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Background information
Born 29 April 1973
Chittur, Palakkad, Kerala, India
Died 12 September 2010 (aged 37)
Chennai, India
Genres Playback singing, Carnatic music
Occupation(s) Singer
Instruments vocals
Years active 1987–2010

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.[1]

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.[2]

Personal life[edit]

She was born in the village Kizhakkaepparra near Athikkode near Chittur, Palakkad, Kerala, to K. C. Cherukutty and Kalyani. Swarnalatha born with many brothers and sisters was the last born of a big family of music lovers. Her father was a good harmonium player and singer. Her mother also had interest in music. Swarnalatha was trained on the harmonium and keyboard.[3] Swarnalatha's family later moved to Bhadravathi (Paper Town) in Shimoga District, where she had her education.[4] 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.


When Swarnalatha was still a child, her family moved to Chennai to seek film opportunities for her singing talent. The first opportunity came from M. S. Viswanathan in 1987, when she performed a duet with K. J. Yesudas, "Chinnanchirukiliye Kannamma" in the film Neethikku Thandanai.[4] Subsequently, many other music directors approached her to perform their songs. She also had the opportunity to work with director P. Venu. 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[2] 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 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 Bollywood music director 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.[1]

Legends about Swarnalatha[edit]

Legendary music composer M S Viswanathan, who gave the 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 she died. Swarnalatha was introduced to films by me, and was highly talented in music" he said. M.S.V. had once remarked: “Swarnalatha is a gift. She is great among the rare singers I have met. I am proud to have introduced her.[2]

Isaignani ilayaraja also once in an interview, when he asked about the singers voice he likes most, he told that swarnalatha voice have a unique style and he mentioned that her voice is god's gifted voice.

Awards and recognitions[edit]

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)

Tamil Nadu State Awards

Cinema Express Awards

  • 1991 – Best Female Playback Singer for "Povomma Oorkolam" from Chinna Thambi[6]
  • 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

Government Awards

  • 1994– Kalaimamani Award by the Government of Tamil Nadu for her contributions towards Tamil music.
  • 1995– Nandi Award by the Government of Andhra Pradesh for her contributions towards Telugu music.

Other awards

  • 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[7]

Tamil film songs[edit]

In Ilaiyaraja's music[edit]

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.

Song Movie
"Oorellam Un Paatu Thaan" Oorellam Un Paatu Thaan
"Nandri Sollave" Udan Pirappu
"Sollividu Velli Nilave" Amaidhi Padai
"Kanne indru kalyana" Aanazhagan
"Aarearaaro aareeraaro" thayumanavan
"Mana Madurai" Anthapuram
"Kuruvi Kudaintha" Azhagi
"Aattama Therottama" Captain Prabhakaran
"Malaiyil Yaaro" Chathriyan
"Chithra Kili" Chinna Devan
"Adi Vannathi Poo" Chinna Jamin
"Onnapoothttu" Chinna Jamin
"Anthiyila Vanam" Chinnavar
"Povomma Oorkolam" Chinna Thambi
"Nee Enge" Chinna Thambi
"Naan Aerikkarai" Chinnaththaayi
"Kattu Kuyil Pattu" Chinna Mapillai
"Vennilavu Kothipathu" Chinna Mapillai
"Semparathi Poovukku" Dharma
"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
"Oorukku Thekkuttu" Kummipattu
"Ammiyila Araichi" Kummipattu
"Uchi Veyilukku" Kummipattu
"Nee Thane Nal Thorum" Paatu Vathiyar
"Kana Karunk Kuyilae" Paandithurai
"Malliye Chinna Mullaye" Paandithurai
"Vidalapulla" Periya Maruthu
"Vidai Kodu" Piriyadha Varam Vendum
"Ooradangum Samathilea" Puthupatti Ponnuthaye
"Malligai Mottu" Sakthi Vel
"Kalaiyil Kettathu" Senthamizh Pattu
"Punnaivana Poonkuyile" Sevvanthi
"Margalithan Odipochu" Thalapathi
"Rakkamma Kaiya Thattu" Thalapathi Massi masam
"Ennai Thottu" Unnai Nenachaen Paattu Padichaen
"Kanna Un Kannil" Unnai Nenachaen Paattu Padichaen
"Ennulle Ennulle" Valli
"Unnai Ethir Parthen" Vanaja Kirija
"Sirakadikuthu Kuruvi" Vanaja Kirija
"Aajare" Vishnu
"Naan Thanga Roja" Time
"Malai Kovil Vasalil" Veera
"Madathile Kanni" Veera

In A.R.Rahman's music[edit]

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.

Song Movie Year
"Evano Oruvan" Alaipayuthey 2000
"Sollaiyo Solai Kili" Alli Arjuna 2001
"Orunal Oru Pozhuthu" Anthimanthaarai 1995
"Kucchi Kucchi" Bombay (Tamil and Telugu) 1995
"Humma Humma" Bombay 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
"Usilampatti Penkutti" Gentleman 1993
"Akkadanu Nanga" Indian 1996
"Maya Machindra" Indian 1996
"Munneru Dhaan" Indira 1995
"Nee Etty Etty Thottuvachukka" Manitha Manitha 1994
"Anjathea Jeeva" Jodi 1999
"Anna Un Tholil" Oonjal 1999
"Sollu Anbe" Oonjal 1999
"Yenthen Vaanil" Kadhal Virus 2002
"Mukkala Mukkabla" Kadhalan 1994
"Mukkala Mukkabla" (Hindi) Kadhalan (Hindi – Humse Hai Muqabala) 1994
"Kadhalenum" Kadhalar Dhinam 1999
"Singore Singore" Kannathil Muthamittal 2002
"Poralae Ponnuthayi (sad)" Karuththamma 1993
"Madrasa Sutthi" May Madham 1994
"Mel Isaiye" Mr. Romeo 1996
"Ulunthu Vithaikayilae" Mudhalvan 1999
"Chittukuruvi" Parasuram 2003
"Mottu Vittatha" Pavithra 1994
"Hai Rama" (Hindi and Telugu) Rangeela 1995
"Ai Rama" (Tamil) Rangeela 1995
"Lucky Lucky" Ratchagan 1997
"Mercury Pookal" Ratchagan 1997
"Kummi Adi" Sillunu Oru Kadhal 2006
"Kadhal Yogi" Taalam 1999
"Kuliruthu Kuliruthu" Taj Mahal 1999
"Rakozhi Rendu" Uzhavan 1993
"Yae Muthu Paapa" Vandicholai Chinraasu 1994

Malayalam film songs[edit]

Song Movie
"Kadamizhiyil Kamaldalam" Thenkasipattanam
"Manikkakkallal Menju Menanju" Varnapakittu
"Nandalaala Hey Nandalaala" Independence
"Pottukuthedi Pudavachoodedi" Ravanaprabhu
"Balla Balla Ballare" Punjabi House
Poomeniyil Parasala Paatchan Payannur Paramu
"Varthingal Thellalle" Dreamz
"Akkuthikkuthaanakkompel" Mangalya Soothram
"Kannoram Kanamuthe Vaa" Ishtamanu Nooruvattam
"Manjil Pootha Sandhye" Minnaminunginum Minnukettu
"Neeyonnu Paad" Thacholi Varghese Chekavar
"Oru Thari Kasthoori" Highway
"Illikkadum" Eazharakkoottam
"Maninimukile ni pozhiyaruthe" Kuberan
"Madhu Chandrike Nee " Saadaram

Telugu film songs[edit]

Song Movie Music director
"Yamuna Thatilo" Thalapathi Ilaiyaraaja
"Endhirayyo" Siva Shankar Ilaiyaraaja
"Hey Dhaga Dhaga" Prematho Raa Mani Sharma
"Holi Holi" Kushi Mani Sharma
"Raama Chilakamma" Choodalani Vundi Mani Sharma
"Srungara Kavya" Ramudochadu Raj
"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
"Keeravani Ragamlo.." Swayamvaram Vandematarm Srinivas
"Rahasyamuga" Dum Dum Dum Kartik Raja
"Idele Taratarala Charitam" Peddarikam Raj-Koti
"Nachave Palapitta" Kalisundam Raa S. A. Rajkumar


  1. ^ a b "Playback singer Swarnalatha passes away". The Hindu. 12 September 2010. Retrieved 12 September 2010. 
  2. ^ a b c National award winning playback singer Swarnalatha passes away, Asian Tribune, Tue, 14 September 2010 03:25
  3. ^ Swarnalatha Biography
  4. ^ a b Manorama Online | Malayalam News
  5. ^ a b c d "My first break – Swarnalatha". The Hindu. 8 May 2009. 
  6. ^ "Chinna Thambhi Bags Cinema Express Award". The Indian Express. 25 February 1992. Retrieved 4 October 2013. 
  7. ^ BBC World Service 70th Anniversary Global Music Poll: The World's Top Ten. 2002. Retrieved 5 February 2011.

External links[edit]