalana Ponnu’ from Dharmadurai, ‘Malliye Chinna Mullaye’ and ‘Kaana Karunkuyile’ from Paandidurai, ‘Kuyil Paattu Vandhadenna’ from En Rasaavin Manasile, ‘Malligai Mottu Manasa Thottu’ from Shakthivel, ‘Ennulle Ennulle’ from film Valli, ‘Vedalappulla Nesathukku’ from film Periya Marudhu and ‘Rajaadhi Raja Un Thandhirangal’ from film Mannan went on to become big hits. Their song ‘Raakkamma Kayyathattu’ from the film Thalapathi figured in BBC’s Hits List of world songs. Swarnalatha’s song from the film Veera, ‘Malaikkoyil Vaasalil Kaarthigai Deepam Minnuthe’, is a rare and nostalgic song.
|"Nandri Sollave"||Udan Pirappu|
|"Sollividu Velli Nilave"||Amaidhi Padai|
|"Kanne indru kalyana"||Aanazhagan|
|"Aattama Therottama"||Captain Prabhakaran|
|"Chithra Kili"||Chinna Devan|
|"Adi Vannathi Poo"||Chinna Jamin|
|"Povomma Oorkolam"||Chinna Thambi|
|"Nee Enge"||Chinna Thambi|
|"Kattu Kuyil Pattu"||Chinna Mapillai|
|"Vennilavu Kothipathu"||Chinna Mapillai|
|"Maasi Masam"||Dharma Dorai|
|"Mana Magalea"||Devar Magan|
|"Vayasu Vantha"||En Mana Vaanil|
|"Kuyil Paatu"||En Rasavin Mansilae|
|"Uthama Puthiri"||Guru Sishyan|
|"Aradi Suvaruthan"||Ithu Namma Bhomi|
|"Oru Pokiri Rathiri"||Ithu Namma Bhomi|
|"Kooyil Mani Kettene"||Kanna Unnai Thedukiren|
|"Enga Then Paandi"||Kattabomman|
|"Adi Asa Machan"||Kummipattu|
|"Nee Thane Nal Thorum"||Paatu Vathiyar|
|"Kana Karunk Kuyilae"||Paandithurai|
|"Malliye Chinna Mullaye"||Paandithurai|
|"Vidai Kodu"||Piriyadha Varam Vendum|
|"Ooradangum Samathilea"||Puthupatti Ponnuthaye|
|"Malligai Mottu"||Sakthi Vel|
|"Kalaiyil Kettathu"||Senthamizh Pattu|
|"Rakkamma Kaiya Thattu"||Thalapathi|
|"Ennai Thottu"||Unnai Nenachaen Paattu Padichaen|
|"Kanna Un Kannil"||Unnai Nenachaen Paattu Padichaen|
|"Unnai Ethir Parthen"||Vanaja Kirija|
|"Sirakadikuthu Kuruvi"||Vanaja Kirija|
|"Naan Thanga Roja"||Time|
|"Malai Kovil Vasalil"||Veera|
In A.R.Rahman's music
There is no doubt that no other song released during that period found the kind of popularity which the dance number "Mukkala Mukkabla" from the film Kadhalan achieved. Similarly the song ‘Porale Ponnuthayi’ from the film Karuthamma reigned in everyone’s heart leaving an indelible sadness with its manner of rendition. These two songs at the two emotional extremes suffice as testimony to the uncommon singing felicity of Swarnalatha. The way she had rendered Mukkala Mukkabla, a number meant to please the mass, was amazing.
|"Gumadichee"||Sillunu Oru Kaadhal||2006|
|"Sollaiyo Solai Kili"||Alli Arjuna||2001|
|"Orunal Oru Pozhuthu"||Anthimanthaarai||1995|
|"Kucchi Kucchi"||Bombay (Tamil and Telugu)||1995|
|"Kay Sera Sera" (as chorus)||Pukar||2000|
|"Sunta Hai Mera Khuda"||Pukar||2000|
|"Chalo Chale Mitwa"||Nayak||2001|
|"Poongkaatrilae"||Dil Se.. (Tamil - Uyire)||1998|
|"O Priyathamma"||Dil Se.. (Telugu - Prematho)||1998|
|"Shabba Shabba"||Daud (Original Soundtrack in Hindi)||1997|
|"Shabba Shabba"||Daud (Tamil - Ottam)||1997|
|"Oh Vandhaale"||Daud (Tamil - Ottam)||1997|
|"Shabba Shabba"||Daud (Telugu - 50-50)||1997|
|"Sy Saiyyante"||Daud (Telugu - 50-50)||1997|
|"Nee Etty Etty Thottuvachukka"||Manitha Manitha||1994|
|"Anna Un Tholil"||Oonjal||1999|
|"Yenthen Vaanil"||Kadhal Virus||2002|
|"Mukkala Mukkabla" (Hindi)||Kadhalan (Hindi - Humse Hai Muqabala)||1994|
|"Singore Singore"||Kannathil Muthamittal||2002|
|"Poralae Ponnuthayi (sad)"||Karuththamma||1993|
|"Madrasa Sutthi"||May Madham||1994|
|"Mel Isaiye"||Mr. Romeo||1996|
|"Hai Rama" (Hindi and Telugu)||Rangeela||1995|
|"Ai Rama" (Tamil)||Rangeela||1995|
|"Kummi Adi"||Sillunu Oru Kadhal||2006|
|"Kuliruthu Kuliruthu"||Taj Mahal||1999|
|"Yae Muthu Paapa"||Vandicholai Chinraasu||1994|
Notable Malayalam film songs
|"Manikkakkallal Menju Menanju"||Varnapakittu|
|"Nandalaala Hey Nandalaala"||Independence|
|"Balla Balla Ballare"||Punjabi House|
|"Kannoram Kanamuthe Vaa"||Ishtamanu Nooruvattam|
|"Manjil Pootha Sandhye"||Minnaminunginum Minnukettu|
|"Neeyonnu Paad"||Thacholi Varghese Chekavar|
|"Oru Thari Kasthoori"||Highway|
"Madhu Chandrike Nee " Saadaram
Notable Telugu film songs
|"Raama Chilakamma"||Choodalani Vundi||Mani Sharma|
|"Paataku Praanam"||Vasu||Harris Jayaraj|
|"O muthyalakomma (almost all songs)"||Osey Ramulamma||Vandemataram Srinivas|
|"Prarthana"||Devi||Devi Sri Prasad|
|"Nizam Babulu"||Premante Idera||Ramana Gogula|
|"Strawberry Kanne"||Merupu kalalu||A.R Rahman|
- "Playback singer Swarnalatha passes away". The Hindu. September 12, 2010. Retrieved September 12, 2010.
- National award winning playback singer Swarnalatha passes away, Asian Tribune, Tue, 2010-09-14 03:25
- Swarnalatha Biography
- Manorama Online | Malayalam News
- "My first break - Swarnalatha". The Hindu. 8 May 2009.
- "Chinna Thambhi Bags Cinema Express Award". The Indian Express. 1992-02-25. Retrieved 2013-10-04.
- BBC World Service 70th Anniversary Global Music Poll: The World's Top Ten. 2002. Retrieved 5 February 2011.