CHENNAI: “Nooraandu kaalam vaazhga...noi nodiyillamal valarga” (Long live for a hundred years and grow without any illness). The song from ‘Pesum Deivam’ (1967), rendered by playback singer S Sarala, has been a favourite at all birthday celebrations and at all places where auspicious functions like wedding are conducted in Tamil Nadu.
She had sung many songs with renowned singers - T.M Soundararajan, Sirkazhi Govindarajan, PB Srinivas, P Susheela, LR Eswari and many others. She had Visited many foreign countries including Canada, Switzerland, Singapore, etc. for giving performances along with her husband Ambi Swaminathan, a well-known tabla player.
Now at 76, Sarala, after the untimely death of Swaminathan in 2000, is now living in a rented house near Porur with her two unmarried daughters who are above 50. The monthly assistance of Rs1,000 given by the State government is insufficient for their sustenance since they have to pay Rs1,500 as rent for the house.
Surprisingly, Sarala did not have any traditional training in Carnatic music. All that she had was a rich repertoire of experiences in drama troupes led by late actor MR Radha from the age of 13.
She had rendered many songs for the drama troupes led by RS Manohar, Pulimootai Ramaswamy, KR Ramaswami, VK Ramaswamy, and many other veterans.
Many of her songs were rendered with the music composed by AR Rahman’s father RK Sekar. She is a good friend of veteran actors Sachu, Padmini and many others.
Apart from her songs in over 15 films, Sarala had sung over 100 Islamic devotional songs and 25 devotional for Christians. She had also rendered many songs on Hindu gods and goddesses and many of her songs were released on HMV recordings. Sarala said she had given many representations to the Chief Minister’s Special Cell at the Secretariat and also to senior ministers seeking help.
For the past many years, Sarala and her daughters have been doing service in many temples in the way they can afford and now, under instructions from their spiritual guru in Karur, they are planning to devote their lives to spirituality.