Sri Ghantasala Venkateswara Rao (Telugu: ఘంటసాల వెంకటేశ్వర రావు) (4th December 1922– 11th February 1974) was a distinguished Indian Playback Singer and music director of Telugu Cinema. Ghantasala was one of Telugu cinema’s first playback singers and remained the voice of Telugu Cinema for nearly a quarter of a century. He composed music for over 100 movies, produced several movies of his own and sang more than 10500+ song primarily in Telugu as well as in many other languages including Tamil, Kannada, Malyalam, Hindi and Tulu. Ghantasala is the recipient of the Padmasri award, India’s fourth highest civilian award.
Ghantasala was born on 4th December, 1922 to Smt. Rattamma (mother) and Sri. Suryanarayana Rao (father), a traditional Telugu Brahmin Niyogi family, in Choutupally Village, Gudivada Taluq (Krishna Dist.), Andhra Pradesh.
Nicknamed in his childhood as Balabharathudu, Ghantasala developed keen interest towards music since early age. His father, Sri Suryanarayana Rao was also a singer and Ghantasala used to dance to his Tarangams.
At an early age of 11, Ghantasala lost his father and was brought up by his maternal uncle Ryali Pitchi Ramaiah. Despite several hardships and recollecting influence of his father, Ghantasala went to Vizainagaram (or Vijayanagaram) to join Maharajah’s Government College of Music and Dance in the year 1935. Smt. Saridela Lakshminarasamma helped Ghantasala with financials and with Kalvar Ring to his assistance.
On advice of Sri Dwaram Venkataswamy Naidu, Ghantasala began his pursuit in vocal music. In subsequent days Sri Patrayani Sitarama Sastry, believed to be his first guru, welcomed Ghantasala to sing prayer songs at Kaumudi Parishad, a literary organization that Sastry chaired then president. Its being said that Sri Patrayani Sitarama Sastry (his guru) tought Ghantasala his first lesson in Vyasanarayana murthy temple, located on the banks of Nallacheruvu of Vijayanagaram. Listening to many scholars and their acquaintance influenced Ghantasala towards literature as well.
In the year 1941, The Principal of Music College, Sri Swaram Venkataswamy Naidu awared Ghantasala the degree of Sangeeta Vidwan.
Upon complication of his education in music at Maharajah’s Govt., college of music and dance, Chopalli Suryanarayana Bhagavatar, a renouned Harikahta artist arranged a muscial program for Ghantasala in the premises of Maruti Bhatamandali in Vizainagaram. Impressed with his performance, Sri Aadi bhatla Narayanadasu presented Ghantasala with Thambura (a stringed instrument).
On 3rd March 1944, Ghantasala Venkateswara Rao and Savithri were married at Pedakolluru village, Krishna District, Andhra Pradesh . The couple were blessed with 5 children, 2 sons (Vijaya Kumar and Ratna Kumar) and 3 daughters (Shyamala, Suguna and Shanti).
Its being said that Ghantasala named his eldest son “Vijaya” kumar after Vijaya Productions out of gratitude towards the organization being employed as a permanent artist. Sri Chakrapani, one of then producers of Vijaya Productions, presented Ghantasala a purse with Rs. 25,000 realizing such faith towards the organization.
Vijaya Kumar, born in the year 1950 died in 1999. Ghantasala and family is survived by his second son Sri Ratna Kumar , who works as a dubbing artist both in Ciname and TV industry.
Awards and Honors:
- Ghantasala received Padmasri award from then President of Indian Goverment V.V.Giri
- On February 11, 2003, a stamp was released in honor of Ghantasala at Telugu Lalita Kala Toranam, Public Gardens, Hyderabad.
- After the saint Annamacharya (15th Century poet), Ghantasala has been the only singer who rendered devotional songs inside the Tirumala Venkateswara Temple near the Lord – Moola Virat.