S. P. Balasubrahmanyam: I am the playback singer of the whole of India...

Tell me, which day goes by when these songs are not played in some or the other program of All India Radio--'Tere mere beech me maine nahi jana tune nahi jana kaisa hai yeh bandhan anjaana' mere jeevan saathi pyar kiye ja'..... 'jawani deewani khoobsurat...

By Bollyy
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S. P. Balasubrahmanyam
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Tell me, which day goes by when these songs are not played in some or the other program of All India Radio--'Tere mere beech me maine nahi jana tune nahi jana kaisa hai yeh bandhan anjaana' mere jeevan saathi pyar kiye ja'..... 'jawani deewani khoobsurat jiddi padosan satyam shivam sundaram'..... Not only this, now these songs have started echoing in the streets. These songs are played in wedding receptions and public functions as well. In a village of Bihar Sharif, a groom laid down a 'condition' that he will ride the mare only when the band players in front of his baraat play the tune of songs 'ek DJ ke liye'. Not only this, now with the hits of songs like 'Main intekam loonga', 'ek hi bhool', 'zara si zindagi', 'sugandh', 'andha kanoon', 'raste pyar ke', this voice has also become such a hit that now the film people will not miss Mohammad Rafi sahab. With the emergence of this voice, the void left by Rafi Saheb will be filled.

Such a possibility has been revealed in the film circles of Bombay.

This voice is of playback singer Balasubramaniam who is famous as Balu in the South. This voice may be a new voice for the Bombay film world but this voice has been popular in the South for a long time.

A few days ago when he came to give a playback for the hero of a new film Kamal Haasan, I suddenly met him at the Sun and Sand Hotel. When I introduced myself and asked for time, he asked me to meet him at the same lounge that evening.

'Will you meet me?' I expressed this doubt because I had heard about him that after singing in the morning, he flies to South Africa in the evening where he has to sing five songs a day.

On hearing my doubt, he got a little agitated and said, "Commitment is commitment. My appointment can be canceled only due to some accident, otherwise not."

And that is exactly what happened. I was definitely five minutes late but they reached there exactly at 5:30.

After getting rid of the formalities of tea and snacks, we both got ready for our respective purposes. Opening the window for the interview, he said directly without any burden, 'What do you want to ask in particular?'

'I want to ask both specific and general questions. First, please tell us your background. Sorry, we don't know much about you.'

'How can that be possible? I have just come into Hindi films. But yes, I started singing in the South in 1969. I first sang for MGR in the Tamil film 'Arsa Kattalai'. Then I started singing for Telugu films. From there I became a playback singer for Kannada films even though I did not know that language. After singing in Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, and then Malayalam films, I came into Hindi films with the Hindi film 'Ek Duje Ke Liye'. For the last one and a half years, I have been continuously singing for South Hindi films and in this connection, I am coming to Bombay.'

Knowing his background, I asked him, 'Have you been interested in singing since childhood? Have you taken proper training in classical music?'

When asked about this, he humbly replied- 'I was so fond of singing that I used to go to musical gatherings and programs and listen to music very attentively. I used to get immersed in music. But I never thought of becoming a singer. I used to dream of becoming a mechanical engineer. Once there was a local competition. It was a vacation from studies, so I also participated and I was the topper. Then the film director Kodandapani called me for playback singing. On the guidance of my father, I accepted that offer thinking that if I am successful in that direction, I will make it my career. Otherwise, I will start my studies again.'

'So you became a hit?'

'It is all a matter of nature. I have not taken any basic training in classical music but I can sing classical base songs with great pleasure. Shankarabharan is a classical raga. When I sang on the insistence of director Vishwanath and music director Mahadevan in a film made on the same raga in the same name, I got an unexpected success. I received the Filmfare Award last year for the same film.'

'I have heard that you have received many awards?'

'Lots! I have received the State Award twice and this time the Filmfare Award. I keep receiving awards from various clubs and film fan societies. I have received so many Jubilee trophies that the whole room is full. But I consider my popularity to be the biggest award because this is the only award for music lovers. Whenever one of my songs becomes a hit, I understand that it is a National Award.'

How did you feel when you sang 'Ek Duje Ke Liye' with Lata Mangeshkar?

'She is Angels.' She in Divine Initially I forgot my lines but since it was a challenge for me and the biggest test of my life, I composed myself and passed with courage. By the grace of God all the songs of that film became hits. Due to that success I easily got entry in Hindi films. Now I am considered perfect for the voice of Jeetendra and Kamal Haasan. I am singing for Dharmendra, Rajesh Khanna. Music directors like R.D. Burman, Bappi Lahiri, Laxmikant Pyarelal are regularly calling me here.

'So you are going to sack Kishore Kumar the way you sacked Yesudas.'

'It is wrong to say and think this, no one leaves anyone alone. Kishore Kumar is a great artist and singer in his own right. I have played his role in the Telugu remake of his 'Padosan' and I am his fan. Similarly, I cannot be the voice of Yesudas and my voice cannot be the voice of Yesudas.'

'You have also given music direction in some Telugu films. Don't you dream of giving music direction in Hindi films?'

'No! My main profession is playback. I do music direction as a hobby but not professionally. When Laxmikant Pyarelal was very busy, I gave background music for Surinder Kapoor's 'Hum Paanch' on his request. I also do dubbing for Kamal Haasan but I don't take a single penny. All this is about relations, not about profession.'

'So tell me what is your ultimate aim or dream in the profession of playback singing?'

On this, S.P. Balasubramaniam said, 'I want to become a playback singer of the whole of India. Till now people consider me only from South India, I want to erase this tag. Apart from Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam, Hindi films, I want to earn fame by giving playback in Marathi, Gujarati, Bengali, and Brazilian films. I want my songs to be a hit from Kashmir to Kanyakumari.'

After saying this he looked at his wristwatch. He was waiting for someone to come. I was going to ask something further when a man came to take him from Laxmikant Pyarelal's house. There was a party at his house and he stood up. Many questions remained deep in my mind.

Anyway, after talking to him it became clear that he is an accomplished singer and he does not have even the slightest hangover of success.

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