Ghantasala (singer)

Ghantasala Venkateswararao (4 December 1922 – 11 February 1974), known mononymously as Ghantasala, was an Indian film composer, Playback Singer known for his works predominantly in Telugu cinema and Kannada cinema and also in Tamil, Malayalam, Tulu and Hindi language films. In 1970, he received the Padma Shri award, India's fourth highest civilian award for his contribution to Indian cinema. According to The Hindu and The Indian Express, Ghantasala was "Such a divine talent and with his songs he could move the hearts of the people." "Ghantasala's blending of classical improvisations to the art of light music combined with his virtuosity and sensitivity puts him a class apart, above all others in the field of playback singing"."[1][2] "Gifted with what Indian Film Historian V. A. K. Ranga Rao called "the most majestic voice", Ghantasala helped Telugu film music develop its own distinct character which remains unparalleled". He is referred to as the "Gaana Gandharva" for his mesmerising voice and musical skills.[3]

Ghantasala on a 2003 stamp of India
Ghantasala on a 2003 stamp of India
Background information
Birth nameGhantasala Venkateswararao
Born(1922-12-04)4 December 1922
Choutapalli, Madras Presidency, British India, now in Krishna District, Andhra Pradesh
Died11 February 1974(1974-02-11) (aged 51)
Madras, Tamil Nadu, India
GenresFilm music (playback singing), Indian classical music
OccupationsSinger, composer
Years active1942–1974
Spouse(s)Savitri and Sarla Devi

Ghantasala performed in the United States, England and Germany, and for the United Nations Organisation. The government of Andhra Pradesh marked the occasion of 25 years of his film career as Silver Jubilee Celebrations of Ghantasala in Hyderabad on 1 February 1970. More than 30,000 people attended the function held at the Lal Bahadur Stadium, Hyderabad.[4] Ghantasala continues to be popular. Statutes of his likeness have been installed across Andhra Pradesh. Every year, the anniversaries of his birth and death are celebrated in India and overseas.[5][6][7][8][9][10][11][12][13]

Early lifeEdit

Ghantasala was born in 1922 into a Telugu Brahmin family of Ghantasala Soorayya, a professional singer in Chowtapalli, a village in Gudivada taluk of Krishna District.[3] During his childhood, Ghantasala used to dance to his father's Tarangams. His father died when Ghantasala was a child, and he was brought up by his maternal uncle. He took formal music training from Patrayani Sitarama Sastry, and joined Maharajah's Government College of Music and Dance in Vijayanagram.[14]


Ghantasala participated in the Quit India Movement of 1942, for which he was arrested and imprisoned for 18 months at the Alipore (Allipura) Jail, Ballari.[15] After leaving jail, he met Samudrala Sr., who advised him to try his luck in the film industry as a singer.[16] Ghantasala married Savitri, who lived in a village called Pedapulivarru. In that village, Ghantasala met lyricist Samudrala Sr., who was impressed with his voice and inducted him into the Madras film industry. Before Ghantasala found fame, he was already an accomplished Carnatic music singer.

Ghantasala's first break as a singer came from All India Radio. Later on, Peketi Siva Ram from HMV studios recorded Ghantasala's private songs. Ghantasala debuted as a chorus singer and for a character role in Seeta Rama Jananam by Pratibha Films. After this, he worked with well-known music directors Gali Penchala and C. R. Subbaraman. Ghantasala's first film as a music director was Laxmamma. He introduced the technique of changing the vocal pitch and diction to suit the actor singing the songs. Ghantasala was peerless at Padyam renderings and his way with the Telugu padyam was incomparable.

Producer Chittajallu Krishnaveni gave Ghantasala his first job as full-time music director for her film Mana Desam, which was N. T. Rama Rao's first film. It established Ghantasala as a music composer-cum-playback singer. He was the most prolific film composer and playback singer in Telugu cinema until the mid-1970s. He composed music for many popular Telugu movies, including Patala Bhairavi, Mayabazar, Lava Kusa, Pandava Vanavasam, Rahasyam, Gundamma Katha, Paramanandayya Shishyula Katha and Pelli Chesi Chudu, and also for popular Tamil and Kannada films in the 1950s and 1960s. Ghantasala sang for and directed the music for a Hindi film Jhandaa ooncha Rahe Hamara (1964).[17] The song "Siva Sankari" from the film Jagadeka Veeruni Katha (1961) believed to be one of the most challenging songs from classical hindusthani and carnatic style was sung by Ghantasala in a single take.[17][18][19][20][21]

Private recordings and Bhagavad GitaEdit

Ghantasala served as the Aaasthana Gaayaka (court musician) for the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams. He recorded private albums, including Bhagawad Gita, Patriotic Songs, Padyalu—a unique genre of Telugu, singing the verses in dramatic style—Pushpa Vilapam, Devotional and folk songs. His recording of "Bhagawad Gita", which he directed and sang, can now be heard daily in the Tirumala temple.[22] According to music director Pendyala Nageswara Rao and playback singer P. Susheela, "Ghantasala alone is the foremost among playback singers who had a full-fledged melodious powerful voice range which could accommodate in uniformity, all the three octaves in music quite comfortably".[23][24]

Pendyala Nageswara Rao channelled Ghantasala's classical musical knowledge and skills in classical renditions and in Telugu films including siva sankari from film Jagadekaveeruni Katha, Rasika Raja taguvaramu kama from film Jayabheri, and Syamala Dandakam – Manikya Veena from film Mahakavi Kalidasu. Pendyala said these renditions were recorded only in one take by Ghantasala.[25]


Ghantasala died on 11 February 1974, two months after his 51st birthday, due to cardiac arrest at a hospital in Chennai. The last song he recorded was for a documentary – Bhadrachala Ramadasu Vaibhavam ( music by Master Venu ) from the hospital bed the day before his death.


The Indian government released a postage stamp and first day cover to celebrate Ghantasala's work on 11 February 2003. He is the first movie singer-composer of the south to be accorded this honour.[1][26] The US Postal Department has released a postal stamp on Ghantasala on 6 October 2014. The postal stamp was jointly released by the North American Telugu Society (NATS) in collaboration with Telugu Literary and Cultural Association (TLCA) in New York.[27][28] Various awards named after Ghantasala are given every year, including the "Ghantasala melody king award". Recipients of this award include playback singers K J Yesudas and P Suseela, and Indian Idol Sri Ramachandra.[7][29][30] Ghantasala Arts Academy has instituted the "Ghantasala National Award"; the first winner was playback singer S. P. Balasubrahmanyam.[31]


Ghantasala statue in Guntur

Ghantasala was honoured with the "Padmashri" by the Government of India.[32][33] He won the best playback singer award in Andhra Pradesh every year for nearly 30 years, a feat unachieved by any other playback singer.[3]

After the saint poet Annamacharya in the 15th century, Ghantasala has been the only singer to perform devotional songs inside the Tirumala Venkateswara Temple near the Lord Moola Virat.[3]


"Kala Pradarshini Ghantasala Puraskar", the only award instituted directly by the Ghantasala Family curated by his second son Ravi Ghantasala and his wife, acclaimed dancer Parvathi Ravi Ghantasala, which aims to honor legends who have contributed to "Arts and Philanthropy". the Inaugural awards were presented to Dr.S.P.Balasubramanyam (music), Dr. Padma Subramaniam (Dance) and Dr. Nalli Kuppusamy Chetty (Philanthropy).

The Ghantasala Puraskar Award 2014, given every year by Sharan Incorporation, has been conferred on Rao Bala Saraswathi Devi, who was the first Telugu playback singer.[34] The Government music college in Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh, is named after Ghantasala.[35] Ghantasala Sangeetha Kalasala college in Hyderabad and Vizag offers six-month and one-year diploma courses on Ghantasala's light music, songs and music.[36] Ghantasala Yuva kalakendram offers semester based courses specially for children and youth.SivaNandiAwardRecipient Ghantasala Yuva Kalakendram founder M.S.V.N.VamshikrishnaDevaraya conducts ghantasala musical workshops every year at tayagaraya gana sabha[37]

Personal lifeEdit

Ghantasala Venkateswararao was married to Savitri and (Late) Sarala Devi. He was blessed with 8 children: 4 Daughters (Meera, Shyamala, Suguna, Shanthi) and 4 Sons (Vijayakumar, Ravikumar, Shankarkumar, Ratnakumar). Shyamala, Suguna, Shanthi, Vijayakumar and Ratnakumar are born to Savtri and Meera, Ravikumar and Shankar Kumar are born to Sarla Devi.

It is said that Ghantasala named his eldest son “Vijaya” Kumar after Vijaya Productions out of gratitude towards the organization that employed him as a permanent artiste. Sri Chakrapani, one of then producers of Vijaya Productions, presented Ghantasala a purse with Rs. 25,000 realising his respect towards the organization.


  • Tyagayya (1946)
  • Anarkali (1955)
  • Sri Venkateswara Mahatyam (1960) Sathya harichndra(Kannada)

Playback singer and music directorEdit

Playback singerEdit

Ghantasala recorded songs as playback singer for the movies under popular composers – S Rajeswara Rao, Pendyala Nageswara Rao, M S Viswanathan, K V Mahadevan, Adi Narayana Rao, Master Venu, T V Raju, T Chalapathi Rao, S P Kodandapani, Shankar Jai Kishan, Susarla Dakshina Murthy, and Galipenchala Narasimha Rao among others.

Private albumsEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b "Honouring a legend". The Hindu. Chennai, India. 11 February 2003. Archived from the original on 19 October 2003.
  2. ^ K. Kumara Sekhar (14 February 1974) No Mere Singer. Indian Express.
  3. ^ a b c d SriJa (4 December 2013). "Gana Gandharva Ghantasala". Andhra Wishesh. Wishesh Digital Media. Retrieved 19 November 2014.
  4. ^ "Assorted Photographs". 1 February 1970. Retrieved 30 December 2011.
  5. ^ "Rich tributes paid to Ghantasala". Indian American. 14 December 2010. Archived from the original on 24 March 2012. Retrieved 30 December 2011.
  6. ^ "kiranextras: Ghantasala statues across state". 5 December 2008. Retrieved 30 December 2011.
  7. ^ a b "Ghantasala's statue to adorn Guntur". The Hindu. Chennai, India. 11 December 2005. Archived from the original on 12 December 2006.
  8. ^ "Ghantasala music fest today". The Hindu. Chennai, India. 3 December 2010.
  9. ^ "NATIONAL / ANDHRA PRADESH: Statue of Ghantasala unveiled". The Hindu. Chennai, India. 12 February 2012. Retrieved 17 February 2012.
  10. ^ Andhra Pradesh / Guntur News : Tributes paid to Ghantasala. The Hindu (19 February 2011)
  11. ^ Stage set for Ghantasala fete. The Hindu (30 September 2012).
  12. ^ Rich tributes paid to Ghantasala. The Hindu (12 February 2015). Retrieved on 15 November 2018.
  13. ^ "Tribute to Ghantasala". The Hindu. 28 September 2018.
  14. ^ V.A.K Ranga Rao. Ghantasala (1922–1974). From the book Mee Ghantasala.
  15. ^ P Satyanarayana Rao (26 April 2010) This jailhouse has a rich past. Deccan Herald
  16. ^ Ghantasala Venkateswara Rao. IMDb
  17. ^ a b Homage to Ghantasala. (4 December 2009).
  18. ^ "Ghantasala Biography". 8PM News. 11 February 2011. Archived from the original on 12 December 2013.
  19. ^ "మహమ్మద్ రఫీని విస్మయానికి గురి చేసిన ఘంటసాల పాట". 4 December 2013.
  20. ^ Ghantasala ‘Music’ Story. (9 February 2014). Retrieved on 15 November 2018.
  21. ^ "The melody imperial". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 12 March 2003.
  22. ^ "Ghantasala Biography". 11 February 2011. Archived from the original on 26 May 2011. Retrieved 30 December 2011.
  23. ^ "Ghantasala's Biographical article A One-Stop for Melodious Telugu Songs!!!". Retrieved 30 December 2011.
  24. ^ gaana gaMdharvuDu.
  25. ^ ఈమాట » ఘంటసాల–బాలసుబ్రహ్మణ్యం.
  26. ^ "Ghantasala adorns stamps". The Times of India. 22 July 2012. Archived from the original on 13 June 2013.
  27. ^ "After ANR, Ghantasala Gets This Honour". CineJosh. 12 October 2014.
  28. ^ "అలరించిన శరత్ చంద్ర 'ఘంటసాల గాన విభావరి' ***అమెరికాలో ఘంటసాల పోస్టల్ స్టాంపు విడుదల చేసిన నాట్స్". Telugu Community News.
  29. ^ "Ghantasala Melody King Award for 'Indian Idol' Sree Ramachandra". The Hindu. Chennai, India. 5 December 2010. Archived from the original on 9 December 2010.
  30. ^ "Ghantasala Awards for Susheela, Nagoor Babu". The Hindu. Chennai, India. 4 December 2008.[dead link]
  31. ^ "Ghantasala national award presented to Balu". The Hindu. Chennai, India. 15 April 2011. Archived from the original on 9 November 2012.
  32. ^ "Padma Shri Awardees". Archived from the original on 29 April 2012. Retrieved 1 March 2011.
  33. ^ Assorted Photographs.
  34. ^ Aruna Chandaraju (2 May 2014) Melodies of an era – Tirupati. The Hindu. Retrieved on 15 November 2018.
  35. ^ "A homecoming for the maestro". The Hindu. Chennai, India. 23 July 2007. Archived from the original on 16 November 2007.
  36. ^ Thespian goes down memory lane. The Hindu (24 June 2012).
  37. ^ [1]. vaartha(Fri,15 February 2019).

External linksEdit