A M Rajah
|Raja, Aemala Manmatharaju Rajah
|Music Director, Singer
|Language Worked in
|Telugu, Tamil, Kannada, Malayalam
|Ramachandrapuram in Chitoor district of Andhra Pradesh
|Pachaiyappa's College from where he graduated with a B.A
Aemala Manmatharaju Rajah (Tamil: ஏ. எம். ராஜா;Telugu: ఏ. ఎం. రాజా;Malayalam: എ.എം.രാജ) (July 1, 1929 – April 8, 1989) was a South Indian playback singer-music composer popular in the 1950s and the early 1960s in South India. He was popularly known as A. M. Rajah or Rajah. His songs were featured in numerous Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Kannada films in the 1950s, early 1960s and early 1970s. He also composed music for several films.
During his University days, Rajah wrote, composed and sang two songs in his mother tongue, Telugu, with the instrumental support of the music director K. V. Mahadevan for HMV which were broadcast by All India Radio. Gemini Studios boss S. S. Vasan listened to these songs and, impressed, booked him for his next film, Samsaram (1951) with the approval of his music director, Emani Sankara Sastry, and also his good friend Kalki Krishnamurthy. By this time Rajah was also already recording songs for the films Rajambal and Kumari with music composers M. S. Gnanamani and K. V. Mahadevan respectively. Rajah, with instant popularity after the Samsaram songs came on the air, went on to sing in various languages, including Hindi and was the uncrowned prince of the South in the early and mid-1950s..He was equally successful in Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam and Kannada films.
His first Telugu film was Adarsam (1952). He also acted and sang in the Telugu film Pakkinti Ammayi(1953) directed by Chittajalu Pullayya. with music by G.Aswathama.He also appeared in Devadas, but in a small role. His first song in Malayalam was for film Lokaneethi (1952), music director being the composer V. Dakshinamoorthy.He sang for almost all the South Indian film music composers of the 1950s.A.M.Rajah was the first male playback singer from the South to have recorded songs for a Hindi film (Bahut Din Huye in 1952) whereas M. S. Subbulakshmi was the first South Indian singer (cum actress) to record songs for a Hindi film (Meera in 1947)..However,when Gemini's Tamil film "Chandralekha"(1948) was dubbed in Hindi,T.A.Mothi,then an up and coming singer,sang in Hindi too.
Rajah also sang in few Sinhala films produced in Chennai and Sri Lanka with Jikki and K. Jamuna Rani and his songs are still fondly remembered there.
Many of his solo songs and duets with all the leading female playback singers of that era were big hits.P.Susheela was introduced by Pendyala Nageswara Rao in the film ‘’Petra Thai’’ (1952) in a duet with Rajah. In playback, what Mukesh was for Raj Kapoor, Rajah was for Gemini Ganesan. Rajah also sang many songs for Sivaji Ganesan and lent his voice to M. G. Ramachandran as well. Similarly, he sang for N.T.Rama Rao, Akkineni Nageswara Rao and Kongara Jaggayya in several Telugu films and for Sathyan and Prem Nazir in many Malayalm films. Kannada film industry was not very developed in the 50’s, most films being dubbed versions of Tamil and Telugu films.However, Rajah sang for the leading Kannada actors like Raj Kumar, Udaykumar and Kalyan Kumar in the 50’s.His voice was found to suit these actors when they were young.
A. M. Rajah's exit from the film world remained always a controversial one because he had a large passionate fan base at that stage and for several decades more as pointed out by famous film magazines like Pesum Padam and the Radio Ceylon. Rajah fell out with number of music composers and developed a reputation for being difficult to work with. His ways were rather direct and he had his own strong opinions about how songs must be composed and sung. His original promoter, K. V. Mahadevan, was the first to openly drop him completely after recording the song "Kayile Inippathenna, Kaniyanal Kasappathenna" (1958) that sparked off an heated argument at the sets of Manamulla Maru Tharam. It was also known in the cinema circles that M. S. Viswanathan resisted using Rajah in his films.By this time,he suffered the same fate in the Telugu film world, too. However, he continued to sing for Malayala films longer where G. Devarajan was able to coax Rajah to sing from time to time.However, Rajah continued to reside in Chennai.
But Rajah still remained a big name because his songs continued to be popular for many decades and he continued his music by regularly having stage shows in India as well as overseas whilst carrying on his tourist car business. He made a comeback in the 1970s through composers V.Kumar and Sankar Ganesh, and the songs were amongst the hits of the respective years.Composer Sathyam brought him back to sing a duet with P. Susheela for the Telugu film Puttinellu Mettinellu (1973), which was also a hit.
He married G. Krishnaveni (popularly known as Jikki), who reigned together with P. Leela as the top two female playback singers in the South during the early fifties. It is said that he met her on the sets of Samsaram and Kumari (1951) and proposed to her on the sets of Maheswari (1954) after they sang the duet Azhagu Nilavin Bavaniyile. They had four daughters and two sons. He had traveled extensively abroad. A. M. Rajah died on April 7, 1989 at the age of almost 60 in an unfortunate train accident when he tripped and fell into the tracks while boarding a moving train