Thoguluva Meenatchi Iyengar Soundararajan (24 March 1922 – 25 May 2013), popularly known as TMS, was a playback singer in Kollywood for over six decades. He lent his voice to actors and thespians in the South Indian film industry such as M. G. Ramachandran, Sivaji Ganesan, N. T. Rama Rao, Gemini Ganesan, S. S. Rajendran, Jaishankar, Ravichandar, AVM Rajan, Muthuraman, Nagesh, Siva Kumar, Kantha Rao, Rajkumar and A. Nageswara Rao. He also gave his voice to many new generation actors like Kamalahasan, Rajanikanth, Vijayakanth, Satyaraj, Rajesh, Prabhu, Vijaya Kumar, in addition to other known and unknown heroes and supporting actors like M.R. Radha, K R Ramaswami, T. Rajendar, V.K. Ramaswami, Thengai Sreenivasan, M.N. Nambiar, Thangavelu, Y.G. Mahendran, R.S. Manohar, S.V. Ashokan, Ranjan, Narasimha Bharathi, Sahasra Namam, Jagayya, Nagayya, etc. He has sung over 10,138 songs from 3162 films, including devotional, semi-classical, Carnatic, classical and light music songs. He has also given classical concerts since 1945.
In a career spanning over six decades he has recorded film songs in 11 languages including, Tamil, Kannada, Telugu, Hindi, Malayalam and other languages. He was an excellent lyricist, music composer for most of the evergreen devotional songs that were recorded in thousands by numbers. He was the music director for the film Bala Parikshai. His peak period as a male playback singer in the South Indian film industry was from 1955 to 1985. His first film song was in 1946, at the age of 24, and his last was with P. Suseela during 2010 at the age of 88. TMS died on 25 May 2013 at his residence in Mandaveli, Chennai due to illness. He was 91 years old.
Soundararajan was born in Madurai, the second son of the Meenakshi Iyengar and Venkatammaa on 24 March 1922. He was born in a prominent priest family and his elder brother was a scholar.
He trained his voice since he was 7 years old. He first studied Carnatic music from Chinnakonda Sarangapani Bhagavathar, a music teacher from Sourashtra High School, Madurai. Later, he learnt Carnatic music from Arayakkudi Rajamani Iyengar and started giving stage concerts at the age of 23. His first Carnatic musical concert was at SathGuru Samajam, Madurai in 1945 with violinist C. R. Mani and Mridangist S. S. Vijaya Ratnam accompanying him on the instruments. He started singing in stage concerts in the voice of the then-famous classical singer and actor M. K. Thyagaraja Bhagavathar.
He married Sumithra in 1946 with whom he had three sons and three daughters. He lived in his home at Mandaveli, Chennai, Tamil Nadu until his death.
Soundararajan was initially rejected by music composers and recording technicians because his voice was cracking and showed variation in higher pitches. He started working in the house of Sundar Rao Nadkarni, a director in the Central Studios, hoping to get a chance to sing in movies. The director recommended him to S. M. Subbaiah Naidu. In 1946, S. M. Subbaiah Naidu gave TMS an opportunity to sing five songs in the style of M. K. Thyagaraja Bhagavathar for a film of P. V. Narasimha Bharathi: Krishna Vijayam. Though the songs were noted since 1946, the film was released in 1950. One of his songs in that movie, "Raathey Ennai Vittu Odathedi," became a hit and he was paid Rs 625. In the same year (1950), G. Ramanathan had him sing "Annamitta Veettiley" for an unknown actor in the film Manthiri Kumari. In 1951, TMS acted and sang "Theeraatha Thuyaralley" in the film Devagi again by G. Ramanathan.
In 1952, S. Dakshinamurthi gave TMS two duet songs in the movie Valaiyapathi — "Kulir Thaamarai Poigaiyai Kanden" and "Kulungidum Poovilellaam" — both with singer K. Jamuna Rani where TMS had an opportunity to sing songs written by the renowned Tamil poet Bharathidasan. G. Ramanathan had TMS and K. Rani sing for Kalyani. In 1953, when Albela was dubbed into Tamil, the music director C. Ramchandra had two duets by TMS and M. S. Rajeswari: "Joraga Paadi Anbaaga Aadi" and "Thozhi Un Kann Edhire Kodi". Even though these songs were well received, there were no further chances for TMS for a while.
Then TMS went to HMV studio where K. V. Mahadevan recorded two devotional songs for which he was paid just Rs 80. Mahadevan told TMS to seek a chance with AVM Productions which was looking for new voices. TMS sang two songs for the film Chella Pillai. One was a solo ("Podanum Kulla Podanum") and the other was a duet with M.S. Rajeswari ("Naadu Nadakkira Nadayiley") under R. Sudharsanam's composition. The film was released in 1955. These music composers helped and trained the determined and ambitious TMS, who was able to overcome his voice problems to a good degree with time.
In 1954, A. Maruthakasi recommended TMS to sing in Aruna Pictures' Thookku Thookki. Till then C. S. Jayaraman used to sing playback for Sivaji Ganesan and Sivaji doubted the suitability of his voice. TMS offered to sing three songs free. TMS and Sivaji Ganesan were introduced to each other and, in the short conversation that followed, TMS studied the voice of Sivaji Ganesan. TMS sang "Sundari Soundari" and "Eraatha Malaithanile", closely imitating Sivaji Ganesan. G. Ramanathan, who was the music director for that film, was so pleased that he gave TMS the chance to sing all the Sivaji Ganesan songs in that production.
In the same year, T. R. Ramanna and T. R. Rajakumari started RR Films. As the film Koondukkili was under production stage, TMS had originally been given a chance to sing only in a chorus. It should be noted that Koondukkili was the only film where MGR and Sivaji acted together. Tanjai Ramayah Dass was very impressed with the golden voice of TMS and asked the story and dialogue writer Vindhan to give a chance to TMS to sing a full solo. TMS sang "Konjum Kiliyana Pennai" under K. V. Mahadevan's composition for Sivaji Ganesan.
When the song was recorded, MGR heard it and was so impressed that he wanted TMS to become his permanent playback singer. TMS was used in MGR’s next movie Malaikkallan. Though he first recorded a song for the film Manthiri Kumari starring M. G. Ramachandran (MGR) in 1950, the song that announced the arrival of TMS on the big screen was "Ethanai Kaalamthaan Ematruvaar Indha Naattile" written by Tanjai Ramaiyah Dass and composed by S. M. Subbaiah Naidu. for M.G.R. During this period, TMS got an opportunity to sing in films like Kalvanin Kadhali, Vedan Kannappa, Rishi Sringer and Neela Malai Thirudan. TMS was the beneficiary of the first stereo recording in South India for a Tamil devotional song titled "Mannanalum Thiruchenthooril Mannaven".
From 1955 onward Sivaji insisted that TMS sing for him. Since then, TMS was mainly singing playback for the superstars MGR and Sivaji till the end of 1978 and 1995 respectively. He adopted styles while singing for each actor that synchronized very well with their voices.
His first musical concert abroad was in Malaysia in 1957. He continued to perform all over the world for almost 50 years till 2007, after which he restricted singing live on stage due to health reasons. He has two sons who have voices similar to their father and have sung songs of TMS all over the world in concerts since 1980 till 2012, often with their father. The sons continue to do TMS concerts after the death of their father.
Though he has worked with all music directors of South India, most of his hit songs were composed by music directors M. S. Viswanathan, K. V. Mahadevan, and the Viswanathan-Ramamoorthy duo.
TMS starred as an actor in a few Tamil films such as Pattinathar, Arunagirinathar, Kallum Kaniyagum and Kaviraja Kalamegam. He produced the movie Kallum Kaniyagum with singer A. L. Raghavan. TMS appeared in guest roles in movies such as Devaki, Navagraha Nayaki, Pennarasi, Server Sundaram, Thiru Neelakandar, Swami Ayyappan, Shanmugapriya and Deivam.
He was the most popular male playback singer in South India and the "uncrowned king" of the Tamil film industry for playback singing from the 1950s until 1991.
After the release Thai Nadu and Ghana Paravai, he concentrated more on live concerts and sang in very few films. He was not happy with the lyrics and music style in the films and gave opportunities for newcomers. The film song, "Paatu Ondu Ketaal", performed by him for a Sri Lankan Tamil film named Sooriyan, was recorded in 2007 though it is yet to be released. He sang a song for an album in 2008 "Netrichutti" at the age of 86 and a song named "Kutraalam Aruvi" for the album Song for Daughter, under the music of M. Sakthinathan, which was very well recognised in the industry in 2008. The last film song during October 2010 with P. Susheela, composed by MSV for a film "Valibum Sutrum Ulagam" was well recognized irrespective of his 88 years of age. In 2010, he rendered his voice for the song "Peruppukum Illa Uriyukkum" in the Tamil Semmozhi Meet Anthem, which was composed by A. R. Rahman. He worked with 61 music directors ranging from S. M. Subbaiah Naidu to A. R. Rahman.
TM has sung few Kannada film songs, but the fun-filled song "Baare baare nanna hinde hinde" from the 1956 movie Sadaarame is still popular in Karnataka.
S. M. Subbaiah Naidu,, S. V. Venkatraman, S. Rajeswara Rao, G. Govindarajulu Naidu, R. Sudharsanam, R. Govardhanam, S. Dakshinamurthi, G. Ramanathan, C. N. Pandurangan, Adepalli Rama Rao, Master Venu, T. A. Kalyanam, M. S. Gnanamani, K. V. Mahadevan, Kunnakudi Vaidyanathan, Pendyala Nageswara Rao, G. Aswathama, T. G. Lingappa, P. Adinarayana Rao, P. S. Diwakar, T. R. Pappa, T. V. Raju, C. S. Jayaraman, Ghantasala, Vedha, P. Parthasarathi, Soolamangalam Sisters, M. S. Viswanathan, T. K. Ramamoorthy, V. Kumar, Aba vanan, Rajan-Nagendra, M. Ranga Rao, Vijaya Bhaskar, Ilaiyaraja, Gangai Amaran, Sankar Ganesh, Deva, T. Rajendar, Ramesh Naidu, Shyam, Sudharshana, C.K. Venkedesh, Srinivasan, A. R. Rahman. Hindi film music composers, O. P. Nayyar, Naushad, and Manoj Gyan, and Malayalam film music composers Paravoor Devarajan, V. DakshinaMoorthi (both Malayalam and Tamil), also, Rajan & Rajan, Solai Komagan, Mazhavoor Manickavinayakam, A.Arvind, Joshvua Rajan, D V Ramani, Surumbiyan, Pushpavanum Kuppuswamy, P.Kumaraswamy, L.Sakthi Nathan.N.S.Balakrishnan,: RAJAGOPAL KRISHNAN,
In addition to popular lyricists, there are many lyricists known to the musical world through the voice of TMS.
A few examples are M P Sathyan, Tamil Nambi, S K Rajamani, Geetha Priyan, Kavingar Radha, Ezhil Mani, N S Chidambaram, Thayumanavar, Thamizhashakan, Kovia Koothan, Pattukottai Murugadasan, Kanaka Krishnan, Bharathy Swami, Arivukku Anban, Thiruppathooran, Nanjil P Thyagarajan, Thamizh Kani, N Balaji, Kanthswami Thozhan, N Veeramani, G Thyagarajan, Pularvar Naga Shanmugham, Puthneri Subramaniam, Nellai Arulmani, C V Pandian, Parimala Devi, A S A Anna Malai Nesan, Kalikivel, Sholai Komagan, Natanagopal Nayaki Swamikal, Dr. Palani Illam Kambar, Ramalinga Adiyarkal, C N Nachiyappan, and many more.
He has sung with other male singers, such as Seerkazhi Govindarajan, P. B. Sreenivas, Balamurali Krishna, S. C. Krishnan, C. S. Jayaraman, Tharapuram Sundarajan, P. Jayachandran, Thiruchi Loganathan, V. N. Sundaram, A. L. Raghavan, K. J. Yesudas S. P. Balasubrahmanyam, Kovai Soundarrajan, Nagore E. M. Hanifa and Malaysia Vasudevan.
He sang duets with many female singers such as P. Suseela, P. Leela, Jikki, L. R. Eswari, S. Janaki, Vani Jairam, M. S. Rajeswari, K. Jamuna Rani, M. L. Vasantha kumari, U. R. Jeevarathinam, N. L. Ganasaraswathi, T. V. Rathinam, Radha Jayalakshmi, Soolamangalam Jayalakshmi, Soolamangalam Rajalakshmi, R. Balasaraswathi Devi, A. P. Komala, P. Madhuri, K. Rani, B. S. Sasirekha, S. P. Sailaja,T.S.Bhagavathi and T. K. Kala. Among them, he had the greatest collaboration with P. Susheela. He sang 727 duets with P. Susheela in Tamil.
He sang duets with singing actors such as J. P. Chandrababu, K. R. Ramaswamy, Chittor V. Nagaiah, P. Bhanumathi, S. Varalakshmi, Jayalalithaa and Bharathi.