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Kavita Krishnamurthy

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  • Years Active: 1980s, 1990s


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During the '80s and especially the '90s, Kavita Krishnamurthy (or Krishnamurti, depending on who Anglicizes the spelling) rocketed to stardom as one of the most versatile and technically gifted female singers in the music-reliant Indian film industry. Krishnamurthy was equally at home singing romantic ballads and popular tunes, or artier, more complex fare; her skill at the latter eventually drew her into a creative -- and romantic -- partnership with violin virtuoso L. Subramaniam by the close of the '90s. Born Sharda Krishnamurthy in the South Indian city of Delhi, she came from an artistic background: Her father worked for the Education and Cultural Affairs Ministry, and her mother loved classical Indian music and dance, making sure that Kavita began taking lessons at a young age. Although it would have made more sense for Kavita to begin training in the Carnatic style, her mother knew of no high-quality Carnatic teachers nearby, so Kavita started out by learning Hindustani classical music. Her Bengali aunt and uncle -- with whom young Kavita spent a great deal of time, to the point where she looked upon them as second parents -- influenced her to learn the Bengali style Rabindra Sangeet as well. In 1971, still a child, Kavita made her first film recording, a Bengali duet with the legendary Lata Mangeshkar that was conducted by singer/composer Hemant Kumar. Kavita moved with her aunt to Mumbai (Bombay), not only to attend college (where she received a degree in economics), but to attempt to break into the film industry as a singer. While at college, she met Ranu Mukherjee, Hemant Kumar's daughter, who reintroduced Krishnamurthy to her father. Kumar began using Krishnamurthy as a vocalist for his live performances; soon, Krishnamurthy was performing with music director Manna Dey and finding work singing commercial jingles. Additionally, through her aunt's contacts (including a good friend, the mother of actress Hema Malini), Krishnamurthy met composer Laxmikant (one-half of the legendary Laxmikant/Pyarelal duo, who dominated Indian film music in the '70s and '80s) in late 1976. Impressed by Krishnamurthy's skills, Laxmikant offered her work as a dubbing vocalist, cutting demos of songs intended for superstar female singers like Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhosle. 1980's "Kaahe Ko Byaahi" was the first song to be featured in a film using Krishnamurthy's own vocal, but it took until 1985 for her to land her first major hit, "Tumse Milkar Na Jaane Kyon." This opened up opportunities for Krishnamurthy outside of the Laxmikant/Pyarelal camp, in which she had worked almost exclusively up to that point; while she broadened her horizons recording songs by other composers (as well as for television), she still continued to work with her early advocates, who provided most of her hits during the '80s. She scored huge hits with the tune "Hawa Hawai" and the Anu Malik composition "Julie Julie," among many others. By the early '90s, the Laxmikant/Pyarelal juggernaut was finally beginning to run out of steam. Krishnamurthy, however, had achieved enough of a reputation that other filmmakers and musicians were eager to work with her. 1994 proved a watershed year for Krishnamurthy's career: music director R.D. Burman staged a dazzling comeback with 1942: A Love Story, for which he used Krishnamurthy as the only soundtrack vocalist; and Viju Shah recorded the smash duet "Tu Cheez Badi Hai Mast Mast" for the film Mohra with her. By the time the dust settled, Krishnamurthy was arguably the most popular contemporary female vocalist in Indian film, landing several monster hits from 1942 (including "Kyon Naye Lag Rahe" and "Rimjhim Rimjhim") and winning several awards, including the coveted Filmfare award (the Indian equivalent of the Oscars) for Best Female Playback Singer for the song "Pyaar Hua Chupke Se." Over the '90s, Krishnamurthy worked with the cream of Indian film music, including Anu Malik, Jatin/Lalit, A.R. Rahman, and Nadeem/Shravan, among many others; during 1995 and 1996, she extended her string of consecutive Filmfare awards to three, with the second and third coming for Yaraana's "Mera Piya Ghar" and Khamoshi's "Aaj Main Upar," respectively. The hits kept on coming, and most fans agreed that the quality of her work was better than ever. In 1999, violin virtuoso L. Subramaniam recruited Krishnamurthy as a vocalist for his Global Fusion opus, coveting her versatility for a project dedicated to blending a tremendous variety of Asian and Western musics. The two became fascinated with each other outside of the musical realm as well, and married not long after. Krishnamurthy began splitting her time between further collaborations with the sometime U.S.-based Subramaniam, her continued work in the Bombay film industry, and her home base of Bangalore.


Kavita Subramaniam is an Indian film playback singer. Trained in classical music, she has sung a wide range of classical-based songs. In her career, she has worked with a variety of music composers, including R. D. Burman and A. R. Rahman. She is also the recipient of four Filmfare Best Female Playback Singer Awards, including 3 consecutive awards in the period 1994–1996, and the Padmashri which she received in 2006. In March 2013, she launched her own app which is available for free download in the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store.

^ Priyanka Dasgupta (19 December 2009). "Kavita Krishnamurthy conquering global shores". Times of India. Retrieved 27 January 2010. ^ Pallab Bhattacharya (3 December 2009). "Solidarity against terror through music and poetry". Daily Star. Retrieved 27 January 2010. ^ Rupa Damodaran (8 May 2004). "Bollywood Kavita trills for good lyrics". News Straits Times. Retrieved 27 January 2010. ^ "iTunes app for Kavita Krishnamurthy". 

Early life[edit]

Born Sharada Krishnamurthy in a Tamil Iyer family in New Delhi, India to T.S. Krishnamurthy, an employee of Education Ministry. She began her music training with her aunt, Mrs. Bhattacharya, who taught her Rabindra Sangeet. She began her formal training in Hindustani classical music under Balram Puri, a classical singer.

At the young age of eight, Kavita won a gold medal at a music competition. Subsequently, she kept winning many such gold medals as she kept participating in the Inter-Ministry Classical Competition in New Delhi in the mid-1960s.

^ Amit Puri (23 August 2003). "...kehte hain mujhko Hawa Hawaii". The Tribune. Retrieved 27 January 2010. ^ Cite error: The named reference trill was invoked but never defined (see the help page).

Performing career[edit]

At the age of nine, she got an opportunity to record a Tagore song in Bengali with Lata Mangeshkar under the auspices of the music composer and singer Hemant Kumar. Although the young Sharada was aspiring to be working with Indian Foreign Services, Kavita moved to Bombay when she was just 14 to try her luck as a playback singer in the Hindi film industry. She is an alumnus of St. Xaviers' College, Bombay from where she did her BA Honors Economics. She was also very active in the St. Xaviers' Music Group during her college days. During the annual college festival (Malhar), she accidentally met Ranu Mukherjee, the daughter of Hemant Kumar. Ranu took the initiative of reintroducing Kavita to her father. He was impressed by her grounding in music, so he began using her as a singer during his live performances. In one such performance, playback singer Manna Dey spotted her and employed her to sing advertisement jingles. Through her aunt's strong contacts, she met Jaya Chakravarthy, the mother of actress Hema Malini, who later took the initiative of introducing Kavita to the music director Laxmikant (one of the composer duo Laxmikant-Pyarelal) in late 1976.

Playback singing[edit]

Laxmikant gave her an option to work as a dubbing artiste or a career in playback singing later. Kavita chose the latter and impressed Laxmikant with her extremely strong grasp of Hindustani classical music. Initially, she used to record songs and cut demos of songs intended for singers like Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhosle. In her struggling phase, she received the patronage of music composers Laxmikant—Pyarelal, who backed her so strongly that she was labelled as a singer exclusively working with them which gave many music directors an excuse to avoid working with her.

In 1980, she first sang the song, "Kaahe Ko Byaahi" in the film Maang Bharo Sajana, which featured her singing in her own voice. Unfortunately, the song was dropped from the final cut of the film. In 1985, her career took off with her first major hit, "Tumse Milkar Na Jaane Kyon" from the Hindi film Pyaar Jhukta Nahin. Post the success of the song, it opened up various opportunities beyond the Laxmikant-Pyarelal camp. However, "Hawa Hawaii" and "Karte Hain Hum Pyaar Mr. India Se", two popular songs from the equally popular movie Mr. India (1987), proved to be a turning point in her career. (The songs were composed by music composers Laxmikant-Pyarelal, the latter being a duet with Kishore Kumar and lip-synced on screen by actress Sridevi). Her collaboration with Laxmikant-Pyarelal produced several hits.

The 1990s thrust Kavita to being known as one of the leading female playback singers. Her performance as a singer in the film 1942: A Love Story, composed by R.D. Burman won her a lot of popular acclaim. With a string of hits from 1942: A Love Story, Yaraana, Agni Sakshi, Bhairavi, and Khamoshi, Kavita established herself as a leading female singer in the mid-1990s. She went on to work with several music directors of Hindi films of the 1990s, such as Bappi Lahiri, Anand-Milind, A. R. Rahman, Ismail Darbar, Nadeem-Shravan, Jatin Lalit, Viju Shah and Anu Malik. During her stint as a playback singer, she sang duets with the leading male singers of her times, from Kishore Kumar and Suresh Wadkar to Mohammed Aziz, Amit Kumar, Manhar Udhas, Kumar Sanu, Abhijeet Bhattacharya, Udit Narayan and Sonu Nigam. Her female duets mostly have been with Alka Yagnik, Anuradha Paudwal and Sadhana Sargam.

After her marriage to violinist Dr. L. Subramaniam in Bangalore on 11 November 1999, Kavita got extremely selective and cut down on her film singing. She started expanding her artistic range to areas which were never explored. She was the main featured soloist in the Global Fusion album released by Warner Bros., featuring musicians from five continents. As she actively started exploring fusion music, Kavita travelled around the world including to the US, UK, Europe, Africa, Australia, the Far East, the Middle East, and South America. She performed in concert halls including Royal Albert Hall in London, The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.., Madison Square Garden, The Lincoln Center in New York City, the Zhongshan Music Hall in Beijing, The Esplanade in Singapore, The Putra Jaya World Trade Centre in Kuala Lumpur, and Gewandhaus Leipzigm.

Although primarily a playback singer, Kavita has sung with orchestras as a soloist; she collaborated with Western artists from jazz, pop and classical fields. She has lent her voice for many ghazal and devotional music albums. Both as a fusion music singer and as a playback singer, Kavita has performed throughout India. In 2014, she also sang a song titled "Koi Chahat Koi Hasrat" for the album Women's Day Special: Spreading Melodies Everywhere. It was composed by Nayab Raja and penned by Dipti Mishra.

Their son Ambi and daughter Bindu well trained in Indian Music as well as in Western Music; gives performances in India and World over

Pop and devotional singing[edit]

Due to her participation in fusion and pop music, Kavita has lent her voice for several pop and devotional albums. The most prominent ones being:

Aadi GaneshVenkatesha SuprabhatamShiva ShlokasKoi Akela KahanMeera Ka RamMahalakshmi StotramPop TimeSai Ka VardaanShagufthagiDil Ki AwaazAthensAsmitaMahiyaHadh Kar Di Aapne^ Cite error: The named reference kehte was invoked but never defined (see the help page).


Kavita Subramaniam has been making appearances in various music reality shows as a guest judge owing to her popularity as a playback singer. She recently was a judge for Bharat Ki Shaan: Singing Star (Season 1), which aired on DD National at prime time. She also appeared in Vijay TV Airtel Super Singer and Colors Bangla Great Music Gurukul.

Personal life[edit]

Kavita Krishnamurthy married violinist Dr. L. Subramaniam in Bangalore on 11 November 1999. They have no children. Subramaniam has three children from his previous marriage. Bindu Subramaniam is a law graduate and singer/songwriter. Narayana, the middle one, is a qualified doctor. The youngest, Ambi Subramaniam, is an accomplished violinist.

Kavita and her husband have started music institute in Bangalore in 2007. It is called the Subramaniam Academy of Performing Arts.

^ http://www.rediff.com/getahead/slide-show/slide-show-1-achievers-interview-with-bindu-subramaniam/20110512.htm^ http://www.mybangalore.com/article/0411/violinist-ambi-subramaniam-talks-about-music-and-more.html^ http://www.sapaindia.com

Bollywood songs[edit]

Main article: List of songs recorded by Kavita KrishnamurthyList of Songs recorded by Kavita Krishnamurthy in South-Indian languages

Awards Won[edit]

Kavita Krishnamurty has received several awards and honours. She was the recipient of three consecutive Filmfare awards from 1995–1997.

Civilian Awards:

2005 – Padma Shri – India's fourth highest civilian honours

Filmfare Awards

2003 – Best Female Playback Singer (shared with Shreya Ghoshal) – Dola Re Dola (Devdas)1997 – Best Female Playback Singer – Aaj Main Upar (Khamoshi: The Musical)1996 – Best Female Playback Singer – Mera Piya Ghar Aaya (Yaraana)1995 – Best Female Playback Singer – Pyaar Hua Chupke Se (1942: A Love Story)

Star Screen Awards

1997 – Best Female Playback Singer – Aaj Main Upar (Khamoshi: The Musical)2000 – Best Female Playback Singer – Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam)

Zee Cine Awards

2003 – Best Female Playback Singer (shared with Shreya Ghoshal) – Dola Re (Devdas)2000 – Best Female Playback Singer – Nimbooda (Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam)

IIFA Awards

2003 – Best Female Playback Singer (shared with Shreya Ghoshal) – Dola Re (Devdas)

Other Awards

Yesudas Award (2008) by Swaralaya, for exceptional contribution to Indian music.Kishore Kumar Journalists'/Critics' Award in Calcutta (2002)Bollywood Award, held in New York (2000)Shri Ravindra Jain Sangeet Samman (2012)Lata Mangeshkar Award from the Govt. of Madhya Pradesh (2005) ^ Cite error: The named reference trill was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
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