Early Life of Pulapaka Susheela
She was born on 13 November 1935 in a Telugu speaking family in the Andhra Pradesh state of India. She is the daughter of Pulapaka Mukunda Rao, a leading advocate in Vizianagaram District, Andhra Pradesh.
Education of Pulapaka Susheela
After completing her school education, Susheela attended Maharaja's Music College, Vizianagaram to receive her degree. Then she went on to do her Diploma in Music from Andhra University.
Career of Pulapaka Susheela
Susheela developed an interest in music at a very early age. She used to participate in various musical competitions during her school days. She even sang few songs for the All India Radio (AIR) for their private program telecasts. In the year 1950, music director Pendyala Nageswara Rao was looking for some fresh voices to sing for his new film compositions. Then with the help of AIR, he came across Susheela. Her voice impressed him and she was immediately signed on for the Tamil film 'Petra Thai' (1952) for a duet song "Edhuku Azhaithhai" with A. M. Raja. Later, the movie was remade in Telugu for which she recorded the same duet with Ghantasala. With this, she became a permanent employee of AVM Studios. The owner of the studio A. V. Meiyappan suggested her to improve Tamil pronunciation skills. He even hired a trainer for her. She made her debut into Kannada language with the film ‘Maadidunno Maaraya’ in 1954.
In the year 1955, her back to back hit songs both in Tamil and Telugu film industries made her a household name. Thus, began a huge legacy of Susheela. She lent her voice to almost all the films produced since 1955 through 1960s and 1970s till 1985. She got to sing some of the most evergreen songs of Cinema history composed by the legendary Tamil musicians Viswanathan and Ramamurthy.
By the year 1960s, Susheela established herself as a lead female singer across all the south Indian language films. In the same year, she stepped into the Malayalam film industry with the V. Dakshinamurthy compositions for the film 'Seetha'. Then she went on to sing numerous hit songs with all the Malayalam composers including G. Devarajan and M. K. Arjunan. Her solo songs were too hit with the audience that she was made the first choice singer for every other music composer from 1960-1985. It was during these years that she developed a strong friendship with the Nightingale of India, Lata Mangeshkar.
She also lent her voice to Hindi film industry and worked with musicians like KV Mahdevan, Laximkant Pyarelal, L. Vaidyanathan and Laxmi Kiran to name a few. Susheela continued to rule the music industry till 1985 and after 1986 she became selective about film songs. Since 1985, she slowly started focusing on Devotionals and Light Music and also on stage shows. However, she continued to have hit film songs till 2005.
Achievements of Pulapaka Susheela
Her immense contribution in the field of music made her earn various prestigious awards. She was honoured with the Devarajan Sangeetha Award in 2011. The Government of India awarded her with the Padma Bhushan in 2008. She was honoured with the Life Time Achievement Award by the Filmfare in 2006. In 2005, she received the Special Jury Swaralaya Yesudas Award for outstanding performance in music. In the same year, she also earned the 'Kalaimamani', Bharathidasan Award and 'Arignar Anna Award' from the Government of Tamil Nadu for Lifetime Contribution to Tamil Cinema. Then in the year 2001, the Government of Andhra Pradesh honoured her with the Raghupathi Venkaiah Award for lifetime achievement in Telugu cinema. Some of her other awards and recognition are as follows:
National Film Awards
Susheela received National Film Award for Best Female Playback Singer in 1969 for Uyarntha Manithan (Tamil), 1971 for Savaale Samali (Tamil), 1978 for Siri Siri Muvva (Telugu), 1982 for Meghasandesam (Telugu) and 1983 for M.L.A. Edukondalu (Telugu).
Filmfare Awards South
She received Filmfare Lifetime Achievement Award - South in 2006.
Personal Life of Pulapaka Susheela
Susheela tied the knot with Mohan Rao. They have a son named Jayakrishna and two granddaughters named Jayashree and Subashree. Her daughter-in-law Sandhya Jayakrishna is also a singer. She made her singing debut with A. R. Rahman in 'Iruvar'.
Social Work by P. Susheela Trust
The P Susheela Trust was formed in the year 2008. It has a monthly pension payment scheme and a few musicians in need are being benefited through it. On every 13 November, a musical concert is organised where a senior artist (s) is chosen by a panel. The artist is then conferred with the Lifetime Achievement awards and the P Susheela Trust award.
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