A lanky lad, S.P. Balasubrahmanyam, was commissioned to sing a song in actor-director Padmanabham’s own production, Sri Sri Sri Maryada Ramanna (1967,) by music director S.P. Kodandapani.
The young singer, Balasubrahmanyam, and his friend drove all the way from Saidapet to Vadapalani, to Vijaya Gardens . Their cycle was punctured and they were stranded at the gate by the watchman suspecting the two of some mischief. Soon, there was a call from the recording studios to call ‘that lean boy’ who was standing in front of the gate.
There entered the man who did not think in his wildest dreams that he could define next four decades of South Indian playback with his vocal mastery. The boy sang the song with three great playback doyens of the South, namely, P.B. Sreenivas, P. Susheela and the legendary theatre artist, K. Raghuramaiah. His golden voice, traversed a plethora of emotions, in every South Indian language as well as Hindi in that period.
That was the birth of an era, an era of a playback singer, whose malleable voice gave scope for music directors to experiment with different musical genres, be it classical, folk, rock, jazz, semi classical or pure Western. The man with moonlight in his voice, S.P. Balasubrahmanyam, celebrates his 73rd birthday on June 4th.
Mentored by the inimitable S. Janaki, S.P.B., or simply Balu sir, as he is addressed, strode like a colossus in the Indian playback arena. S. Janaki and he, along with Ilaiyaraja, gave listeners moments in their lives to be cherished and to be savoured all their lives.
Be it Kannada, Tamil, Hindi or his mother tongue, Telugu, S.P.B., did equal justice of not only getting the correct intonation of words, but also the way natives articulated them too. This made him a ‘one among us’ man in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.
For the Telugu listeners, S.P.B., redefined the Ghantasala era, when the imposing voice of Ghantasala Venkateswararao, overshadowed every other singer who lived during this era.
S.P.B. ,sang, acted, dubbed for movies, did musical scores for films and everything else. He is a man of many facets and a treasure of knowledge in the film industry. Balu sir’s role as a mentor to many budding singers through his musical shows in Tamil, Telugu and Kannada is the stuff of legends.
Good wishes and many blessings on this special 73 birthday of S.P. Balasubrahmanyam. We wish S.P. Balasubrahmanyam will continue to remain an inspiration for ages to come .
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