Madurai Shanmukhavadivu Subbulakshmi, popularly known as M.S, (September 16, 1916 - December 11, 2004) was a renowned Carnatic vocalist. She was the first musician ever to be awarded the Bharat Ratna, India's highest civilian honour.
She began her Carnatic classical music training under Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer and then Hindustani classical training under Pandit Narayan Rao Vyas. By the age of 17, Subbulakshmi was giving concerts on her own, including major performances at the Madras Music Academy. Performance in Carnatic music concerts was, until then, a male bastion.
M S Subbulakshmi traveled to London, USA, Canada, the Far East, and other places as India's cultural ambassador. Her concerts at the UN General Assembly on UN day in 1966; the Royal Albert Hall, London in 1982; and at the Festival of India in Moscow in 1987 were significant landmarks in her career.
She also acted in a few Tamil films in her youth. Her first movie Sevasadanam was released in 1938. M S Subbulakshmi also acted in Savitri to raise money for launching Kalki, her husband's nationalist Tamil weekly. Her title role of the Rajasthani saint-poetess Meera in the eponymous film (1945) gave her national prominence. Following the success of the film, she quit films and turned wholly to concert music.
Some of the popular awards include Padma Bhushan in 1954, Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1956 and the Sangeetha Kalanidhi award (she was the first woman recipient of the title). The Ramon Magsaysay award in 1974, the Padma Vibhushan in 1975, the Kalidas Samman in 1988, the Indira Gandhi Award for National Integration in 1990, and the Bharat Ratna in 1998 are some others. Although she was bestowed with enormous prize money on these awards, she donated most of them to charity. She was also awarded honorary degrees from several universities.