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R Balasaraswathi (b. 1928)

Telugu and Tamil singer and actress, born in Madras. Daughter of musician K. Parthasarathy. Started recording when discovered as a 6-year- old by composer-lyricist Kopparapu Subba Rao. Début as actress in C. Pullaiah’s Ansuya (as Ganga); worked with K. Subramanyam, playing Krishna in Bhakta Kuchela, followed by the major role of Sarasa in his Balayogini. Played child roles before becoming a heroine in Ramabrahmam’s Illalu, acting and singing duets with Saluri Rajeswara Rao, who also composed popular non-film songs for her in the early 40s. Virtually retired from acting after she married the Rajah of Kolanka (1944), but continued as playback singer until the mid-50s. Her first playback number, Tinne meedi chinnoda for Kamala Kotnis in P. Pullaiah’s Bhagya Lakshmi (1943), was composed by B. Narasimha Rao and was one of the first film songs officially credited on the record label to the singer rather than the actor. Associated with some of the best compositions of music directors C.R. Subburaman (Swapna Sundari, 1950), G. Ashwathama (Chinnakodalu, 1952) and Ramesh Naidu (Dampatyam, 1957). Other classic songs include Muntha perugandoyi with comedians K. Siva Rao and Relangi Venkatramaiah in Prema (1952), Tana panthame tanadanevadu in the unusual raga Rasali, written and scored by B. Rajanikanta Rao (Manavati, 1952). Came out of retirement to sing in the film directed by her niece Vijayanirmala, Sangham Chekkina Silpalu (1979). Also remembered as a dancer in e.g. Suvarnamala’s street scene.

Balasaraswati (left) and M.S. Subbulakshmi in a naughty 1937 studio pic

FILMOGRAPHY: 1936: Ansuya; Bhakta Kuchela; Balayogini; 1937: Tukaram; 1939: Mahananda; Thiruneelakantar; 1940: Illalu; 1941: Chandrahasa; Apavadu; 1942: Thasippen; 1947: Radhika; 1948: Suvarnamala; Bilhana.

Actor Music