Top 25+ South Indian Playback Voices who earned fame in Bollywood

Bollywood music industry has been fully nominated by artists from Bengal and Maharashtra, and other parts of north India. Among all south Indian artists related to music, A. R. Rahman is most popular and he fully conquered Indian music arena in the past two decades or so, and he has also played the magnificent role to make several south Indian singers popular in Bollywood music, through his compositions. If it’s the case of playback singers, only a few have managed to create a niche of their own, and in most cases, they have earned fame for being distinct voice and singing style rather than imitating many legendary artists. Hats off to all such artists who have made a mark in Bollywood music industry, though their contributions are not much significant as many singing legends. Through this column I would like to mention in brief some of the evergreen Hindi songs sung by many legendary artists and newcomers from south Indian film industry.

K. J. Yesudas – A prominent voice with alternate Hindi cinema in the 1970s and early 1980s

The first name coming to my mind is of course K. J. Yesudas, the iconic singer associated with Malayalam cinema. Indeed Yesudas is the other name of Malayalam film music for Malayalis, who fully dominated the scene for more than 4 decades. Of course my most favourite Malayalam singer whom I see as a music idol, he currently holds the record of maximum National awards for best playback singer, and he won it for seven times belonging to Malayalam, Telugu and Hindi languages, indeed a great achievement by any Indian singer. He also holds Kerala state awards for a record 25 times in the same category. He also won state awards of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and West Bengal, summing to a total of 43 awards proving him to be the finest Indian playback singer since early 1970s.  

Gori Tera Gaon from Chitchor which earned National award for Yesudas

Yesudas stormed into Bollywood film industry with early 1970s, he did only less work in association with Bollywood. He mostly concentrated on to south Indian music, apart from singing a few popular songs for Bengali, Marathi and Oriya languages since late 1970s. He was given first break to Bollywood by Salil Chowdhury with whom he has been frequently associated with for many Malayalam movies since 1960s. He later collaborated with Usha Khanna, Bappi Lahiri, and most importantly Ravindra Jain to give a few classic songs of Bollywood belonging to a separate genre never heard before. Read more about Yesudas’ association with Usha Khanna. He also bagged one national award and one Filmfare award for Hindi movies.

Among all his works, songs of Chitchor is the favourite of every music fan. All the four songs are counted among evergreen classics. He rendered many songs with classical touch such as Ka Karoom Sajni, Kaha Se Aayi Badra and Tu Jo Mere Sur Mein, apart from popular soft numbers such as Surmayi Akhiyon Mein, Madhupan Khushboo and Gori Tera Gao. Dil Ke Tukde, Maana Ho Tum, Tumhara Pyar Chahiye, Aaj Se Pehle, Mohabbat Bade Kaam and Jaaneman Jaaneman are still nostalgic to many music fans of 1970s and 1980s. After a long break, he rendered his voice for a popular duet aside Asha Bhosle for A. R. Rahman – O Bawre from Daud.
He was a prominent voice with alternate Hindi cinema. Except Amitabh Bachchan he got fewer opportunities to do playback for leading heroes of Bollywood in the 1970s. Yet he created a niche of his own through his distinct voice. Despite getting good response from Hindi music lovers, he preferred to concentrate to south Indian cinema, and gave several evergreen hits in the 1980s and 1990s. Read top 25 Bollywood songs sung by Yesudas.

S. P. Balasubrahmanyam – The ghost singer of Salman Khan’s early musical hits

As a typical playback singer, SPB is perhaps the most successful south Indian playback singer in Bollywood. He remained the early ghost voice of Salman Khan and Kamal Hassan in Bollywood film industry, and is best known for his association with Rajshree productions. Unanimously he remained as the top playback singer of Tamil film industry in the 1980s and 1990s, and owns many evergreen songs in music maestro Illayaraja’s compositions. Though he is not a trained singer similar to Kishore Kumar, he is a recipient of 6 National awards, only next to Yesudas in the male playback singer category, and he owns a unique distinction for winning in four different languages including Hindi.

Dil Deewana from Meine Pyar Kiya which gave SPB a Filmfare award

He received the distinction for winning National award for his first song in Hindi – Tere Mere Beech Mein of cult classic Ek Duje Ke Liya, the movie which marked Bollywood debut of south Indian star actor Kamal Hassan. He was the ghost voice of Kamal Hassan for all the songs, and the huge success of the movie and its songs made him a sensation of Bollywood.
His association with Salman Khan is quite famous, and some of the finest songs of this combination belong to movies produced by Rajshree productions. Songs of Maine Pyar Kiya sung by SPB played a major role in establishing Salman as the new sensation of Bollywood, and later SPB became the ghost voice of Salman for many movies such as Saajan, Patthar Ke Phool and Hum Aapke Hain Koun..! which went on to become huge musical hits and established Salman as a star. He also rendered his voice for less-known Salman movies such as Jaagruti, Love etc whose music was appreciated. Also the musical success of Maine Pyar Kiya started a new trend of romantic musicals in Bollywood, and the contributions made by SPB to begin a glorious era of melodies in the late 1980s needs special mention.

He mostly worked with Ram Laxman, followed by Nadeem Shravan and Anand-Milind. His association with Rahman has given some evergreen hits such as “Yeh Haseen” and “Roja Jaaneman” of Roja. He was one of the top singers of Bollywood in the first half of 1990s, and created a niche of his own through his distinct voice, similar to K. J. Yesudas. He also bagged his single Filmfare award through Meine Pyar Kiya, apart from several nominations.

Anuradha Paudwal – The most successful female South Indian voice

A Kannadigan by birth, she completely dominated the Bollywood scene in the late 1980s and early 1990s. She was a strong competant to Alka Yagnik during this period. Her devotional and film songs with T-series are equally famous. Recipient of a National award for a Marathi song, she is a winner of four Filmfare awards from 11 nominations.  She shot to instant fame through the songs of Aashique, and there was no turning back after that. Her voice was frequently used for Madhuri Dixit in the late 1980s and early 1990s. She recorded the popular duet of Pukar – “Kismat Se Tum” in the year 2000 for A. R. Rahman, one of the last hit songs of Anuradha sung for Madhuri, and the last movie pairing Madhuri with Anil Kapoor.

One of the top songs of Anuradha Paudwal-Madhuri Dixit combination – Kismat Se Tum from Pukar

Anuradha has sung 100s of hit songs for Bollywood and other regional languages. All her songs of Aashique were immensely popular, especially Nazar Ke Samne and Dheere Dheere Se. A few more immensely popular songs of Bollywood include – Mujhe Neend Na Aaye of Dil, Dhak Dhak and Koyal Si of Beta, Kehdo Ki Tumho of Tezaab, Tera Naam Liya and O Ram Ji of Raam Lakhan, Title Track of Hero, Title Track and Meinu Ishq Ka of Dil Hai Ki Manta Nahin, Bahut Pyar Karte Hain of Saajan etc. 

Vani Jayaram – Popular through the songs she sung for Guddi 

Bole Re Pappi Hara from Guddi

Quite different from other south Indian playback singers, she started off her career with Guddi in 1971. The movie included only three songs, composed by Vasant Desai and all of them were sung by Vani. “Bole Re Papi Hara” based on the Hindustani raga “Miyan ki Malhar” went on to become a huge chartbuster. Her distinct and new voice also made the song extremely popular and evergreen. Still now, Vani is best known for this particular song. The movie also included the popular prayer song, Hum Ko Man Ki Shakti Dena pictured on Jaya Bhaduri. Though she had a promising career ahead, later she fully switched on to south Indian films, and became a well-established singer of all south Indian languages. She is a recipient of Filmfare award for the movie, Meera.


Shankar Mahadevan – Of Kerala Origin

Where’s The Party Tonight from KANK – music composed by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, Shankar Mahadevan rendered his voice too

Shankar Mahadevan was born in Mumbai to a Tamil Iyer family from Palakkad, Kerala. He started off his career as a playback singer in the 1990s, and his association with A. R. Rahman got attention in Hindi and Tamil films. His voice was well-used by Rahman for peppy numbers such as Urvasi of Humse Hain Muquabla during his early phase in playback singing. He also bagged his first National award for best singer in Rahman’s composition for a Tamil movie, Kandukonden Kandukonden released in 2000. Same year he also played a cameo role as a singer in the top Tamil film album of the year – Rhythm. The song ‘Taniye’ established Shankar Mahadevan as a leading playback singer of south.

However he concentrated on to composing music and formed the successful trio Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy who is currently riding on success streak with a series of hits for more than a decade. As a singer, the pop song Breathless gave him a big break to Bollywood in the late 1990s, followed by Aasman Ke Paar Shayad of Rockford, which gave him recognition as a music composer during the same time period.
He is a recipient of three National awards for best playback singer and one for best composition (as a member of Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy trio). The trio has bagged four Filmfare awards, including one R. D. Burman New Music Talent trophy. Though he sings exclusively for his own compositions in Bollywood music, he occasionally sings for south Indian languages.

Hariharan – Known for beautiful rendition of ghazals and melodies in film music

Hariharan, originally a Malayali is a well-established ghazal singer and has admirers across the world. His magic with Rahman has also given some evergreen renditions in Tamil and Hindi films. His association with Lesle Lewis formed Colonial Cousins, which give several fusion albums. His contribution to film music is significantly large in A. R. Rahman’s music, such as huge chartbusters – Pachai Nirama (Alaippayuthey), Telephone Manipol (Indian), Thottaal Poo Malarum (New), Vennilave (Minsara Kanavu), Anbe Anbe (Jeans), Chandiranai Thottathu (Ratchagan), (Kurukku Chiruththavale (Muthalvan), Uyire and Kuch Kuch Rakhma (Bombay) and Thamizha Thamizha (Roja) in Tamil, and soothing Tu Hi Re – a duet from Bombayaside Kavita Krishnamurthy. He sung its Tamil and Telugu version aside Chitra. Roja Jaaneman from Roja also had a second version in Hariharan’s voice.

Tu Paas Hai from Taal

Hariharan is a well-established name in ghazals and pop music. He is associated with Hindi music scene since early 1980s. However he shot to fame in the 1990s, with a series of Tamil and Hindi hits in association with A. R. Rahman.“Tu Paas Hai” of Taal and “Chanda Re” of “Sapne” were instant chartbusters. Rahman reserved some special songs of Hariharan. Though he has sung less number of songs for Rahman, most of them turned to be huge chartbusters. “Hai Rama” of Rangeela, “Ajooba” and “Tauba Tauba” of Jeans, “Mil Gaye Mil Gaye” of Love Birds and “Ay Hairathe” of Guruare a few more.

Hariharan owns a good record with almost all leading composers of Bollywood. “Kabhi Main Kahoon” of Lamhe, “Ek Duje Ke Vaste” of Dil To Pagal Hai, “Likha Hai Yeh” of Darr, “Dil Ki Kalam Se” of Itihaas, “Chod Aye Hum” of Maachis, “Bahom Ke Dharmiya” of Khamoshi, “Kuch Mere Dil Ne Kaha” of Tere Mere Sapne, Title tracks of Kya Kehna, Hum Saath Saath Hain and Sirf Tum, “I Love My India” of Pardes, “Tu Mere Paas Bhi Hai” of Satya, “Hum Tumse Na Kuch Keh Paye” of Ziddi, “Dil Hamara Hua Hai” of Albela, “Tere Bina Zindagi Se” of Jhankar Beats, “Saawan Barse Tarse Dil” of Dahek, “Yaadein Yaad Aati Hai” of Yadein, “Tu Maange Dil Main De Doon Jaan” of Aflatoon etc are some of his popular songs with other composers. Read his top 15 Bollywood songs.

Mahalakshmi Iyer – The most successful south Indian female voice since 2000s 

Bol Na Halke Halke from Jhoom Barabar Jhoom sung by Rahet Fateh Ali Khan and Mahalakshmi Iyer

Kozhikode, Kerala is her native place and she was born and brought up in Mumbai. When she took her music career seriously, she took up classes in Urdu language to make her accent perfect. She gave some of the finest renditions of Bollywood in Rahman’s music such as Kismat Se Tum of Pukar, Chalka Chalka Re of Saathiya, Jai Ho of Slumdog Millionaire, E Ajnabi of Dil Se etc. The remixed version of ‘Aaja Piya Tohe Pyar Doo’ was also recorded in her voice.

Queen of melody, she is equally popular with other popular music directors of Bollywood. Chup Chupke of Bunti Aur Babli, Kabhi Shyam Dale To of Sur: The Melody of Love, Aaj Ki Raat of Don, Sadka Kiya of I Hate Love Stories, Falak Tak Chal of Tashan and Bolna Halke Halke of Jhoom Barabar Jhoom went on to become huge chartbusters. Har Taraf of Rishtey, Tenu Leke of Salaam-E-Ishq, Chanda Chamke of Fanaa, Rock n Roll Soniye of Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna, Tu Jahan of Salaam Namaste, So Jaa Chandaa of Mission Kashmir, Yaadein Yaad Aati Hai of Yadein, Kya Yeh Sach Hai of Dillagi, Dil Se Mere of Pyaar Mein Kabhi Kabhi etc are a few more hits. Read her list of Bollywood hits.

K. S. Chithra – Known for sweet and melodious voice

Kasam Ki Kasam from Mein Prem Ki Diwani Hoon – Top soft solo track sung by Chithra

Chithra is the most established female voice of south Indian film industry since mid-1980s. She currently holds the record of maximum awards in National Film Awards (Best female playback singer). She won 6 awards for three different languages including Hindi which is a record. She won National award for “Payali Chun Mun” of Virasat. She is a recipient of Kerala State Film Award for Best Singer 15 times (11 times in a row which is a record), apart from state awards of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Orissa.

Among Bollywood music composers, she has been frequently associated with Anu Malik and A. R. Rahman, Anu Malik used Chitra’s voice to record the sizzling track pictured on Kareena Kapoor –Raat Na Nasha. The song became so popular that the composer used Chitra’s voice to record all female voice songs of Mein Prem Ki Deewani Hoon, where Kareena played female lead. Kasam Ki Kasam and Prem Meri Aankhom Mein went on to become chartbusters. She sung the popular songs – Koi Mil Gaya and Mera Dil Ka Tumse featuring Preity Zinta. Her songs for the chartbuster album – Piya Basanti Re made her a household name. Read top 20 Bollywood songs of Chithra.
Tu Mile Dil Khile of Criminal, Title track of Koi Mil Gaya, Rang De Basanti and Tera Jaadu Chal Gaya, Kehna Hi Kya of Bombay, Yeh Haseen Waadiyan of Roja, Ek Bagiya Mein of Sapna, Anjali Anjali of Tu Hi Mera Dil, Hawaa Mein Kya Hai of Jaagruti, Yaara Suno of Rangeela, Saathiya Yeh Tune Kya Kiya of Love, Tere Liye Jaanam of Suhaag, Mil Gaye Mil Gaye of Love Birds, Tu Maange Dil Main De Doon Jaan of Aflatoon, Hum Tum Se Na Kuch Keh Paaye of Ziddi, Mera Dil Ka of Armaan, Tu Hi Meri of Ada A Way of Life, Tum Bin Jiya of Tum Bin, Roop Suhana of The Gentleman, Jahan Piya Waha Mein of Pardes etc are a few more melodious songs sung by Chitra. Though she is extremely talented and the most leading female of south, she failed to achieve the same status in Bollywood.

K. K – Known for rock and high pitch songs

Krishna Kumar Kunnath, shortly called K. K is a very popular Bollywood playback singer, who also owns a few successful albums in his credit. Born to Malayali parents, he was born and brought up in Delhi. K.K excelled in pop and rock genres of music and most of his chartbuster Bollywood songs belong to this category. He was one among those young artists of 1990s who got break through Rahman’s songs, and in 1999, Tadap Tadap from Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (Ismail Darbar’s compositions) gave him the big break he was seeking for, and he never looked back. He owns an illustrious career of more than 15 years in Bollywood since 1999. Same year his debut album – Pal was also released which earned him recognition.

Tadap Tadap fromHum Dil De Chuke Sanam – the breakthrough song of KK

Many newcomers and singing sensations like Arjit Singh and Ankit Tiwari see KK as their inspiration. Some of his popular songs include – Khuda Jaane of Bachna E Haseeno,Kya Mujhe Pyaar Hai of Woh Lamhe, Zara Sa of Jannat, Tune Maari Entriyaan of Gunday, Tu Jo Mila of Bajrangi Bhaijaan, Koi Kahe Kehta Rahe of Dil Chahta Hai, Bardaast of Humraaz, Ding Don of Kuch Toh Hai, Tu Aashique Hai of Jhanjar Beats, Aashayein of Iqbal,Tu Hi Meri Shab Hai of Gangster, Alvida of A Life in a Metro, Dil Kyun Yeh Mera of Kites, Tu Bhoola Jise of Airlift, Abhi Abhi of Jism 2 etc.


A. R. Rahman – Who is indeed popular as a singer also 

Dil Se Re from Dil Se featuring SRK and Manisha Koirala

Rahman is an internationally acclaimed musician of south Indian origin. Of Kerala origin, his father R. K. Shekhar was a popular music composer of Malayalam in the 1970s. During the glorious period of R. K. Shekhar’s music career, his expected death shocked the family a lot. Later the family settled in Chennai, and Rahman started his career as a music director with ‘Roja’. Rest is history. Without going into the details of his glorious career as a music director, I would like to discuss his singing ability. Rahman was earlier reluctant to use his voice to record his songs. Once he told in an interview, the singing journey of Pakistani music legend Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan inspired him to start his career as a singer.

He sang the peppy number – Mangta Hai Kya aside Shweta Shetty for his debut Hindi album – Rangeela. As a full-fledged playback singer, he recorded his first solo track for Mani Ratnam’s Dil Se. Dil Se Re went on to become a huge chartbuster, and established him as a singer also. He also provided back voice for many of his hit tracks. Earlier he recorded a few chartbuster songs of Tamil version. Kathalan – Urvasi Urvasi and Mukkablaand Bombay – Humma Humma were huge hits. 
Some of his popular songs as a playback singer/co-singer are Tere Bina and Jaage Hain of Guru, Ishq Bina of Taal, Khwaja Mere Khwaja of Jodha Akbar, Mere Yaar Mila De of Saathiya, Piya Haji Ali of Fiza, Yeh Jo Des Hai Tera of Swades, Khalbali of Rang De Basanti,  Tu Bole Main Boloon of Jaane Tu… Ya Jaane Na, Maahi Ve and Pataka Kudi of Highway, Tu Hai of Mohanjo Daro and many more. Read about his top Hindi hits as a music composer.

Sujatha Mohan – The voice behind Ishq Bina and Bheegi Bheegi Raatom Mein remix

Bheegi Bheegi Raatom Mein Remix – The most popular non-filmy song of south Indian singers Srinivas and Sujatha

Sujatha Mohan is a popular south Indian playback singer, next to Chitra in popularity. She has rendered some extremely melodious songs for Bollywood, and a few turned to be chartbuster hits. Sujatha is behind the humming voice of the trendsetter song  of early 1990s –Roja Jaaneman (Roja) in both the versions sung by Hariharan and SPB, and composed by Rahman. She also rendered her voice for its original version ‘Kaathal Rojave’ aside SPB and Telugu version too. This particular movie also marked her successful beginning with Rahman, and worked with him for his second album –Yoddha in Malayalam released one month after Roja.

She is one of the lead singers of the most popular track of Taal – Ishq Bina. “Hai Jaana” of Pukar, “Kal Nahin Tha” of Viswavidhata, “Ishwar Allah” of 1947 Earth and “Tum Ho Meri Nigahon” from Kabhi Na Kabhi are a few more. In Vidyasagar’s composition, she sang the popular duet Rafta Rafta aside Udit Narayan for Hulchul. She sang the remixed version of evergreen romantic track – Bheegi Bheegi Raatom Mein aside Srinivas. Also read: 70+ Music Videos featuring Bollywood stars.


Janaki – Contemporary of Lata and Asha

This gifted singer shares the equal status of Lata and Asha in south Indian cinema. Though she fully concentrated on to south Indian language films, she occasionally sang for Hindi and a few other regional languages. “Yaar Bina Chein Kaha Re” of Saheb is her most popular Hindi song, which earned her a Filmfare nomination for best female playback singer. This song can be easily mistaken to be an Asha Bhosle song. She sang for Bappi Lahiri and Laxmikanth Pyarelal, and a few dubbed versions of south Indian hits. She is lucky enough to record a few duets with Kishore Kumar, and his son Amit Kumar, and has also recorded songs with R. D. Burman, Salil Da, Ravindra Jain, Anu Malik, Anand Milind etc. She got more challenging songs from south and preferred to give them priority.
She got opportunity to sing in the weakest era of Bollywood – 1980s. She has rendered some amazing classics and peppy numbers too. Some of her noted songs include “Hindi Boli Urdu Boli”, “Gori Ka Saajan” “Prabhu More Avgun Chith Na Dharo”, “Pag Paadam”, “Jawan Hai Dil Jawan Hain Hum”, ”Main Tho Ghunghuroo Bhandure”,  “Kya Than Kya Man Kya Jeevan” etc.

Anuradha Sriram –“Prem Jaal” and “Dupatta Mera”  among her chartbusters

She owns several hit songs to her credit. “Prem Jaal” of Jis Desh Mein Ganga Rehta Hain, “Dupatta Mera” of Mujhe Kuch Kehna Hai, “Pehli Pehli Baar” of Zor, “Tara Raara Raara Ra” and Title track of Gharwali Baharwali, “Aayiye Aajaayiye” of Lajja, “Ishq Bina Kya” of Taal, “Jo Tum Kaho” of Chota Chetan, “Ishwar Allah” of 1947 Earth and “Ae Sangdil Sanam” of Tum – A Dangerous Obsession are her hit numbers. She also provided the back voice of the title track ofDil Se for Rahman, aside Anupama.

Anupama – Of ‘Pappu Can’t Dance Saala’ fame


She is best known for the Tamil rendition ‘Chandralekha’ of Thiruda Thiruda and its Hindi version for Chor Chor. She is a find of A. R. Rahman, and she has sung several chartbuster songs composed by Rahman. Pappu Can’t Dance Saala is her most popular Bollywood song, which she sang aside yet another playback singer of south Indian origin, Benny Dayal. She also rendered her voice for Nazrein Milana Nazrein Churana. She was one among the singers of Ishq Bina – Taal, and provided back vocals for the title track of Dil Se. I Wanna Be Free for Tehzeeb and Jaan Tum Ho Meri for Viswavidata are other Rahman compositions. She sang the second version of the title track of unreleased film – Dus, and Yeh Raat of Aks.

Rashid Ali – ‘Aditi Haste’ fame

A. R. Rahman gave big break to Rashid Ali through Aditi Song

Rashid Ali was spotted by Rahman at a musical concert in London in early 2000s. Rahman gave him break through Tamil movies, and big break to Bollywood through Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na. His song – “Kabhi Kabhi Aditi” became a huge chartbuster. He also sang “Kahi Toh”. Later he sang several chartbuster songs for Rahman such as “Cry Cry” of Jhoota Hi Sahi, “Nazar Laaye” of Raanjhanaa and “Sun Lo Zara” of Ek Tha Deewana. He regularly performs with Rahman for live concerts.

Benny Dayal – whose Pappu Can’t Dance  & Kaise Tum Mujhe went rage across the nation

Songs of Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na can’t be discussed without mentioning Pappu Can’t Dance Saala sung by south Indian singers – Benny Dayal and Anupama, along with a string of budding singers providing back vocals. Like many singers, this talented singer of Kerala origin was given the big break to Bollywood by Rahman through Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na.  Benny has worked with Rahman in Tamil movies before. Year 2008 was indeed big for Dayal, who got two back-to-back Bollywood hits composed by Rahman – Pappu Can’t Dance Saala and also, the highly intense emotional song, Kaise Tum Mujhe Mil Gaye from Ghajini. A few more popular songs of Benny Dayal in Bollywood include – Badtameez Dil from Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani, Title track from Bang Bang, Lat Lag Gayi from Race 2, Rehna Tu from Delhi-6, Choomantar from My Brother Ki Dulhan, Tu Mere Dost Hai from Yuvraj, Title track of Befikre, Dum Dum from Band Baaja Baraat and many more chartbusters, which can mostly be tagged as dance numbers, though there are a few exceptions. 

Less-heard south Indian voices in Bollywood 

Bombay Jayashri She is born in Kolkata to parents of south Indian origin. She is quite familiar to Bollywood fans through the popular romantic track – Zara Zara of RHTDM composed by Harris Jayaraj. “Chahoom Bhi Tho”from Force composed by same composer was also a hit.

M. G. SreekumarA 2-time National award winner for Malayalam film songs, he rendered the classic song Mera Dholna for Bhool Bhulayya aside Shreya Ghoshal. Mera Dholna is his most popular song up-to-date. His voice was used by A. R. Rahman for Jiya Jale of Dil Se, the first recorded song of Rahman with Lata Mangeshkar. Sreekumar rendered his voice for its Malayalam lines. The title track of Saath Rang Ke Sapne aside Alka Yagnik and Kissa Hum Likhenge of Doli Sajake Rakhna aside Anuradha Paudwal are his chartbuster Hindi songs. Baagom Ki Baharein and Sandhya Ki Laali of Sazaa-E-Kaalapani, Tum Jo Mile Humko from Gardish, Tu Hi Tu of Kabhi Na Kabhi, Hasta Hua Yeh Pyara of Yeh Tera Ghar Yeh Mera Ghar, Soja Chandini and Apni Jeb Mein of Muskurahat are some less-heard Hindi songs sung by M. G. Sreekumar. All these movies were directed by Priyadarshan, a well-established director of Malayalam movies.

Jiya Jale from Dil Se sung by Lata Mangeshkar and M. G. Sreekumar

Chinmayi SripadaA Rahman find, she is best known for Titli Song of Chennai Express. She is gaining attention in Bollywood with her instant hit – Mera Naam Mary of Brothers. Main Rang Sharbaton Ka of Phata Poster Nikla Hero and Mast Magan of 2 States are other top songs. Zehnaseeb of Hasee To Phasee, Ay Sakhi of Ranjhanaa, Maiyya Yashoda of Jhoota Hi Sahi are a few more. She provided the back voices of two tracks for Guru.

Minmini Minmini’s voice became a rage across the nation when she sang the different language versions of Chinna Chinna Asai of Roja, except her mother tongue Malayalam. She became extremely popular through ‘Dil Hai Chota Sa’. However this single song couldn’t lift her singing journey, and she end up her career with a few popular songs down south. Rahman has introduced countless singers to Tamil and Bollywood music, and it’s not an easy task to list them all. 

Swarnalatha A ‘Rahman find’ to Bollywood she earned National award for best playback singer through Rahman’s Tamil composition for Karuthamma in 1994. She got her break to Bollywood through Rahman’s maiden Bollywood venture – Rangeela. She sang the sizzling track –Hai Rama aside Hariharan. Her voice was also used for Mukkala Mukkabla of Hum Se Hai Muquabla, Ladka Dikha Diya and Maya Machindra of Hindustani and the romantic track –Dola Dola of Dil Hi Dil Mein by Rahman. She passed away in 2010 aged only 37. Apart from Rahman, her work with Illayaraja in Tamil was also appreciated.

The sizzling Hai Rama from Rangeela sung by Hariharan and Swarnalatha

SrinivasHe gained recognition through A. R. Rahman songs. He sang a few songs for Bollywood also. Kaisi Hai Yeh Rut of Dil Chahta Hai is one of the memorable songs of Srinivas. Dola Dola of Dil Hi Dil Mein, Aao Sunen Lehron Se Dhule Naghme of Raja Ko Rani Se Pyar Ho Gaya, Ek Bagiya Mein of Sapne and Khushiyon Ki Koshish of Phir Milengeare a few more. He also sang the remixed version of the evergreen rain song – Bheegi Bheegi Ratom Mein, aside another popular south Indian playback singer Sujatha Mohan.

Naresh Iyer – He received National award and R. D. Burman New Talent award for the rendition of Rahman’s composition – Roobaroo for Rang De Basanti. His voice was used for three songs of the film (Tu Bin Bataye and Paatshaala). His voice was also heard inPappu Can’t Dance Saala of Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na, Yeh Kaala Bandar of Delhi-6 and Mein Chali of Force.

Vijay Prakash – A Sare Ga Ma Pa contestant of late 1990s he received his initial break through Baaz, followed by Rahman’s musical – Swades. Vijay is a leading playback singer down south. Some of his popular Bollywood songs includeKandhon Se Milte Hain Kandhe of Lakshya, Sooni Sooni of Cheeni Kum, Jai Ho of Slumdog Millionaire, Fiqrana of Blue, Beera Beera of Raavan, Dil Ki Hai Tamanna of Force, Manmohini of Yuvraaj etc. 

Vijay Yesudas – He is the new kid on the block. Son the gifted singer K. J. Yesudas, he has rendered his voice for a few Bollywood songs. He did playback singing for Priyadarshan movies such as Dhol (Bheega Aasman) and Chup Chup ke (Tumhe Se Yeh Dil Mera) and A. R. Rahman’s I have been waiting for moonlight – Solo track from Jhoota Hi Sahi.

Sanah Moidutty – The latest addition to Bollywood by Rahman, she is of Malayali origin born and brought up in Mumbai. She sang the popular duet Tu Hai of Mohenjodaro aside its composer Rahman. Earlier she has sung the less-heard song – Motto Ghotolo for Gori Tere Pyar Mein and the title track of Always Kabhi Kabhi.

Mohammed Aslam – This Bangalore based singer has given numerous chart buster songs composed by Rahman in the 2000s. Pappu Can’t Dance from Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na, Azeem-O-Shaan Shahenshah from Jodha Akbar, Paathshala and Khalbali of Rang De Basanti etc were extremely popular. 

Usha Uthup – And last, but not the least Usha Uthup is best known for her rendition of pop and English songs. A nominee of three Filmfare awards, she finally won it finally in 2012 for 7 Khoon Maaf. She was highly emotional and burst into tears when she won her first Filmfare awards for the rendition of ‘Darling song’ of 7 Khoon Maaf. She is of south Indian origin, and has roots in Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Some of her popular songs include – Ek Do Cha Cha Cha of Shalimar, Shaan Se… of Shaan, Hari Om Hari of Pyaara Dushman, Koi Yahan Aha Nache Nache of Disco Dancer, Title track of Daud and Ramba of Armaan

Mano and Suresh Peters who sang Saila Ru Saila Re, M. M. Manasi who sang Daddy Mummy (Bhaag Johny), Malgudi Subha etc are a few more singers from South who did playback singing for Bollywood. Jikki, Jayachandran, P. B. Srinivas, L R Eswari and S. P. Shailaja (sister of SPB) – stewards of south Indian cinema, had a brief career in Bollywood.  


A. R. Rahman has introduced many fresh voices to Bollywood in the past two decades. He has also been instrumental in establishing the careers of many less-known and struggling artists in south and Bollywood film industry. Read more about Asha Bhosle’s resurgence through Rahman tunes.

It can be noticed that while most newcomers among male playback singers from North or East started off inspired from music legends – Rafi and Kishore and occasionally Mukesh (single exception is Udit Narayan), south Indians have always maintained their unique and distinct voice free of all inspirations. Say Yesudas, Hariharan, SPB or KK- distinct voice is their asset. Same is the case of female voices such as Chitra, Vani Jayaram etc and many artists got inspired from them. For that special quality of south Indian singers, a big hats off to them all.

Also, for those who believe that south Indian people can never get perfect Hindi accent, the above list is perfect to prove that this popular belief is only a myth. If I have missed any south Indian artists in the list, please leave a comment below.

Also please go through my gallery of miscellaneous posts of Bollywood music, Here is the page link. Click on the images to read. 
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A freelance writer and blogger by profession since October 2011, interested in writing over a wide range of topics. Hope you enjoy my writings. I belong to one of the beautiful places of the world, Kerala, nicknamed as 'God's own country'.

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8 Responses

  1. Raghu says:

    Boonde Se Baathe it is not by Sujatha Mohan… it is by Sujatha Trivedhi

  2. Vijay Srinivas says:

    What about Benny Dayal. He has song many smash hit Hindi songs like ‘Pappu cant dance sala’, ‘Badtameez’ etc.

  3. Sam RS says:

    Bro you forgot to include P.Suseela to the aforesaid list & has sung a lot of songs too…

  4. Vijay Srinivas says:

    You also missed Sreerama Chandra Mynampati. He sang Subhaanallah from Yeh Jawani hai Deewani, and Fikar Not from Chhichore etc.
    Besides, Nihal Tauro and Shanmukhapriya are doing exceptionally well in Indian Idol this year.

  5. Vijay Srinivas says:

    You forgot one of the highly established female singers of 80s and 90s. Kavita Krishnamurthy.

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