Tamil Nadu State Awards,National Award (Silver Lotus Award),
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Born 1973
Chittur, Palakkad, India
Died 12 September 2010 (aged 37)
Chennai, India
Genres Playback singing, Carnatic music Singer
Instruments vocals
Years active 1987–2010

Swarnalatha (Malayalam: സ്വർണ്ണലത, Tamil:, Telugu: స్వర్ణలత ; 1973 – September 12, 2010) was a South Indian film playback singer. From 1987 onward, she rendered nearly 7000 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 indu

Personal life and career

She was born in Athikkodu near Chittur, Palakkad, Kerala, to K. C. Cherukutty and Kalyani. 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. She opened her account in films when M. S. Viswanathan introduced her in a duet with singer Dr K J Yesudas. The song was Bharathiar's Chinnanchiru Kili ye , for the film Neethikku Thandanai in 1987.2

In 1987, she shifted to Chennai, where she met M. S. Viswanathan. M.S.V. introduced her to the film industry through a duet with K. J. Yesudas, "Chinnanchirukiliye Kannamma" from the film Neethikku Dhandanai.4 Subsequently, many other music directors approached her to perform their songs. 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.

She was one of the most versatile singers of her times, as she was able to sing melodies like "Maalayil Yaaro Manathodu Pesa" from Chatriyan2 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 memorable songs with music directors Deva, Vidyasagar, Harris Jayaraj, Anu Malik, Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, Raj-Koti, Yuvan Shankar Raja, Mani Sharma, Hamsaleka 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 acclaimed bollywood music director late Naushad Ali.

Swarnalatha was a very quiet and shy woman. She was very camera shy too. Her musical concerts were quite straight, with only her music doing the talking. Once in an interview, her brother said that she knew nothing in this world except the music. She dedicated her entire life to music.Her calmness and character were liked by so many people in the music industry and her fans.

Vocalist Mano, who has sung several film songs along with her, apart from performing with her live in many shows, was also a good friend. Mano said he was devastated on hearing about her death. "She was a great being, who only concentrated on her work and nothing else. We were introduced around the same time, and honed our singing skills under Ilayaraja. Swarnalatha is a demure, silent person, who despite having friends in the industry, kept all her problems to herself. A spinster with health problems at a relatively young age, I feel god has not been fair to such a nice person as Swarnalatha", he said.2

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.1

Legendary music composer M S Viswanathan, who gave the then 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. Swarnalatha was introduced to films by me, and was highly talented in music" he said.2
Awards and recognitions

National Award (Silver Lotus Award)

* 1995 - National Film Award for Best Female Playback Singer for "Porale Ponnuthayi" from Karuththamma5

Tamil Nadu State Awards

* 1991 - Tamil Nadu State Film Award for Best Female Playback for "Povomma Oorkolam" from Chinna Thambi5
* 1994 - Tamil Nadu State Film Award for Best Female Playback for "Porale Ponnuthayi" from Karuththamma5

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.6