2020 needs a break for the number of lives that it has taken away from this planet. Sep 25, 2020 marked the end of an era with the passing away of the legendary Indian play back singer S.P. Balasubramanian fondly called as SPB by his fans. He had been hospitalized for over a month; initially for COVID symptoms and then with the gradual spread of the virus he lost his fight against the invisible enemy. This came as a shock to millions of music lovers across the world including me. Sometimes I feel god is planning for life in some other planet and he is handpicking the best souls from earth; seriously how many legends have we lost this year in all the fraternities 😦
With over 37,000 songs to his credit in Tamil/Telugu/Hindi/Kannada, SPB was such a humble person who never boasted about his accolades that followed him. During his initial career he had sung 14 – 15 songs in a day delivering super hits back to back.80’s period was a golden era for SPB-Ilayaraja (Indian music director) combination, any song that released in this duo was a smashing hit irrespective of the success of the film. Only a person who had so much passion about his work could do justice throughout his career span and SPB was one such passionate human being who loved his music. One can see his admiration for music in the way he listens to someone singing, and how he always appreciated from his heart.
Everyone knew he was a versatile singer who could pull off songs in any genre in any Indian language; but only few of us knew he was good at mimicking celebrities like MS Viswanathan, Kamal Hassan ; whistling songs, dubbing for heroes and acting. His episodes of mimicking MSV are fondly watched in YouTube even now.
His acting career kicked off with a main lead in director Vasanth’s ‘Keladi Kanmani’. Though SPB was initially hesitant to do acting, he was offered lots of cameo roles later after his debut film became a super hit. All the films that he appeared were under big banners and he was unable to refuse. He managed his acting and singing career well for a while and eventually stuck to only music. He had also produced a few movies.
Though SPB’s span in composing music was quite short, his ‘Sigaram’ album is been talked about even now. The whole album of Sigaram was a blockbuster. In one of his interviews he had mentioned how he took inspiration from Mohd.Rafi and Kishore Kumar songs for his ‘Sigaram’ album.
He had always been a good listener and had never failed to appreciate good music. He had been loved by his peers, seniors and even the upcoming artistes in the music field for his nature. In such a competitive field like film industry it is difficult moving up the ladder without ego clashes, but SPB literally had none. Even when there was a small tiff between Ilayaraja and SPB about the song copyright ownership, he never spoke bad about anybody; he only had good words to share.
How can one not mention about his songs when he lived as a musician his entire lifetime? He had been singing until his last breath, even at the age of 70 he had been doing many stage shows and was actively participating as a judge in TV reality shows. Music was inseparable from him. He completely owned his songs; we could completely believe that the star on screen was singing and it was so much in sync with the body language of the actors. He also made sure he understood the lyrics before he sang to do complete justice to the song. Even when there were singers who almost sang like him, he was undeterred that his opportunity in music world will never be lost.
There are many such songs of him that touches your heart like ‘Idho Idho En Pallavi’, ’Sundari Kannal’, ‘Nilaave Vaa’, ‘Mandram Vandha thendraluku’, ‘Tere mere beech mein’; I would need a complete blog to just list his songs.
The song “Keladi Kanmani” from the film ‘Pudhu pudhu arthangal’ is one of my all-time favorites; the way he sings the whole song, especially the charanam, one could relate the pain the hero was going through ;the romance and the pain could be literally felt by the listener. Unless a singer really feels the pain, love, humor, agony of the actor he/she cannot sing that soulful. I was hearing the song ‘Vaan uyarndha solaiyile’ on a drive, there was a line in the song that goes “Vazhvana Vazhvenaku vandhadhendru naan irundhen”; one would just tear up hearing to this line, that too hearing this song when he was hospitalized touched me emotionally even more.
He was awarded the ‘Padma Bhushan'(one of the highest award to Indian citizen)for his relentless journey in music industry. He had also received numerous Filmfare awards for best playback singing in Tamil, Telugu and Kannada; Nandi award for best male playback, music director and dubbing artiste. The list is quite big for one to track and mention it here.
Am literally at loss of words to express how much I loved his music. Wherever he is, I hope his soul rests in peace and he showers his blessings on all of them who is missing him now.
Above all he was such a pious human being. He had done a lot of charity; donating his ancestor home to a spiritual monastery to give a special mention. He earned a lot of people in his lifetime primarily through his music and his humble nature. To die with such a legacy would be anyone’s dream. He will be missed. Rest in peace SPB sir, India has lost its music idol.