Kodumudi Balambal Sundarambal

(1908-10-11)11 October 1908
Died15 October 1980(1980-10-15) (aged 72)[citation needed]
(m. 1927⁠–⁠1933)

Kodumudi Balambal Sundarambal[1] (1908–1980) was an Indian actress 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 10 October 1908 in the town of Kodumudi 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

According to some sources,[4] it was while singing thus on a train for alms that the 19-year-old Sundarambal attracted the attention of F. G. Natesa Iyer, an amateur stage actor, producer and talent-scout. 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. She 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 his death, to pursue a career as a concert artiste. K.B. Sundarambal died in September 1980.


Sundarambal acted in films as well with notable appearances in Manimekhalai, Auvaiyar, Thiruvilayadal, Karaikal Ammaiyar and Kandan Karunai. She portrayed Tamil poet Avvaiyar in films Thiruvilayadal and Kandan Karunai. She also acted in social films such as Uyir Mel Aasai, Thunaivan and Gnayiru Thinggal. Gnayiru Thinggal was an unreleased film.

She sang in movies as well. She worked under music directors Mayavaram Venu, M. D. Parthasarathy, Parur S. Anantharaman, R. Sudharsanam, K. V. Mahadevan, S. M. Subbaiah Naidu, T. K. Ramamoorthy, M. S. Viswanathan and Kunnakudi Vaidyanathan.

Year Film Song Music Production Company
1935 Nandanar (1935) 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 Avvaiyar 1. Katrathu Kaiman Alavu
2. Muthmizh Deivame Va
3. Ayyane Anbarkku Meiyyane
4. Ulaginile Thamizhnadu Uyarga
5. Kooriya Vaalar
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
16. Vennila Vea
Mayavaram Venu,
M. D. Parthasarathy &
Parur Anantharaman
Gemini Studios
1964 Poompuhar 1. Vazhkai Enum Odam
2. Thappithu Vanthanappa
3. Thunbamellam
4. Andru Kollum Arasan
R. Sudharsanam Mekala Pictures
1965 Gnayiru Thinggal (Unreleased) 1. Seeru Thamizh Paalundu Vetrikku Vel Kondu M. S. Viswanathan
1965 Thiruvilaiyadal 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 1. Kelu Papa, Kelu Papa, Kelvigal Aayiram Kelu Papa
2. Nalla Ganapathi.... Thunbikkai Nadhan Thunai
3. Iyappa Abayam Koduppathunthan Kaiyappa
S. M. Subbaiah Naidu Ayyappan Productions
1969 Thunaivan 1. Gnanamum Kalviyum
2. Kondadum Thiruchendu
3. Andru Nee
4. Koopitta Kuralukku
5. Kondadum Thiruchendur
K. V. Mahadevan Dandayudhapani Films
1972 Shakthi Leelai 1. Amma...Sakthiyenum Deivam Konda Padai Veedu
2. Enggeyum Sakthi Undu
T. K. Ramamoorthy Raman Pictures
1973 Karaikkal Ammaiyar 1. Odungal Odi Ullam Urugi....Thagathagavena Aada Vaa
2. Iraivaa Un Pugazh Paduven
3. Piravatha Varam Vendum
4. Padugingen Unnai Padugingren
5. Vaduvatha Or Pozhuthum
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.

Her mentor C.Satyamurthy was prisoned by the British for participating in Quit India Movement in 1942.


In 1964, the Tamil Isai Sangam conferred upon her the title of "Tamil Isai Perarignar (Most Learned in Tamil Music)." In 1970, the government of India awarded her the Padmashri for her contributions to the arts. She was awarded with the National Film Award for Best Female Playback Singer by the Government of India, for her work in Thunaivan. She also won the Tamil Nadu State Film Award for Best Female Playback for Thunaivan in 1969. 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 Archived 31 January 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ Photo description in Hindu Images Archived 29 September 2006 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ From the UMICH website Archived 23 April 2005 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ a b c "Biography on Sangeetam.com". Archived from the original on 17 February 2005. Retrieved 9 June 2006.((cite web)): CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  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."