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The Fervent

Joined: 20 Jan 2007
Posts: 352

PostPosted: Fri Dec 07, 2018 1:01 pm    Post subject: PEERLESS SUSHEELA .... PART 1 Reply with quote

“Peerlessness” is her Prefix – P. Susheela

The abstract import of artistes such as P Susheela is ageless, timeless and definition defying. Therefore let us treat this article as an excuse, yet another opportunity to portray and elucidate the peerless attributes of this phenomenon on what in earthly terms is known as Birthday, her Birthday, November 13th. Yes, our connection to Mother Earth needs to be intermittently referenced lest we should forget our true domicile status on this planet and take our celestial sojourns this voice takes us to, as our permanent abode.
First of all, let us imbibe this simple truth, she defined playback singing as far as South Indian Films were concerned. Playback singing as we have learnt now involves perfect portrayal of the innermost sentiments of the character on whom the song is picturized. The natural corollary is that any technicality incorporated within the tune such as rolls, shakes i.e. sangathis, every word sung out, the curves and glides need, to be put through in a manner befitting the character of the beautiful heroine on the screen. Any special efforts taken to sing a brigha or a sangathi however difficult they are, will render the song seem more technicality orientated ,flipping the listener out of the mood, thus impairing the primary attribute a film song should possess, emotions. P. Susheela’s singing regardless of how technically complex or brigha ridden the song was, ensured none of the technical aspects overrode the character based emotional throughput of the song. That was primarily because of her effortlessness in producing sangathis which naturally remained within the emotional confines of the song and never stuck out, however complex they may be. Several stage singers therefore discover much to their consternation, several unobtrusively peppered sangathis and a song that seemed a proverbial cake walk, becomes unnegotiable. Several of the current crop of singers have admitted that the safest place to sing P Susheela’s songs is within the safety of the four walls of home. Her singing process involved establishing a thematic tonal quality that served as the bed spread for the entire song to ride on and with all the above mentioned attributes, her singing thus sat pat on the lips of the beautiful heroine, a visual translation of the aural treat.
Penn State University in USA had conducted a research on Playback singing in Indian Films and came to the conclusion that Lata Mangeshkar up North and P. Susheela Down South had defined feminity as it was required in Films. P. Susheela defined feminity in the early 50s and into the late 50s had portrayed all moods, right from demure disposition to rumbustiousness, inebriation, wild romance and the “vampishly” romantic jabs as well, especially in Telugu.

Furthermore, it is often stated that “open” singing smothers subtlety and with it, nuanced sangathis, and on the other hand subtle singing can take away the impact and the “punch” in singing. P Susheela’s voice was bold when it suited the cinema situation and could yet reel off nuanced passages with “rolls and shakes” while being bright and bold, voice of a kind was it, with this dichotomous nature !!!!
Some good hearted soul had urged P. Susheela, aged 16 then in 1952, to approach Pendyala Nageswara Rao as he was scouting for fresh voices to embellish his, somewhat fledgling career. P. Susheela paid heed and had sung Naushad’s serenely melancholic “mohE bhool gaye sawariyA” during her auditions which force ejected tears from the Master composer’s eyes . He immediately fixed a recording date for recording the songs for his upcoming “kanne thalli”, in Telugu, “petra thai” in tamil. So, a simultaneous entry into Tamil Filmdom simply happened !!! “Padhyams” are a part of the Telugu Culture and where ported to the Telugu filmdom as well. Padhyams became an integral part of Telugu Film Music and P. Susheela herself was gifted with the “Gajendra Moksham” padhyam as her first ever complete recorded song. This was followed by a duet “Ethukku azhaithAi Ethukku” in Tamil and its Telugu version “enthuku pilichavu enthuku” with AM Raja in the same movie. Pendyala came to swear by P. Susheela for the rest of his career as did several peers of his, across all the South Indian languages. An exacting perfectionist was he, even the simplest of his songs went for numerous takes as every executed version of the song acted as a stimulant for fresher composing ideas. Ever the smiling assassin, he would gently step into the booth, praise the performers and then punctuate the laudatory statements with a request for a change, on very many occasions, more than a subtle change it could be. Hence, yet another take !!!! Within a couple of years. Susheela had stepped into bigger league by being commissioned by “Big Daddy of them all“, Saluru Rajeswara Rao for “Missiamma”, the perennial classic. Prior to that, P. Susheela’s assignments in the Pendyala album “Donga Ramudu” (released in 1953) had created enough ripples for the music industry to extend its reach to the then 16 year old. “Donga Ramudu” had a javli “Bala Gopala” , sung in the traditional classical style, open throated and all and “Anuragamu virisena”, a romantic ditty set in the Thumri mode. The latter song is “crooned”, a technique wherein every sensitivity inducing passage is sung softly and every piece of technicality is executed within the periphery of softness. Every sangathi, brigha had to be “crooned”, no mean task and one wonders how a 16 year old could bring such a conspicuous change in delivery style across songs when her experience was slender then. So back to Rajeswara Rao, a few months before the Missiamma project happened, he had requested the seemingly shyness smitten 16 year old who spoke very little to come to Gemini Studios to sing as a part of the chorus. Swift had been the response and sharp and curt too, taking the maestro by surprise, so sharp that he perished such intentions immediately. The young girl had some spunk you know, she was to later arm herself with a broom stick when her hotel room in Mumbai was on the verge of being invaded by rioters in 1957 !!!! She had gone to Mumbai to record songs for the Tamil version of “Mughal E Azam” for Naushad Ali then. “Missiamma” had the classical “ariya paruvamadA” and the ever titillating “brindavanamum nandakumaranum”. If the teenaged girl’s earlier mentioned caustic response had created a scar in Rajeswara Rao’s mind, he showed no indications of that as he swiftly made her his lead singer. Even in the 50s, everything from classical to Club songs and Middle Eastern ditties were mapped to her by this prodigious composer. He was to become so besotted with her singing when he had to seek the services of another singer owing to P Susheela’s absence, he was found hanging a towel on his head as a mark of protest !!!!
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V Sivasankaran
The Ardent

Joined: 13 Nov 2008
Posts: 152

PostPosted: Fri Dec 07, 2018 2:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Lovely write up vatsa. PS, acclaimed singer, defined feminism, served film music over 6 decades with utmost dignity. Msv times.com will continue to take efforts in the cause of spreading her glory. V Sivasankaran
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Joined: 08 Nov 2006
Posts: 715
Location: Madras, India

PostPosted: Fri Dec 07, 2018 5:14 pm    Post subject: THE VOICE THAT LETS US FORGET EVERYTHING... Reply with quote

Dear All,

If Tendullkar was a Master Blaster with a bat, so is our Vatsan with a pen which could be one thousandth. I am sure pen is mightier than the bat here!!

What a write-up that not only occupied a huge space here but our hearts too brim with happiness for, the person receiving all these accolades is none other than PS, the voice that lets us forget everything. So captivating this voice has been for several decades!!! You have delved in detail about PS's journey from the word go. Absolutely informative and thoroughly enjoyable too.


What a journey this has been for Susheelamma from the age of 16!! The paths she sailed weren't bed of roses for sure but how she managed to carve a niche for herself in the hearts of Indians, especially South Indians!

Vatsa, though this is my reply to your part 1 as I am yet to read the others, you have already kindled my interest to respond for the remaining ones.

Yet again a superlative stuff you have written on this singing wonder of India (why India, the world to be precise) and thank you is small a phrase to appreciate your thoughts on PS which are utterly at a celestial level.

Welcome back Vatsa.



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