A playlist for singer P Susheela’s birthday would ideally take hours of research, and songs dating back to when Eastman colour ruled the screen. While such a luxury is what makes writing this playlist so very fulfilling, one can never do justice to the vast discography that P Susheela has. Wikipedia calls her an early proponent of feminism in South India, a formidable tag. Couple this with the forty thousand plus songs she’s lent her voice to, and there’s really just one way to describe her. Iconic.
Here’s a playlist of some of her popular songs:
Partha Nyaabagam Illayo from Puthiya Paravai (1964)
A slow, seductive number that marks the beginning of the stormy love affair between Sivaji Ganesan and Sowcar Janaki in Puthiya Paravai. As Sowcar Janaki sways onscreen in a glittery black saree, it is P Susheela’s undulating vocals that wind their way around the audience’s heart. The song itself embodies the type of relationship that Sivaji and Sowcar go on to have – mysterious, alluring and also deceptive.
Naan Pesa Ninaipathellam from Paalum Pazhamum (1961)
Every young couple’s dream of what their future should be like, finds voice in P Susheela as she sings that her man should say what she wants to say. Such an utopia is not available to everybody, so console yourself by listening to this golden song instead.
Also, a plus is how the lyrics tell us that Sivaji Ganesan’s wholesome face satisfies Saroja Devi’s hunger. Perhaps they meant a different kind?
Kannan Varuvaan from Panjavarnakili (1965)
The bedtime favourite of every new mother, Kannan Varuvaan is a lovely melody that has probably put thousands of newborns to sleep. The jaunty score enlivens proceedings, but the core is pure lullaby material.
Muthumani Maalai from Chinna Gounder (1991)
This song from Chinna Gounder is a showcase for P Susheela’s raw and gritty vocals. The singer recorded this Ilaiyaraaja number when she was sixty years old. And while this reflects in the way she sings, it also makes the song raw and intimate. Susheela’s voice throbs with longing just as Chinna Gounder and Devayani finally embrace.