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Vasantha, hails from Machalipatnam in Andhra Pradesh. She began singing from a very young age and had an uncanny skill of being able to reproduce the style in which other singers sang. Despite the insistence of Kanakadurga, her mother, who was an accomplished vainika, Vasantha did not take up classical music lessons seriously. She made her debut as a playback singer in the Telugu film ‘Vagdanam’ (1962).
“My father, a kind of all- rounder, had his contacts in the film industry too. That was how I was called for an audition. I sang one of my favourite Lata Mangeshkar songs and music director Pentyala Nageswara Rao was impressed. He said that although all the details of the song were there, it was not an imitation.”

Vasantha went on to sing in a couple of Tamil films for stalwarts like K. V. Mahadevan and M. S. Viswanathan before making her presence felt in Malayalam.

Vasantha’s first song in Tamil films was a duet. The song ‘Aasai vantha pinne….’ (‘Konchum Kumari) was with K.J. Yesudas who was also making his debut in Tamil. This pair then went on to sing some of the best duets in Malayalam.

“Pukazhenthi was assistant music director to Mahadevan Sir. It was through him that I got my first Malayalam film. The film ‘Muthalali’ (1965) also marked Pukazhenthi’s debut in Malayalam,” Vasantha remembers.

From then on, till 1988, Vasantha breathed life into innumerable songs. She also composed music for a Kannada and Telugu film.

When Vasantha talks there is a pronounced Telugu twang to it. She mixes it up with snatches of Tamil and Malayalam. But when she sings, her Malayalam is flawless. The song that made people sit up and notice her voice was ‘Karthikavilakku kandu…’ (‘Kayamkulam Kochunni’). Then followed the classic duet ‘Nadikallil sundari Yamuna…’ (‘Anarkali’). And Vasantha’s stock went soaring.

“I must have sung for more than 20 music directors in Malayalam alone. But somewhere down the line I was abandoned. I think it was the coming of Madhuri that hit my chances. I would have been happy if I was being substituted by someone like K. S. Chitra, who is an excellent singer. But that was not what happened.”

Slowly, Vasantha found herself being sidelined. But she kept doing what she loved, singing. And she grabbed every chance that came her way and turned it into a golden hit.

Vasantha has been conferred the Kalaimamani Award and the Ugadi Award instituted by the Tamil Nadu and Andra Pradesh governments respectively. But Kerala has still not given this singer due recognition.

“For me Malayalam is special. It is always Malayalam songs that I keep humming at home. My only prayer is to remember me when you think of programmes on old songs, or when you think of honouring some of us old timers,” says Vasantha with that warm smile of hers.


Seeta Kalyanam (1976) (playback singer)
  1. Adugu Jaadalu (1966) (playback singer)
  2. Dr. Chakravarthy (1964) (playback singer)
  3. Sri Krishnarjuna Yudham (1963) (playback singer)
  4. Vagdanam (1961) (playback singer)

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