The famous Indian Music director, Upendra Kumar or T Upendra Kumar, who was noted for his works in Kannada and Oriya films, was born in 1941 to a Telugu speaking Brahmin family in Bhubaneswar, Orissa. His father Lakshman Swamy was an astrologer by profession. After completing 7th grade, he chose to learn music on being motivated by his uncle, Apparao. He learned Hindustani Classical and Indian and Western instruments. He did his graduation from Utkal University of music in BA music with a first grade. He made his debut at the age of 25, in a Kannada film Katari Veera which was directed by Y R Swamy. Renowned Kannada actor and singer Rajkumar starred in this movie. Kumar’s association with Rajkumar began from there, and later he continued his Musical pair with Rajkumar’s sons too.
Upendra Kumar-Rajkumar combination gave numerous hit songs to Kannada film industry. His debut Oriya film was Manika directed by R Asrar. He has worked in around 210 films including Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Tulu along with Kannada and Oriya films. His works are distinguishable with the prominence of Mandolin and Sitar as instrumentation. He is very much fond of Kafi raga, which is evident in those songs he composed. Premada Kanike song Idu yaaru bareda kathayo was based on this raga. His major songs include Naa Bidalaare Ninnanu from Premada Kanike (1976), Naa Ninae Asae from Ravichandra (1980), Aralide Thanu Mana from Apoorva Sangama (1984) and Ganga Yamuna Sangama from Anuraga Aralithu (1986). He composed numerous devotional songs during the 1980’s which got life through Rajkumar’s voice.
These musical albums were in the names of Saint Raghavendra Swamy and deities like Hanuman. Kumar won Karnataka State film award for the best music director for three times, in 1990, 1992, and 1993. The songs from
Raghavendra Rajkumar starrer, Nenjudi Kalyana brought him State Film Award for the first time. He received the best music director award yet again in 1992 Karnataka state film awards for Hrudaya Haadithu (directed by MS Rajasekhar) and in 1993 for Jeevana Chaithra (Directed by Dorai-Bagavan). Rajkumar won National award for best playback singer for the song Nadamaya from Jeevana Chaithra. He died of jaundice on 24th January 2002 at M S Ramaiah Hospital Bangalore, Karnataka. His film Gramadevate released a week before his death. Vishwamithra, a Kannada movie, was the last film that he worked in and was released after his death. The last Oriya movie he composed for is Punar Milana.