SPB will live as long as music exists
Will we ever see such a protean artiste again? For the flow of eternal time offers only occasionally it's choicest of gifts to delight the mankind, of which SPB was one, released on the canvas of arts, but withdrawn in 2020, as good things cannot last forever!
Will we ever see such a protean artiste again? For the flow of eternal time offers only occasionally it's choicest of gifts to delight the mankind, of which SPB was one, released on the canvas of arts, but withdrawn in 2020, as good things cannot last forever! How can we ever forget his exhilaratingly vibrant and stunningly ever-youthful voice and sparkling personality comprised of cheerful mien, dignified conduct, witty and sensible speech and above all the extraordinary capacity to take everyone along for these many years in an industry where professional longevity and relationships are short. Specially to be mentioned is his philanthropic sensitivity towards various causes.
Starting as an ordinary singer he rose to lend his voice to the likes of MGR, NTR, ANR, Sivaji Ganesan, Gemini Ganesan to a host of next generation heroes and their next generation and their next too in Telugu, Tamil and Kannada over a period of 50 years! The stroke of luck he got at the hands of MGR needs special mention.
Just as he was about to sing for MGR for the super hit song tuned by K.V.Mahadevan "Aayiram Nilavey Vaa..."("Adimai Penn", 1969), the neophyte was down with a sudden fever. However, instead of getting the song sung by someone else like say T.M.Soundararajan(TMS), MGR chose to postpone the shooting of the song and wait until the former had recovered and recorded the song! He later told SPB that he didn't want the career of a newcomer like him to get destroyed due to his decision to replace him!
Well, how many newcomers would be so lucky! This much-talked-about incident gave him the much-needed push to gain a foothold in the industry and since then there was no looking back for him. A star was born! And the same K.V.Mahadevan who trusted SPB with MGR, went on to make him sing for Sankara Sastry too in Sankarabharanam, in a long and fruitful bonding!
The death of Ghantasala, marks the second turning point in his career which made him the sole voice to rely upon in Telugu forever and for every hero! In Kannada and Tamil too, the entry of new generation heroes naturally meant opting for a fresh voice over the then reigning voices like P.B.Srinivas and TMS! Kannada superstar Vishnuvardhan would stipulate in his movie contracts that we would act only if SPB sings all the songs for him!
In the meantime, something was brewing in his life, that is, a new person entered his life, the association with whom would turn out to be a sensational, world-famous one! In order to help an up-and-coming pair of siblings from a remote Tamil Nadu village trying their luck in the music industry, he took them on board his orchestra band and gave concerts across the South to their instrumental accompaniment! The brothers, known as Paavalar brothers, were none other than Ilayaraja and Gangai Amaran, and the former in his own right became a music director in 1976, whose music together with SPB, marked the advent of a delectable epoch in the annals of Indian film music!
The rest as they say is history - as Andhra, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka zealously vied for his vocal chords, the busy colossus straddled the trio of the three States in an enviably hectic career, leaving behind his fragrant and indelible footprints or vocal prints, on the vinyl records, nay on the sands of Time!
In any case, was there any music director with whom SPB did not work? Karnataka people call them as their own, for the Tamils he is a household name and as famous as MGR no less and for we Telugus, I need not wax eloquent about his extensive and stellar contribution! Only someone who is singularly blessed would be able to achieve something of such prodigious magnitude!
It ought to be mentioned here that his innate vocal gift flowered amidst the cultural "genius loci" of Madras (then Chennai), the venerable ecosystem of all things musical (Carnatic and film)! There must be some magic on the soil of Chennai or Tamil Nadu itself. Earlier one Tyagaraja, one Syama Sastry took birth here, in the holy and picturesque land of Pancha-Nada Kshetra or Tiruvaaroor. Earlier too, Sadasiva Brahmendra and other divine Telugu saints took birth here, outstandingly contributing and consolidating the Bhakti and music culture in Tamil Nadu. After many decades, it seems SPB was destined to do the same thing here, albeit in a different sort of music.
I am reminded of the line "Telugu Tamizham jata kattenennado Meenakshi....." - "O Goddess Meenakashi! Telugu and Tamil have long paired with each other", written by the "aasu-kavi" Veturi Sundararama Murthy for the movie Arjun (2004), about the old and profound connection between Telugus and Tamils. How true! And he himself admittedly wished that he be born as a Kannadiga in his next birth, considering the greatest amount of affection he garnered from them!
Well, the beloved golden thread that strung the music garland of the three States has stopped weaving. Veritably has the south Indian film industry been orphaned with his untimely and avoidable demise due to the Chinese virus! But no, the reverberations of his mellifluous voice will ring forever in our hearts and the smiling face shines on us ala sharad-pournami-chandra, as long as music exists.
C V Krishna Manoj, Hyderabad
A ' Baludu' of film music
S P Balasubrahmanyam's memories are haunting and all his ardent fans are still elieving his physical presence in their midst. Down the line, reminiscences are striking hearts right from his selection as a best singer in 1964 in a competition judged by Susarla, Pendyala and Ghantasala. Sitting in the gallery music director SP Kodandapani was very much impressed and offered him a first film song in Maryada Ramanna and SPB's journey was halt less thereafter. His long singing span had also spread by sharing the duet songs with his guides and mentors like Ghantasala and a host of the then cuckoo female vocal voices.
His refurbishing of Saptaswaras was attributable to great music masters like Saluri Rajeswara Rao, Pendyala Nageswara Rao, Kodandapani, K.V. Mahadevan etc., of that flourished Raagam, Taanam and Pallavi tinsel screen age. Balu always used to recollect the past aesthetic days on various platforms, especially Padutaa Teeyaga, an epitome selected by him as this was renditioned by Ghantasala in Moogamanasulu movie. Balu occupies surely a place very next to Ghantasala who is ultimate.
More than fifty years ago, music composer Pendyala Nageswara Rao in a gathering expressed his opinion on Ghantasala's voice which was God gifted and no singer had that stentorian and sweet voice before and nobody after him could be borne in future. This was confessed by SPB himself on several platforms. NTR and ANR also confirmed that fifty percent of their success in their movies was due to his playback singing.
SPB deserves a Bharatratna. Short lived Ghantasala, Mohammad Rafi and many songstresses also contributed hundreds of memorable songs. Though Balu acquired all crafts of music to a remarkable extent, he always used to say, he is yet a 'Baludu' in music world. That is his simplicity. Today he joined the clan immortals.
N Ramalakshmi, Secunderabad