S.G.Kittappa died in 1933 and had no time to act
in movies. As not many of us know about S.G Kittappa, I am taking the liberty of
sharing with you whatever I have gathered about him. In the song "Aattukkutti
Muttai Ittu" from 16 Vayathiniley,
Kannadasan says "Kittappavin Paattai Ketten" but he himself has not seen nor
heard the songs of Kittappa. I have not heard them either - but I take this
opportunity to do some justice to his contribution. I am aware that not many of
us may appreciate this old timer. But T.R.Mahalingam was born from the talent of
SGK. Therefore is it alright if I provide the info?
It was in 1937 that the Tamil Film industry started. Before
that staged dramas were common in several parts of India especially
Tamilnadu ... (It was during this period that) S.G. Kittappa was
called the "Isayulaga Mannan" by various quarters.
SGK was born in Sengottai as the 10th child to Kangathara Aiyyer. Owing to
poverty the father could not send him to school. SGK showed interest in
music, and so he joined his two other brothers - Chellappa and Suppiah who
were involved in dramas. It was most fortunate that the Nadaga Thanthai
Sangaradas Swamikal was teaching those two brothers basic music and
the art of script writing for the dramas. S.G. Kittappa who was a young boy
at that time sat around and listened very attentively, though the lessons
were not directed to him. It was in the limelight of Sangaradas Swamikal
that SGK picked up the inclination and involvement in music to an
When yet a child SGK appeared on stage in Madurai and showed his singing
talents. As his singing talent was truly inspiring,, fans threw rupee notes
and even gold rings on the stage as a token of profound appreciation. He was
only five (5) years old then!
He was immediately booked for several stage dramas in several parts of
Tamilnadu. At the age of 8 he went to Ceylon to act in stage dramas. The
Ceylon Indian Chamber of Commerce awarded him a gold medal and certificate
of appreciation for his artistic talents.
In 1919 the famous Kannaiya Nadaga Kuzhu recruited SGK to be part of them. He
served them for 6 years. As his brother, Kasi Aiyyer was a good harmonium
player, he teamed up perfectly with Kittappa to produce the best of songs to
the standard prevalent in those days. As SGK sang and acted very well in a
drama called "Kandi Raja" Justice Abdul Rahim awarded a golden shawl and
"Kuthu Vilakku" for SGK.
Both SGK and his brother Kasi Aiyyer went to Ceylon to stage dramas. There
K.B. Sundrambaal was staging her own dramas. SGK and KBS met there for the
first time. They then teamed up to perform several dramas. From there they
went to Rangoon to stage dramas. They returned with much wealth. Upon their
return they continued to perform in Tamilnadu. At times KBS and SGK acted in
dramas like Thookku Thookki, Nandanaar, Dasavatharam Aandaal etc staged by
the Kannaiya Nadaga Company.
Eventually, SGK and KBS were married.
The north Indian Sangeetha Vidvan Pandit Vishnu Thigambarar did not think
highly of SGK. When SGK was asked to sing a song in Begat Raga(?) SGK very
fluently sang it only to shake up the Pandit. The Pandit who was scheduled
to return by night mail stayed back to see SGK's drama, called "Krishna
Vilasam". The Pandit was impressed and at the end of the drama he took off
the garland from his own neck and placed it upon the neck of SGK and said
"You are truly Krishna, no doubt" This Pandit had a great liking for the
Tagore's(?) "Ragupathi Ragava Rajaram Patheetha Bavana Seetharam". Therefore
SGK made it a point to sing this piece at the tail end of his dramas in
remembrance of their historical meeting.
At a another time another famous north Indian Sangeetha Vidvan by the name of
Pyari Saheb came to perform his songs in the Victoria Public Hall of Madras.
SGK also went to the show. At this show the Saheb sang the song "sabathi
kilasa" in Kamas raga. At night SGK staged his drama for which the Saheb
turned up. In this drama SGK sang the same song that the Saheb had sung
earlier. As SGK was able to sing very well the Saheb went up the stage and
offered him his own gold chain.
When SGK was performing in Wijayawada in Andhra Pradesh, the famous Andhra
vidvan Kabilavai Ramanatha Saastrikal sang the "Kori Bajanannu" keertana. In
a few minutes SGK also sang the same Keertana. The sastrikal immediately
embraced SGK to show his appreciation.
SGK used to learn a few keertana from the Mayuram KV Rajarama Aiyer. Once SGK
was on his way to Kumbakonam to perform a stage drama. On the way SGK saw
the KV Rajarama Aiyer and asked him how to sing in Suddha Seemathini Raga.
The Aiyer sang for him. At night SGK sang the same raga in his drama. The
Malaikkottai Govindasamy Pillai appeared on stage and awarded him a gold
medal and glorified him to a superlative level. A few more vidvans were also
there to appreciate SGK. Kanjipuram Nayana Pillai appeared on stage and said
"Had SGK taken up singing in kachery, people like me would have become
unknown figures" Likewise Dachinamoorthy Pillai said the no other songs had
stolen his heart as those of SGK. Mannarkudy Packirisamy Pillai also
Thiruvaaduthurai Rajaratnam Pillai who had recognised the talents of SGK said
that it was only SGK whom he considered to be in the forefront in the field
of singing, and no one else. Sowdaya who was fascinated by the talents of
SGK played the "pidil" in his dramas for some time.
Mr and Mrs Eechim(?) of Boston fame came to Trichy and happened to witness the
kachery of Kittappa in the Rasiga Ranjani Saba. The couple were very much
impressed and made sure articles appeared in the American papers. The Mysore
Mannar, Thiruvangoor Mannar, and even Governors like Lord Livingston and
Lord Curzon listened to the Sangeetham and awarded gold medals.
SGK was a great devotee and a patriot. He gave a lot for the poor. He used to
stage dramas to collect funds for temple and charitable causes.
Before singing SGK used to drink hot water, at almost boiling point, according
to T.M.Soundarajan. Although SGK was very fluent in singing suram, he never
really supported it. He used to explain the ragas before starting his songs.
He used to sing in Tamil. His pronunciation was said to be very clear. He is
the first to have pulled the rural folks towards the kachery songs.
SGK was very famous and popular. Unfortunately, his health started to fail
him. As he was acting in a drama in Thiruvaaroor, he fainted and fell
collapsed on stage. Thereafter he never regained his health. In 1933, at the
age of 28 he died.