K. B. Sundarambal

Born (1908-10-10)10 October 1908
Kodumudi, Erode District, Tamil Nadu, India
Died 15 October 1980(1980-10-15) (aged 72)
Spouse(s) S. G. Kittappa (m. 1927–33)

Kodumudi Balambal Sundarambal[1] (1908–1980) was a stage artist, actor and singer from Erode district, Tamil Nadu. She performed in Tamil cinema and was referred to as the "Queen of the Indian stage."[2] A political activist during the Indian independence movement, K.B. Sundarambal was the first film personality to enter a state legislature in India.[3]

Early years

K.B. Sundarambal was born on 11 October 1908 in the town of Kodumudi (also spelled "Kodumadi"), on the banks of Kaveri river, in Erode district in Tamil Nadu. As a child, she made money by singing on trains and receiving tips.[4]

Acting career

That was Sundarambal's training in music. According to some sources,[4] it was while singing thus on a train and begging for alms that the 19-year-old Sundarambal attracted the attention of F. G. Natesa Iyer, an amateur stage actor, producer and talent-scout, later municipal chairman of tiruchchirapalli district, in chennai. According to other sources,[5] it was a police official named Krishnaswamy Iyer, an acquaintance of Balambal, who discovered the talent in Sundarambal and introduced the 19-year-old girl to P. S. Velu Nair, one of the reigning dramatists of that era.

In either case, Sundarambal is believed to have made her debut in 1927, on the Tamil stage, as a member of a travelling theatre troupe. This was the turning point in her life. The talented young girl honed her voice while performing small roles on stage and keeping audiences entertained between acts. Soon enough, she was playing leading roles on stage. Her early stage plays like "Valli Thirumanam," "Pavalakodi" and "Harishchandra" proved to be great hits. In particular, "Valli Thirumanam", where she co-starred with S.G. Kittappa, was a phenomenal success.

Personal life

While working together in the theatre, Sundarambal met S. G. Kittappa. They were married in 1927. The couple, together became popular. S. G. Kittappa died in 1933. Sundarambal left the stage after this happened,to pursue a career as a concert artiste. K.B. Sundarambal died in September 1980.


Sundarambal as Avvaiyar in the Tamil film Thiruvilayadal

Sundarambal was in films as well, she accepted few film offers. Her most popular films were Manimekhalai, Thiruvilayadal, Karaikal Ammaiyar and Kandan Karunai.

Year Film Song Music Production Company
1935 Nandanar 1. piththam theLiya marundhondRikkirathu
2. vazhi maRaithirukkudhE
Asandas Classical Talkies
1940 Manimekalai 1. maasindRi kulamaadhar
2. siRaichAlai enna seiyum
3. paavi yEn piRandhEn
T. K. Productions
1953 Auvaiyar 1. katRathu kaimaN aLavu
2. muthmizh deivamE vA
3. ayyanE anbarkku meiyyanE
4. ulaginilE thamizhnAdu uyarga
5. kUriya vALaR
6. poRumai enum nagai aNindhu
7. aRam seiyya virumbuvElanE
8. vElanE senthamizh viththAga....mayilERum vadivElanE
9. koodi nadandhukoLLa vENdum
10. kanni thamizh naattinilE veNNilaavE
11. ganNanaathanE varuga
12. aalai palaavaakkalAmO
13. periyathu kEtkin
14. nellukku iraitha nIr
15. munnai nAL pArikku
Mayavaram Venu,
M. D. Parthasarathi &
Parur Anantharaman
Gemini Studios
1964 Poompuhar 1. vAzhkai enum Odam
2. thappithu vanthAnappA
3. thunbamellAm
4. andRu kollum arasan
R. Sudharsanam Mekala Pictures
1965 Thiruvilayadal 1. gnAnapazhathai pizhindhu
2. pazhaniyappA
3. vAsi vAsi endRu
4. OndRAnavan
K. V. Mahadevan Sri Vijayalakshmi Pictures
1966 Mahakavi Kalidas 1. sendru vA maganE
2. kAlathil azhiyAtha
K. V. Mahadevan Kalpana Kalamandir
1967 Kandan Karunai 1. ariyathu kEtkindRa
2. murugA murugA
K. V. Mahadevan ALS Productions
1967 Uyir Mel Aasai (unreleased) 1. kELu papa, kELu papa, kELvigaL aayiram kELu papa
2. nalla gaNapathi.... thunbikkai nAdhan thuNai
S. M. Subbaiah Naidu Ayyappan Productions
1969 Thunaivan 1. gnAnamum kalviyum
2. koNdAdum thiruchendu
3. pazhanimalai meedhilE kuzhandai vadivaagavE…jayamuNdu bayamillai
K. V. Mahadevan Dandayudhapani Films
1972 Sakthi Leelai 1. amma…sakthiyenum deivam koNda padai veedu
2. enggEyum sakthi uNdu
T. K. Ramamoorthy Raman Pictures
1972 Gnayiru Thinggal (unreleased) 1. seeru thamizh paaluNdu vetRikku vEl koNdu M. S. Viswanathan
1973 Karaikkal Ammaiyar 1. OdungAl Odi uLLam urugi....thagathagavena aada vaa
2. iRaivaa un pugazh pAduvEn
3. piRavAtha varam vENdum
4. pAdugingEn unnai pAdugingREn
Kunnakudi Vaidyanathan Eveeyaar Films
1973 Thirumalai Deivam 1. Ezhumalai irukka namakkenna manakkavalai
2. nALellAm unthan thirunALE
Kunnakudi Vaidyanathan Shanthi Combines

Political activism

Sundarambal and her husband S.G. Kittappa had been much influenced by the Indian independence movement and they became ardent supporters of the Indian National Congress. They had harnessed their popularity and talents to further that cause. Sundarambal continued to champion the movement, recording several gramophone discs extolling the struggle and sacrifices it entailed. She also made it a point to always wear khadi.[4] She often actively campaigned in support of Congress party candidates at various elections.[6] After India gained independence, K.B. Sundarambal entered the Legislative Council of Madras State in 1951 as a Congress nominee, thus becoming the first film artist to enter an Indian legislature.


In 1964, the Tamil Isai Sangam conferred upon her the title of "Tamil Isai Perarignar (Tamil Music Ace)." In 1970, the government of India awarded her the Padmashri for her contributions to the arts. Also, She was awarded twice the National Film Award for Best Female Playback Singer by the Government of India. She was also the first person in the Indian film industry to command a salary of one lakh rupees. She became the first lady member of Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly.

Further reading

Footnotes and references

  1. Full name as per national awards website of India
  2. Photo description in Hindu Images
  3. From the UMICH website
  4. 1 2 3 Biography on Sangeetam.com at the Wayback Machine (archived 17 February 2005)
  5. Biography on the Sony website
  6. from The Hindu, 4 February 2001 – "During the district board election at Tirunelveli in 1934, where the strength of the Justice Party was unquestionable and unshakeable, Kodhainayaki, with 12 other women among whom was the popular K. B. Sundarambal, took upon herself to storm the Justice Party bastion with her mesmerising oration."
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