There are times when we take certain things for granted and assume that they will be a part of our lives forever. For many South Indians of all 3 generations, SP Balasubrahmanyam, the legendary playback singer, was certainly one of those things.
Balasubrahmanyam had been such a constant presence in the lives of the people of southern states for over 50 years that even the mere thought of a time without him would have struck many as absurd. The credit goes to the consistency he displayed throughout his long career. In the over 40,000 songs he sang, he became the voice of different generations of actors and music directors and thereby traveled with different generations of fans as well.
Grand Entry of the Great Master – SP Balasubrahmanyam
Balasubrahmanyam made his professional debut on December 15, 1966, in the Telugu movie Sri Sri Sri Maryada Ramanna. The song Emi E Vintha Moham, became fairly popular. The song that cemented his career also marked his entry into Tamil cinema. In 1969, MG Ramachandran was looking for a fresh voice. The legendary music composer KV Mahadevan remembered the young SPB and played his voice to MGR, who made SP Balasubrahmanyam an offer.
SPB fell ill and could not record immediately, and could get behind the microphone only three months after MGR’s offer. MGR chose to suspend the recording until SPB got better. In 1969, SPB recorded Ayiram Nilave Vaa for Adimai Penn, which became a blockbuster. The new singing superstar had finally arrived.
The master of Melancholy
SPB was a master of emotions. He imbibed and then recreated the emotional context of a song through his voice better than most singers.
In K Balachander’s Duet (1994), two brothers fall in love with the same woman. In En Kadhale, Rahman creates a wonder. The setting is the desperation of the character, a singer himself, to find out whether the woman will reciprocate his feelings. Every inflection, every note transition, is filled to the brim with emotions.
For the Tamil film ‘Keladi Kanmani’ in 1990, Balu sang the song of ‘Mannil Indha Kaathalandri’ in a single breath and till date, it is extremely popular among the South audience.
Whether it is the pathos of unrequited love in Unna Nenache Pattu Padichen from Apoorva Sagodharargal or the blooming marital romance with a hint of underlying melancholy in Mandram Vantha Thendralukku in Mouna Ragam, SPB could lift the compositions with his emotional heft. The leading men of the decade concurred – like Sivaji Ganesan and MGR preferred the voice of TM Soundararajan, Rajinikanth, Kamal Hassan and Vishnuvardhan chose SPB. In fact, Vishnuvardhan had a clause in his contract that only SPB should sing for him.
SP Balasubrahmanyam in Bollywood!
In 1989, Balu was roped in as the playback singer for Salman Khan’s debut film ‘Maine Pyar Kiya’. All the songs turned out to become instant chartbusters and the album was majorly credited for the massive success of the film. The astounding success of Sooraj Barjatya’s ‘Hum Aapke Hain Koun..!’ in 1994 solidified Balasubrahmanyam as one of the biggest playback singers in India. He became identified as Salman Khan’s voice in the 90s.
After a long hiatus of 15 years, he made a comeback to Hindi cinema in 2013 by singing the popular title song for Chennai Express – ‘Nikal Na Jaaye Chennai Express’.
The Voice of Many Heroes!
SP Balasubrahmanyam varied his voice to suit the personalities of the actors on whom the songs were filmed. In Enna Satham Intha Neram from the Kamal Hassan starrer Punnagai Mannan, SPB captures the sadness behind a romance that is about to end in a planned suicide. The voice flows as smoothly as the saxophone in the interlude.
In the song from Thambikku Entha Uru, SPB brings out the typical deeper tone for Rajinikanth without compromising on the melody.
When Rajinikanth’s movies assumed political colours in the ’90s, SPB was the go-to singer for the introductory song. These tracks, including Autokaran from Baasha and Oruvan Oruvan Mudhalali from Muthu, played an important role in inflating Rajinikanth’s superstar image. We can still hear his voice in Pettai and Darbar as he is the voice of Rajini. His last song on Annatha is yet to be released.
Nothing came in the way of SP Balasubrahmanyam
SP Balasubrahmanyam, with his large physique, also had an adventurous streak and never compromised on the pleasures of life. In 1989, a vocal fold nodule threatened his career. Doctors said he could either stop singing or risk surgery with the danger of damaging his voice forever. He took the latter option and emerged stronger.
- Has recorded over 38,000 plus songs in a span of 40 years, which include film songs and devotional numbers recorded by various recording companies of the country. It’s a world record which will be soon entering into the Guinness Book of World Records
- Balasubrahmanyam holds the Guinness World Record for recording the highest number of songs by a singer.
- Has recorded 21 songs in Kannada for the composer Upendra Kumar in Bangalore from 9.00 a.m. to 9.00 p.m. on February 8, 1981, which is a record.Has recorded 19 songs in Tamil in a day, and 16 songs in Hindi in a day, which is a notable achievement.He has also acted in several movies in full-fledged protagonist roles or in cameo roles. And is also an anchor for a Telugu TV programme by name “Paaduthaa Theeyaga”.
- On Maa TV, he hosted a children’s singing show called ‘Paadalanivundhi’, which gained a lot of popularity and brought talent from all over Andhra Pradesh.
|2001||Padma Shri||Government of India|
|2011||Padma Bhushan||Government of India|
|1981||Kalaimaamani||Government of Tamil Nadu|
|1999||Honorary Doctorate||Potti Sreeramulu Telugu University|
|2008||Karnataka Rajyothsava Award (Second Highest Civilian honor of Karnataka)||Government of Karnataka|
|2009||Honorary Doctorate||Sathyabama University, Chennai|
|2009||Kalaprapoorna (Honorary doctorate)||Andhra University|
|2010||Honorary Doctorate||JNTU Anantapur|
|2017||Kala Pradarshini Ghantasala Puraskar||The Ghantasala family & Kala Pradarshini, Chennai|
|2017||Honorary Doctorate||The International Tamil University, United States|
National Film Awards
|1981||Ek Duuje Ke Liye||“Tere Mere Beech Mein“||Hindi||Won|
|1983||Saagara Sangamam||“Vedam Anuvanuvuna”||Telugu||Won|
|1995||Sangeetha Sagara Ganayogi Panchakshara Gavai||“Umandu Ghumandu Ghana Gar Je Badara”||Kannada||Won|
|1996||Minsaara Kanavu||“Thanga Thamarai”||Tamil||Won|
Tamil Nadu State Film Awards
|1969||Adimaippen, Shanti Nilayam||Best Singer||Won|
|1990||Keladi Kanmani||Best Singer||Won|
|1994||Jai Hind||Best Singer||Won|
Karnataka State Film Awards
|1997-98||O Mallige||Best Male Playback Singer||Won|
|2004-05||Srushti||Best Male Playback Singer||Won|
|2007-08||Savi Savi Nenapu||Best Male Playback Singer||Won|
Subrahmanyam has also given voice for various artists like Rajinikanth, Kamal Haasan, Salman Khan, Bhagyaraj, Mohan, Girish Karnad, Gemini Ganesh, Nagesh, Karthik, Raghuvaran, Vinodkumar, etc. SP. Balasubramanyam was the default dubbing artist for Kamal Hasan’s Telugu movies, dubbed from Tamil.
CSK players pay tribute to SPB
Chennai Super Kings (CSK) players paid tribute to SPB and former Australian cricketer Dean Jones by wearing black armbands in their IPL game against Delhi Capitals on Friday.
“The Super Kings are wearing black armbands in memory of Dean Jones and SP Balasubrahmanyam. One had an absolutely iconic day at Chepauk, the other’s life has changed and shaped all of us in so many ways. Lion faceYellow heart #RIPSPB #RIPDeanJones #WhistleFromHome #WhistlePodu #Yellove #CSKvDC,” CSK wrote on its Twitter handle.
Wave of Tweets over the demise of SP Balasubrahmanyam
“With the unfortunate demise of Shri SP Balasubrahmanyam, our cultural world is a lot poorer. A household name across India, his melodious voice and music enthralled audiences for decades. In this hour of grief, my thoughts are with his family and admirers. Om Shanti,” PM Modi said in a tweet.
“My heartfelt condolences to the bereaved family and friends of Mr SP Balasubrahmanyam. His songs touched millions of hearts in many languages. His voice will live on,” Congress leader Rahul Gandhi took to Twitter and said.
“In the passing of music legend SP Balasubrahmanyam Indian music has lost one of its most melodious voices. Called ‘Paadum Nila’ or ‘Singing Moon’ by his countless fans, he was honoured with Padma Bhushan and many National Awards. Condolences to his family, friends and admirers,” President Kovind wrote on Twitter.
One of the most versatile and mellifluous voices that bought joy to millions. A much-celebrated prolific artist, he endeared himself as much for his art as much as his humility and affability. Our condolences to his friends, family, and his legion of fans.
Till the entire human race goes deaf, SP Balasubrahmanyam Sir will be immortal!