S. G. Kittappa
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Shencottah Ganagathara Aiyer Kittappa (25 August 1906 – 2 December 1933) was a Tamil classical singer and stage actor who was active in the pre-cinema days of the 1920s. His wife was the famous singer and film actress K. B. Sundarambal.
Shencottah Ganagathara Aiyer Kittappa
25 August 1906
|Died||2 December 1933 (aged 27)|
|Occupation||Stage actor, singer|
Kittappa was born in Shenkottai in the then Kingdom of Travancore to Ganagaadhara Aiyer. He was Ganagaadhara Aiyer's tenth child and third son, the others being Chellappa and Subbiah. Due to the weak financial condition of the family, Kittappa did not receive any formal education but was trained in music and screenplay by Sankaradas Swamigal.
Kittappa took to the stage early in his career and achieved remarkable success. His first stage appearance was at the age of five in Madurai. He appeared in dramas in Ceylon at the age of eight. The Ceylon Indian Chamber of Commerce awarded him gold medal and certificate of appreciation for his artistic talents.
In 1919 the famous Kannaiya Nadaga Kuzhu recruited SGK to be part of them. He served them for 6 years. As his brother, Kasi Aiyyer was a good harmonium player, he teamed up perfectly with Kittappa to produce the best of songs to the standard prevalent in those days. As SGK sang and acted very well in a drama called "Kandi Raja" Justice Abdul Rahim awarded a golden shawl and "Kuthu Vilakku" for SGK.
Both SGK and his brother Kasi Aiyyer went to Ceylon to stage dramas. There K.B. Sundrambal was staging her own dramas. SGK and KBS met there for the first time. They then teamed up to perform several dramas. From there they went to Rangoon to stage dramas. They returned with much wealth. Upon their return they continued to perform in Tamil Nadu. At times KBS and SGK acted in dramas like Thookku Thookki, Nandanaar, Dasavatharam Aandaal etc. staged by the Kannaiya Nadaga Company.
The north Indian Sangeetha Vidvan Pandit Vishnu Digambar Paluskar did not think highly of SGK. When SGK was asked to sing a song in Begada Ragam SGK very fluently sang it only to shake up the Pandit. The Pandit who was scheduled to return by night mail stayed back to see SGK's drama, called "Krishna Vilasam". The Pandit was impressed and at the end of the drama he took off the garland from his own neck and placed it upon the neck of SGK and said "You are truly Krishna, no doubt". This Pandit had a great liking for the bhajan "Ragupathi Ragava Rajaram Patheetha Pavana Seetharam". Therefore, SGK made it a point to sing this piece at the tail end of his dramas in remembrance of their historical meeting.
At another time another famous north Indian Sangeetha Vidvan by the name of Peara Saheb came to perform his songs in the Victoria Public Hall of Madras. SGK also went to the show. At this show the Saheb sang the song "sabathi kilasa" in Kamas raga. At night SGK staged his drama for which the Saheb turned up. In this drama SGK sang the same song that the Saheb had sung earlier. As SGK was able to sing very well the Saheb went up the stage and offered him his own gold chain.
When SGK was performing in Vijayawada in Andhra Pradesh, the famous Andhra vidvan Kapilavaayi Ramanadha Sastry sang the "Kori Bajanannu" keertana. In a few minutes SGK also sang the same Keertana. The sastrikal immediately embraced SGK to show his appreciation.
SGK used to learn a few keertana from the Mayuram KV Rajarama Aiyer. Once SGK was on his way to Kumbakonam to perform a stage drama. On the way SGK saw KV Rajarama Aiyer and asked him how to sing in Shuddha Seemanthini Raga. Aiyer sang for him. At night SGK sang the same raga in his drama. Malaikkottai Govindasamy Pillai appeared on stage and awarded him a gold medal and glorified him to a superlative level. A few more vidvans were also there to appreciate SGK. Kanjipuram Nayana Pillai appeared on stage and said "Had SGK taken up singing in kachery, people like me would have become unknown figures" Likewise Dachinamoorthy Pillai said the no other songs had stolen his heart as those of SGK. Mannarkudy Packirisamy Pillai also glorified him.
T.N. Rajarathnam Pillai who had recognized the talents of SGK said that it was only SGK whom he considered to be in the forefront in the field of singing, and no one else. Chowdayya who was fascinated by the talents of SGK played the "pidil" (fiddle, violin) in his dramas for some time.
Mr and Mrs Eechim of Boston fame came to Trichy and happened to witness the kachery of Kittappa in the Rasika Ranjani Saba. The couple were very much impressed and made sure articles appeared in the American papers. The Mysore Mannar, Thiruvangoor Mannar, and even Governors like Lord Livingston and Lord Curzon listened to the Sangeetham and awarded gold medals.
SGK was a great devotee and a patriot. He gave a lot for the poor. He used to stage dramas to collect funds for temple and charitable causes.
Kittappa was captivated by the singing of upcoming singer K. B. Sundarambal. The two eventually fell in love and married in 1927. The duo later performed together in the stage offering many hits.
Kittappa's efforts took a toll on his health due to excessive alcohol intake. Once while acting in a drama in Thiruvarur, he fainted and collapsed on stage, he was never revived after that. Kittappa eventually died in 1933 at the age of 27.
S.G. Kittappa was called the "Isayulaga Mannan" by various quarters.
He was very fluent in singing suram, but he never really supported it. He used to explain the ragas before starting his songs. He used to sing in Tamil. His pronunciation was said to be very clear. He is the first to have pulled the rural folks towards the kachery songs.