One of the most popular singer-actresses of early Telugu and Tamil cinema, R Balasaraswathi is widely credited as the the first playback singer to be credited on a record (instead of the actor).
Born on 28 August, 1928 in Venkatagiri, Madras, she was the daughter of musician K Parthasarathy. Trained under Allathuru Subbayya, Balasaraswathi as a prodigy in the true sense. When she was only six years old, she was discovered by Kopparapu Subba Rao. At that age only she amde her singing debut for HMV. She made her debut as a child artiste in legendray director C Pullaiah's Ansuya (1936). She soon received an offer from Tamil filmmaker K Subramanyam to act in his Bhaktha Kuchela (1936) and Balayogini (1937). She also acted in Raja Sandow's Thiruneelakantar (1939). She graduated to a heroine in lllalu (1940). Her duets with S Rajeshwara Rao attained great popularity. Her other notable films were Tukaram (1938), Mahananda (1939), Chandrahasa (1941), and Dhaasippen (1943). She took a temporary retirement from acting after marrying the Raja of Kolanka in 1944. But it was in the sphere of playback singing that she achieved remarkable success. The first song she recorded for Bhagya Lakshmi (1943), Thinne meedha sinnoda, was credited to her instead of the actress Kamala Kotnis, which was a rarity in those days. Swapna Sundari (1950), Chinna Kodalu (1952), Prema (1952), Manavathi (1952), Dampatyam (1957) contain some of her best songs. She worked with almost all major composers and singers of her time. She also danced in some films such as Suvarnamala (1948). When her niece Vijaya Nirmala turned director with Sangham Chekkina Silpalu (1979), she came out of retirement to sing a song.
Encyclopaedia of Indian Cinema. Ed. Ashish Rajadhyaksha and Paul Willemen. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1998