Indian singer-thesp M.S. Subbulakshmi died Dec. 11 in Chennai, India, of pneumonia. She was 88.
Known as the Nightingale of India, Subbulakshmi began singing Southern Indian classical music, known as Carnatic music, at age 10 and made her singing debut in Chennai’s Music Academy at 17. Her voice had purity and musical great range.
She made her acting debut with the Tamil blockbuster “Sevasadanam” (Institute of Service, 1938). She frequently essayed mythological parts playing the eponymous role in “Shakuntalai” (1940), and later in “Savithri” (1941). She returned to the bigscreen to play the title role in the Tamil film “Meera” (1945). The film was later redone in Hindi in 1947 with Subbulakshmi in the lead role of the Hindu saint again.
The devotional songs of Meera became irrevocably linked with her vocals, leading to her the “saint-singer” moniker.
“MS,” as she came to be known, is credited with introducing Carnatic music to the western world. She was the first Indian thrush to perform at the United Nations, where she moved heads of state with her singing.
She received the Ramon Magsaysay award 1974 and later received India’s greatest civilian honor of the Bharat Ratna 1998.
Survivors include her daughter Radha, who frequently sang with her mother.