K. S. Chithra often credited as Chitra, is a six time National Film Award winning playback singer who has made her mark in the Indian (film) music playback industry. Known as the Nightingale of South India, she has lent her voice to Malayalam, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Oriya, Hindi, Assamese and Bengali films.
Born on July 27, 1963, in Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum), Kerala, into a family of musicians, Chithra’s talent was recognized and nurtured from an early age by her father, the late Krishnan Nair. He was also her first guru (teacher). Chithra received her extensive training in Carnatic music from Dr. K. Omanakutty, after she was selected for the National Talent Search Scholarship from the Central Government from 1978–1984. She is married to Vijayashankar, an engineer and businessman. Her only daughter Nandana, was born in 2002.
Chitra was introduced to Malayalam playback singing by M. G. Radhakrishnan in 1979 and went on to become a regular singer for many malayalam musicians including Raveendran and the likes. Her duets with K.J. Yesudas in Malayalam and S.P. Balasubrahmanyam in all other languages are the most hummed songs by the music lovers. She made her debut in the Tamil film industry in Chennai under the guidance of film music composer Ilaiyaraaja.Poojaikketra poovithu song Film- Neethana Antha kuil is the first song in Tamil music by Illaya raja. Her knowledge of South Indian languages and Hindi enables her to render songs with originality and perfection. Ilaiyaraaja has contributed so much to Chitra’s glory. Fazil was doing a remake his Malayalam movie in Tamil Poove Poochudava a strong subject movie with wonderful music of Illayaraja . Raja heard Chitra’s voice in the Malayalam version and got impressed by that and asked her for audition. Then her turn came for the movie Nee thana antha kuyil with a beautiful song “Poojaiketa Poovidhu”. “Antha Kuyil has incidentally become China Kuyil of South India”. Since then, she has sung some wonderfully melodious songs mostly with classical overtures in Tamil Films and it is astounding that Illayaraja & A. R. Rahman have fetched her some memorable songs leading to the National awards. She also delivered some most memorable songs for Deva, Vidyasagar, M. M. Keeravani, Hamsalekha, Raj Koti, Rajan-Nagendra and many other south Indian music directors. She gave a touch of vibrance and youthfulness to many Actresses in southern Cinema with her lovely voice. She is the inspiration for many upcoming female playback singers. Chitra is also a house hold name in Bollywood music. She has recorded many memorable Hindi songs for various music directors of bollywood namely Anand-Milind, Anu Malik, Rajesh Roshan, Viju Shah and many others. She also recorded the Hindi versions of her own Tamil songs sung for A. R. Rahman. Currently Chitra is also busy as a Reality singing talent shows judge in Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
Chithra has recorded more than 25 thousands of film and non-film songs till date. During her illustrious career which is still continuing, numerous recognitions have come her way including six National Awards for best female playback singer. She is just behind K.J. Yesudas who has won 7 national awards as a singer. This is the highest number of national awards awarded to any female playback singer.
- 2005 – Padma Shri – India’s fourth highest civilian honours
National Film Awards
- 2004 – Best Female Playback Singer – Autograph, Tamil Film (Song: ‘Ovvoru Pookalume’)
- 1997 – Best Female Playback Singer – Virasat, Hindi Film (Song: ‘Payalein Chun Mun’)
- 1996 – Best Female Playback Singer – Minsaara Kanavu, Tamil Film (Song: ‘Maana Madurai (Ooh La La La)’)
- 1989 – Best Female Playback Singer – Vaishali, Malayalam Film (Song: ‘Indupushpam Choodi Nilkum Raathri’)
- 1987 – Best Female Playback Singer – Nakhashathangal, Malayalam Film (Song: ‘Manjal Prasadavum’)
- 1986 – Best Female Playback Singer – Sindhu Bhairavi, Tamil Film (Song: ‘Padariyen Padippariyen’)
She has also received 15 awards for the best female playback singer from Kerala State Government, 7 awards from Andhra Pradesh State Government, 4 awards from Tamil Nadu State Government and 3 awards from Karnataka State Government. She is the only playback singer to be recognized by all the four state governments in South India for her contributions.
Kerala State Film Awards
- 2005 – Best Play Back Singer – Nottam (’Mayangipoyi’)
- 2002 – Best Play Back Singer – Nandanam (’Karmukil Varnante’)
- 2001 – Best Play Back Singer – Theerthadanam (’Mooli Mooli’)
- 1999 – Best Play Back Singer – Angane Oru Avadhikkalathu (’Pular Veyilum’)
- 1995 – Best Play Back Singer – Devaragam (’sasikala Charthiya’)
- 1994 – Best Play Back Singer – Parinayam (’Parvanenthu’)
- 1993 – Best Play Back Singer – Sopanam (’Ponmeghame’), Chamayam (’Rajahamsame’), Gazal (’sangeethame’)
- 1992 – Best Play Back Singer – Savidham (’Mounasarovaram’)
- 1991 – Best Play Back Singer – Keli (’thaaram’), Santhwanam (’swarakanyakamar’)
- 1990 – Best Play Back Singer – Innale (’Kannil Nin meyyil’), Njan Gandharvan (’Palappoove’)
- 1989 – Best Play Back Singer – Oru Vadakkan Veera Gadha (’Kalarivilakku’), Mazhavilkkavadi (’thankathoni’)
- 1988 – Best Play Back Singer – Vaishali (’Indupushpam’)
- 1987 – Best Play Back Singer – Eenam Maranna Kattu (’Eenam marannakatte’), Ezhuthappurangal (’thalolam Paithal’)
- 1986 – Best Play Back Singer – Nagakshathangal ( ‘Manjalprasadavum’)
- 1985 – Best Play Back Singer – Ente Kaanakuyil (’Oreswaram Ore Niram’), Nirakkootu (’Poomaname’), Nokettadoorathu Kannum Nattu (’Aayiram Kannumai’)
Filmfare Awards South
- 2008: Filmfare Best Female Playback Award (Malayalam) – Oduvil Oru (Thirakkatha)
- 2006: Filmfare Best Female Playback Award (Malayalam) – Kalabham tharam (Vadakkumnathan)
- 2004: Filmfare Best Female Playback Award (Telugu) – Nuvvostanante (Varsham)
Asianet Film Awards
- 2009 – Best Female Playback – Kunnathe Konnakkum (Pazhassiraja)
- 2007 – Best Female Playback – Chellathamare (Hallo)
- 2005 – Best Female Playback – Enthu Paranjalum (Achuvinte Amma)
- 2003 – Best Female Playback – Mizhi Randilum
- 2000 – Best Female Playback – Nil
- 1999 – Best Female Playback – Megham
Tamil Nadu State Film Awards
- 2004 – Best Female Playback Singer – Ovvoru Pookalume (Autograph)
- 1995 – Best Female Playback Singer – Kannalane (Bombay)
- 1990 – Best Female Playback Singer – Various Films
- 1988 – Best Female Playback Singer – Various Films
Andhra Pradesh State Film Awards
- 2004 – Best Female Playback Singer – Varsham (’Nuvvostanante Neddontana’)
- 1999 – Best Female Playback Singer – Swayamvaram
- 1996 – Best Female Playback Singer
- 1993 – Best Female Playback Singer
- 1992 – Best Female Playback Singer
- 1991 – Best Female Playback Singer
- 1990 – Best Female Playback Singer
Karnataka State Film Awards
- 2004 – Best Female Playback Singer
- 2000 – Best Female Playback Singer
- 1997 – Best Female Playback Singer
Chithra was also honoured with the Kalaimamani title from Tamil Nadu Government in 1997, the K. J. Yesudas Lifetime Achievement Award in 2004, Kalaiselvam title from the South Indian Nadigar Sangam in 2002, and the Lifetime Achievement Award from Global Malayalee Council in London in 2003. She has also received numerous mainstream awards like MTV Video Music Award, Screen – Videocon Award, Film Fans Association Awards, and Cinema Express Awards. She has in her credit, private albums in Hindi, namely Piya Basanti and Sunset Point. Her first ghazal album with Masterio Ghulam Ali and Asha Bhosle is ready for release. She recently released an album in dedication to Smt.M.S.Subbulakshmi named My Tribute. It is a collection of krithis and bhajans dedicated to Smt.M.S.Subbulakshmi. Sony is planning to release a solo album soon owing to success of Piya Basanti. Recognising her contribution to the music world, Smt. Chithra has been conferred the Padma Shri title by the Government of India in 2005.
Chithra has performed all over India, Middle East, Singapore, Malaysia, UK, France, U.S.A., Canada, Australia, Sri Lanka, Nigeria, Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Norway and Denmark.
Chithra, who is a Grade A artiste of All India Radio and Doordarshan, has established her own recording label, Audiotracs, to promote new talents in the music world by giving them opportunities to collaborate with her as singers, lyricists and music directors.