A versatile singer, he modulated his voice to suit the two stars perfectly; a listener could identify the star in the film through TMS’s songs even without watching the movie!

T.M. Soundararajan, the quintessential Tamil playback singer, who was the voice of the two mega stars — M.G. Ramachandran and Sivaji Ganesan — of the Tamil film world, died here on Saturday. TMS, as he was known in the Tamil speaking world, had been unwell for quite some time and was in and out of hospital. He was discharged on Saturday morning but his condition worsened soon, and he passed away in the afternoon. He was 91 and is survived by his wife, two sons — T.M.S. Balraj and T.M.S. Selvakumar, both of whom sing for light music troupes — and a daughter.

His robust and full-throated singing perfectly suited MGR and Sivaji, who had their roots in Tamil theatre. A versatile singer, he modulated his voice to suit the two stars perfectly. A listener could identify the star in the movie through TMS’ songs, even without watching the film. He also acted and sang in a few films. He had a voice that could catch the nuances and majesty of the Tamil language, but could not replicate his success in other languages.

Born in a Saurashtra community in Madurai in 1923, Thoguluva Meenakshi Iyengar Soundararajan languished in poverty and could not afford a formal training in classical music. He left Madurai in search of a career and joined the Royal Talkies in Coimbatore for a monthly salary of Rs. 50. Only in 1950 did opportunity knock at his door. He rendered his first song in the film Krishna Vijayam. The song was ‘Radhey nee yennai vittu pogathadi’ and the music director, S.V. Subbaiah Naidu. TMS’ devotional songs — ‘Karpagavalli nin porpagangal pidithen’ on Karpagambal, the deity of Kapaleeswarar Temple in Mylapore, ‘Mannaanaalum Tiruchenduril mannaven’ and ‘Ullam uruguthayya’ on Lord Muruga — remain popular even today.