Swarnalatha (29 April 1973 – 12 September 2010) was an Indian playback singer. In a career spanning almost 22 years (from 1987 until her death), she recorded over 10,000 songs in many Indian languages, including Tamil, Malayalam, Telugu, Kannada, Hindi, Urdu, Bengali, Oriya, Punjabi, and Badaga.[1]

Background information
Born(1973-04-29)29 April 1973
Chittur, Palakkad, Kerala, India
Died12 September 2010(2010-09-12) (aged 37)
Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India
GenresCinema Playback singing, Carnatic music, Hindustani Music, Ghazal
Years active1987–2010

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. She was also the first female playback singer to get a National Award In A. R. Rahman Music.[2]

Personal lifeEdit

She was born in Kerala, to K. C. Cherukutty and Kalyani. Her father was a harmonium player and singer. Her mother also had interest in music. Swarnalatha was trained to play harmonium and keyboard.[3] Swarnalatha's family later moved to Bhadravathi in Shivamogga District, Karnataka where she had her education.[4] She started singing at the age of 3. Surrounded by a family of musicians and music lovers, Swarnalatha was trained in Carnatic and Hindustani music. Her sister Saroja was her first music teacher.


Swarnalatha's family moved to Chennai to seek opportunities in the film industry for her singing talent. The first opportunity came from M. S. Viswanathan in 1987, when she performed a duet with K. J. Yesudas, "Chinnachiru Kiliye" in the film Neethikku Thandanai.[4] Subsequently, she was approached by many other music directors to perform songs under their baton. She also had the opportunity to work with director P. Venu. She was recruited by 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 the film Rangeela with singer Hariharan.

She was also known as the "Nightingale of Tamil cinema"[5] and The Humming Queen Of India [6] and is referred to as Kuralarasi.[7]

In Telugu, she recorded more songs under the music direction of Mani Sharma, Ramana Gogula, Raj–Koti, and Vandemataram Srinivas. They include the immensely popular songs like Raamma Chilakamma, Osey Ramulamma, and Nizam Babulu.

A. R. Rahman employed Swarnalatha for many of his songs. 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 under A. R. Rahman's music direction. She received the award for the song "Porale Ponnuthayi". She recorded many 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 recorded all the songs originally rendered by Lata Mangeshkar and Shamshad Begum for the Tamil movie Anarkali (the dubbed version of the Hindi movie Mughal-e-Azam) and was praised by the Bollywood music director Naushad Ali, which she considered the best moment in her career.[8][9]


She was part of Few Music Reality shows in early 2000s. In a 2001 Vijay TV reality show and in 2004 Jaya TV Ragamalika show as judge.[10][11]


Swarnalatha died at Malar Hospitals Ltd Adayar, Chennai at the age of 37, on 12 September 2010. She had had Idiopathic lung disease.[citation needed]

Awards and recognitionsEdit

Awards Wins
National Film Awards
Tamil Nadu State Film Awards
Cinema Express

National Award (Silver Lotus Award)-(Rajat Kamal)

Tamil Nadu State Film Awards

Cinema Express Awards

  • 1991 – Best Female Playback Singer for "Povomma Oorkolam" from Chinna Thambi[13]
  • 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
  • 2000 – Best Female Playback Singer for "Yevano Oruvan " from Alaipayuthey

Government Honour


  • 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. Balasubrahmaniyam and Swarnalatha[14]

Frequent collaborationEdit


She has sung over 200 songs for Ilayaraja and marked as one of the noted combinations in 90's. 'Povomaa Oorkolam' and 'Nee Yengae Enn Anbae' from the film Chinnathambi were hits. Government of Tamil Nadu honoured her with the award of Best Singer for the song 'Povomaa Oorkolam'.

The song 'Raakkamma Kayyathattu' from the film Thalapathi figured in BBC's Hits List of World Songs.

She had sung several experimental songs for Ilayaraja such as "Sollividu VelliNilave', "Kanne Indru Kalyana Kathai" and "Ennai Thottu Allikonda".

A. R. Rahman

A. R. Rahman and Swarnalatha association started from the year 1993. Their Combination is known for the magical songs such as "Mukkala Mukkabala", "Hai Rama yeh kya hua", which are the hit songs of 90's. She was the first female singer to receive National Award under Rahman's Music for the song "Porale ponnuthayi" from karuthama released in the year 1994. She has sung nearly 80 songs for Rahman.



  1. ^ "Playback singer Swarnalatha passes away". The Hindu. 12 September 2010. Retrieved 12 September 2010.
  2. ^ a b National award winning playback singer Swarnalatha passes away, Asian Tribune, Tue, 14 September 2010 03:25
  3. ^ "Swarnalatha Biography". Archived from the original on 14 July 2012. Retrieved 1 July 2016.
  4. ^ a b "Home". Retrieved 1 July 2016.
  5. ^ "Remembering Swarnalatha on her anniversary".
  6. ^ "The Humming Queen of india : Fans remember Swarnalatha on her birth anniversary".
  7. ^ "Kuralarasi swarnalatha birthday".
  8. ^ Singer swarnalatha captain TV marakka mudiyuma show, archived from the original on 22 December 2021, retrieved 11 May 2021
  9. ^ ஸ்வர்ணலதாவிற்கு கண்ணீர் அஞ்சலி, archived from the original on 22 December 2021, retrieved 11 May 2021
  10. ^ இசை பொக்கிஷம் கலைமாமணி இசைப்பேரரசி ஸ்வர்ணலதாவின் அபூர்வராகங்கள் #Swarnalathaofficial, archived from the original on 22 December 2021, retrieved 11 May 2021
  11. ^ JayaTV Rewind: ஸ்வர்ணலதா கலந்துகொண்ட ராகமாலிகா || Swarnalatha | Ragamalika, retrieved 11 May 2021
  12. ^ a b c d "My first break – Swarnalatha". The Hindu. 8 May 2009. Archived from the original on 10 May 2009.
  13. ^ "Chinna Thambhi Bags Cinema Express Award". The Indian Express. 25 February 1992. Retrieved 4 October 2013.
  14. ^ BBC World Service 70th Anniversary Global Music Poll: The World's Top Ten. 2002. Retrieved 5 February 2011.

External linksEdit