Unsung Heroes | History Corner | Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, Ministry of Culture, Government of India

Unsung Heroes Detail

Unsung Heroes Detail


Kanchipuram, Tamil Nadu

November 21, 2022 to November 21, 2023

Damal Krishnaswamy Pattammal was born on 19 March 1919 in Kancheepuram. There are many musical associations that immediately come to mind, chief among them her songs of freedom. D.K. Pattammal’s first public performance of a Bharati song happened in the year that Mahatma Gandhi visited Kanchipuram. For the prayer meeting, she set Bharati’s ‘Veera sudanthiram vendi nindraar’ to tune and sang it. The poet’s songs became an integral part of her repertoire thereafter, and it is no wonder that Satyamurti included her in the Congress golden jubilee. Thereafter, gramophone discs of her patriotic songs began to be released. After a concert in Tirunelveli, Pattammal came to know that Bharati’s wife, Chellammal, had attended it and was moved to tears. In June 1945, Pattammal was the natural choice to sing at the Bharati memorial in Ettayapuram, just prior to its inauguration. It was, however, cinema that probably cemented the link between Pattammal and patriotic songs. K. Subrahmanyam’s Thyaga Bhoomi was made in 1939, based on Kalki Krishnamurthy’s novel, and themed around freedom and untouchability. Papanasam Sivan, who played a major role in the film, composed the songs that were sung by Pattammal. Some of the scenes are available for viewing on YouTube and even now, despite the scratchy audio and jumpy video, the voice singing ‘Desa sevai seiya vareer’ leaves us with a lump in the throat. In 1948, came AVM’s Nam Iruvar; in which Bharati’s songs were an important feature. Picturized on Kumari Kamala and rendered by Pattammal, they were great hits. Forgotten among these high-profile releases is A.K. Chettiar’s film on Gandhi, Adu Raattai, made in 1940, with Pattammal as a playback singer. Writing about the making of the film, Chettiar says he was short of money when he approached Pattammal’s father in 1938 to ask her to sing. On coming to know that the film was about Gandhi, Dikshitar readily agreed. When the song was played in the studio during production, Chettiar writes that all the employees stopped working and crowded around to listen. She passed away on 16 July 2009.