Friday, October 28, 2016

S P Balasubrahmanyam calls self a 'regular guy who sings for a living'

That’s how S P Balasubrahmanyam, who has been crooning for over 50 years in the industry, describes himself. With over 40,000 songs across Indian languages and several National Awards, he had a lot to say, and CE was more than happy to listen…

I stood before a microphone on December 15, 1966 and well, what can I say? Life is still kind to an untrained singer like me! I’m performing for the first-time at the Kremlin Palace, Moscow as part of my world tour this year.” His words flow mellifluously even when he speaks. His mellow manners and sweet reprimands make young singers shine on reality shows. There is no falsetto as SP Balasubrahmanyam rewinds the reels of his life.

“Kadhalin Deepam Ondru (Thambikku Endha Ooru, 1984) has to be my best song for Rajinikanth. With Kamal, there are so many because my singing and his acting are just made for each other!”

You began singing for MGR and Sivaji Ganesan in Tamil and NT Rama Rao and A Nageshwara Rao in Telugu...

(Smiles) I’m fortunate to enjoy uniform affection from my music directors, filmmakers and heroes. Sivaji came for the recording of Pottu Vaitha Mugamo (Sumathi En Sundari, 1971). I was fresh out of college and quite tense but he allayed my fears and said he will adjust his acting to my singing. I’m eternally grateful to MGR who waited three months for me to record the song for Adimai Penn (1969).

K Balachander, Bharathirajaa and Mani Ratnam had strong situations for songs in their films; it made me popular too. Recently, I recorded with Vishal Chandrashekar for director Radhamohan’s upcoming film with Arulnidhi. I am glad I’m relevant today even after 50 years. I don’t mimic an actor unless I’m singing for a comedian.

Do you have any favourite songs of other singers which you wanted to sing?

Oh plenty! And not just the male numbers, I love Ooru Sanam (Mella Thiranthathu Kadhavu, 1986) by S Janaki. Yaar Antha Nilavu (Santhi, 1965) by TMS and KJ Yesudas’s Unnidam Mayangugiren (Then Sindhudhe Vaanam, 1975) are some of my favourites. I was made to sing like Kishore Kumar in my early days but my soul connects to Rafi saab. I try to sing at least one or two such songs during my stage shows.

Singing Live is your forte and you make it seem so effortless! Is it really so?

Not at all! Even when I record, I plan every breath, pause and laugh. I hate rehearsing in front of the mike and try to minimise errors in my final take. I’m actually nervous as hell every time I go on stage. I assess the mood of my audience in the first few minutes of interaction and I begin by greeting them and my orchestra. I ensure the atmosphere around me is pressure-free. This is how I am even when I’m shooting.

Courtesy: Indian Express

First MSS, and now SPB to perform at State Kremlin Palace

Playback singer SP Balasubrahmanyam is the second Indian, after MS Subbulakshmi, to be performing at State Kremlin Palace, Moscow, to mark the festival of lights celebration by the Indian diaspora, on November 6. As the legendary singer completed 50 years of singing, this year, television host and entertainer Badava Gopi along with his friend Vijayakumar will be organising a special concert as a part of the event.

Talking about the event, Gopi says, "We've wanted to do something for SPB sir as he has completed 50 years of singing. We have been pushing for his concert for a long time now and it has, finally, come through. It is a prestigious hall and he will be the first Indian since MSS, to perform at the venue. It will be a four-hour-long concert. Though there is a considerable number of Indians in Russia, the Tamil-speaking population is small there. Keeping this in mind, he will be singing a mix of Tamil and Hindi songs. What's interesting is that he will also be belting out some Russian songs. He has been given a few songs, for which the rehearsals are on. There will be Russian dancers, too, who will do a special performance with Tamil songs."

Singers SP Charan, SP Shylaja and Malavika will be co-singing with SPB. "Instead of choosing one particular group of orchestra, the singer has chosen the best players from Hyderabad, Chennai and Bangalore for the concert. I will be anchoring the show," he says.

Courtesy: Times Of India

Sunday, April 17, 2016

SPB: The voice of India, for fifty years

It was 1969.

Tamil star MGR listened to a young man in his early twenties rehearsing a Telugu song at AVM Productions studios, Chennai. Impressed by the voice, MGR inquired about the new singer on the block.

He was a young man from Nellore, Andhra Pradesh, who was just making his way into Tamil cinema. MGR offered the young singer an opportunity to sing in his next film, Adimai Penn. The song was Ayiram Nilave Vaa.

Once the rehearsals were done, the song could not be recorded because the singer fell sick. MGR could have replaced him with another singer, but he chose to wait for two months until the young man recovered. The young man not only recorded the song, but went on to sing many more songs in Tamil films and other South Indian languages, as well as in Bollywood.

He became a playback singer for projects featuring stars such as MGR, Sivaji Ganesan and NTR, and then the next generation of actors including Rajinikanth, Kamal Haasan, Chiranjeevi, Salman Khan and Shah Rukh Khan.

He shot to fame with a voice that was as suited to exuberant numbers such as Mere Jeevan Saathi, Pyar Kiye Jaa (Ek Duje Ke Liye) and soulful tunes such as Nilave Vaa as it was to classical tunes such as Shankarabharana and Sur Sangamam. Six Indian National Awards and more than 38,000 tunes later, he won a place in the Guinness Book of World Records.

Meet S.P. Balasubrahmanyam, who will be stepping into the golden jubilee year of his musical career on December 16.

SPB, as he is fondly known, is performing in the UAE on November 20. He will be joined by singer, K.S. Chitra. and his sister, S.P. Shailaja.

In an exclusive chat with tabloid! in Chennai, SPB took a trip down memory lane.

“That MGR waited for me for two months was itself a great thing,” said SPB.

“It was a wonderful moment when MGR told me: ‘After the rehearsals, you might have told your friends that you were singing for MGR. I did not want to use another singer, since I felt that they might presume that I was not satisfied with your voice. And, that is not good for your future.’

Two years before the fated meeting, SPB met composer M.S. Viswanathan for an audition. “Although he liked my singing, he found my Tamil utterly bad and asked me to meet him again,” he recalled.

SPB got his first break with MSV in 1969 with the film, Hotel Rambha. “I recorded a song with L.R. Eswari, but unfortunately the film never released.”

SPB also spoke about legendary Tamil actor Sivaji Ganesan’s advice to him: “Don’t ever change or mould your voice for my performance. You just sing and see how I mould myself to your singing.”

SPB did alter his voice for others, though, like Telugu actor NTR, and for some comedians. “I was just singing and trying to accommodate myself to their style of dialogue delivery,” he said, adding that his foremost responsibility was towards his music directors and their songs. “I believe in doing justice to that.”

SPB grew up in an environment soaked with music. His father, S.P. Sambamurthy, was an exponent of Harikatha, the art of storytelling through music and poetry. His mother, Sakunthalamma, filled up the house with her melodious hymns and devotional songs.

Calling himself an accidental singer, he revealed that he had never been keen on music as a profession. “My goal was to become an engineer.”

But then his father’s genes took over.

From singing in local concerts in Nellore, where he grew up, a young Balasubrahmanyam entered Telugu cinema in 1966 with the film, Sri Sri Sri Maryada Ramanna.

He recalled his first recording moment, when he sang, under the watchful eyes of a 45-member orchestra, the song Emiyee Vinta Moham. His co-singers were P. Susheela, P. B. Sreenivas and K. Raghuramayya. “It was okayed in the first take.”

When his singing projects interfered with studies, his father suggested: “Don’t ride on two horses. Chose one and be sincere in that.”

“My father gave me a lot of freedom and never imposed anything.”

The first moment of glory arrived with an Indian National Award for Shankarabharanam.

He was in the spotlight again with his second Indian National award; this time for his Bollywood debut, Ek Duje Ke Liye. And then came, of course, the high-energy songs Tere Mere Beech Mein and Mere Jevan Sathi.

“Singing with Lata Mangeshkar-ji for the first time was special,” added SPB, talking about the song Teri Payal Mere Geet that he recorded for Naushad.

“It was a tough song, again okayed at the first take.”

His renditions of Ilayaraja (Tamil composer) compositions have also won him many fans. This association goes back to the days when Ilayaraja and his two brothers performed at local concerts with their troupe, Pavalar Brothers.

“Bharathiraja [a noted Tamil director] whom I have known from his stage days, sent Ilayaraja and his brothers to me,” said SPB.

“We did several shows all over the country. Ilayaraja was completely self — trained in both Indian and classical. Music meant everything to him and I remember him saving his paltry remuneration for musical equipment.”

SPB’s next extension of his voice was dubbing for Haasan for the Telugu versions of his films.

Who can forget his lead role in Tamil film Keladi Kanmani opposite Radhika? And his rendering of the song Mannil Indha in one breath. Phew!

Another brilliant performance was seen in Telugu film Midhunam where he was paired opposite Lakshmi. This year he acted once again, opposite Lakshmi in Tamil film Moone Moonu Varthai.

There is no stopping the 69-year-old singer. He still records a song almost every day, either for cinema, or television, or a devotional album.

Also keeping this grandfather of four on his toes is his role as judge for two reality shows, in Telugu and Kannada.

“It’s amazing that I have sustained so long,” admitted SPB, “for one with no training in music.”

“There have been many times when I have gone into a recording studio, listened to a composition and then told the composer that I would not be able to do justice to his song, it being a classical composition, and have come back.”

Today, standing on the threshold of his 50th year in the industry, SPB considered the UAE concert special, as it kick-starts his golden jubilee celebrations that will take him on a world tour in the coming year.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Never tire or retire: The staggeringly successful journey of SP Balasubrahmanyam

Given his remarkable talent and versatility, his longevity, as his legion of fans would gladly aver, can hardly be surprising.

A wannabe engineer drifted into films as a playback singer and five decades later, still rues the fact that he could not pass out of college with a degree. Yet a glance at his career graph in these fifty years reveals that they have been very profitably spent. Over 40,000 songs in different languages including Hindi earning a mention in the Guinness Book of World Records, another world record for recording 21 songs in a single day, six National Awards for Best Male Playback Singer, countless state and other awards is by no yardstick a mean achievement.

S P Balasubrahmanyam also known as SPB and simply as ‘Balu’ to his close circle of friends is a rare phenomenon and if one were to take into account his credentials as a film producer, dubbing artiste who has lent his voice to marquee stars like Kamal Haasan in the dubbed Telugu versions of his films, music director and actor, SPB soars over his contemporaries in the industry.

The singer, who was personally selected by none other than MG Ramachandran (MGR) to croon ‘Aayiram Nilave Vaa’ in the film ‘Adimai Penn’ starring MGR and the present Tamil Nadu CM Jayalalithaa in the lead, soon found himself in demand and since then it has been smooth sailing all the way. And with the advent of music directors like Ilaiyaraja and AR Rahman, the new singer on the block who had begun to be seen as a viable alternative to TM Soundararajan and PB Srinivas who had for decades on end been hogging the limelight soon came into his own.

SPB’s acid test, if it may be called that, came when the veteran music director KV Mahadevan preferred him over acclaimed classical and film playback singers Balamuralikrishna and KJ Jesudas for the K Vishwanath directed musical ‘Shankarabharanam’.

Eyebrows were raised when SPB was penciled in to sing all the numbers in the film for the simple reason that unlike the aforesaid legends, he had virtually no grounding in classical music and in this film hailed as an all-time classic all the numbers had a distinct classical touch. Such was the faith placed in him by Mahadevan that SPB had to vindicate it at any cost and the painstaking efforts that he put into his rehearsals ensured that all the songs turned out to be chartbusters.

‘Shankarabharanam’ was released in the year 1980 and even today the hit tunes like ‘Shankara’ and ‘Brochevaara’ continue to be extremely popular among listeners. The trio of KV Mahadevan, SPB and Vani Jairam swept the National Awards that year winning the Best Music Director, Best Male Playback Singer and Best Female Playback singer respectively, a just reward for a brilliant effort and all the hard work.

SPB has been a regular feature in the films which had music by Ilaiyaraaja and AR Rahman and it would be no exaggeration to say that his popularity which had peaked by then and his singing prowess played very vital roles in their climb to the top. SPB’s association with Raaja dated back to the days when the maestro had been conducting concerts all over Tamil Nadu and once Raaja got his break with the film ‘Annakili’ SPB become a vital part of most of the films for which Raaja scored the music. And this included films in Telugu like the Vishwanath directed ‘Saagara Sangamam’ and Rudraveena’ as well. SPB won National Awards for both these films.

The Ilaiyraaja-SPB combination gave the Tamil film industry some of the biggest chartbusters including numbers like ‘Chinnamani Poove’, ‘Sangeetha Jaathi Mullai’ and ‘Malayoram Veesum Kaatru’. Rahman who had been composing jingles and also playing the keyboard for several composers including Ilaiyaraaja got his first break in the Mani Ratnam directed ‘Roja’ produced by the late director K Balachander.

The highlight of the film which incidentally turned out to be a runaway hit was the score by a young Rahman and SPB played his part in the album’s success by rendering as many as three numbers in the film. Since then the duo has been inseparable and Rahman continues to rely on SPB for some of the difficult songs requiring a high pitch, and the song ‘Ballelakka’ in Shankar’s hit film ‘Sivaji – The Boss’ is a case in point. SPB has also been a predominant part of the music composed by other music directors notable among them being Deva, Vidyasagar, Keeravani, and Rajkumar. SPB who had wooed Kannada audiences with hit numbers from the sixties teamed up with Hamsalekha to deliver chartbusters in the super hit ‘Prema Loka’ and has remained a favourite of the popular music director ever since. SPB also won a National Award for the film ‘Sangeetha Sagara Ganayogi Panchakshara Gavai’ for which Hamsalekha composed the music.

Lakshmikant-Pyarelal scored the music for Balachander’s Hindi film ‘Ek Du Je Keliye’ a remake of his Telugu hit ‘Maro Charitra’. One of the conditions that Balachander laid down to L-P was that he wanted SPB as the male voice in all the songs. SPB, who had been rendering Mohamed Rafi’s hits in concerts before he hit the big time, made the most of the opportunity and under L-P’s baton he delivered like never before. All the songs turned out to be super-duper hits and the film also fetched him another National Award.

Later SPB became the voice of Salman Khan in films like ‘Maine Pyaar Kiya’ and ‘Hum Aapke Hain Kaun’ and his duets with Lata Mangeshkar became a rage in no time. Almost all the songs that SPB has sung in Hindi cinema could be classified under the category ‘evergreen hits’ as they are as popular today as when they were first sung. He returned to Bollywood after a long hiatus to sing for the Shahrukh Khan starrer ‘Chennai Express’.

At the height of his popularity SPB turned into a dubbing artiste and made a success of this vocation as well. He also began acting for a lark and did a few cameo roles before Vasanth, a one-time assistant to Balachander, chose him for a hero’s role in the film ‘Keladi Kanmani’ where Radhika played the female lead. He has also tried his hand at film production and has been an integral part of reality shows on TV for quite some time now.

SPB often remarks in all modesty that he wonders how he has lasted in the industry this long. Given his remarkable talent and versatility, his longevity, as his legion of fans would gladly aver, can hardly be surprising.

Courtesy: The News Minute

Monday, February 29, 2016

Mandolin Shrinivas Award for SPB

Governor K. Rosaiah on Sunday presented the ‘Mandolin U. Shrinivas Award’ to playback singer S.P. Balasubrahmanyam.

The Governor said that instituting an award to honour the doyens of music was a befitting tribute to Mandolin Shrinivas. “The musical journey of Mandolin U. Shrinivas began when he was barely six years old. His vision for the younger generation was not restricted to playing mandolin but other instruments as well,” he said, according to an official press release from Raj Bhavan.

Presenting the award, Dr. Rosaiah said: “S.P. Balasubrahmanyam is being bestowed with the award for his contribution to music. His contribution to the film industry is really a remarkable one,” he said, and appealed to the younger generation to pursue music.

Courtesy: The Hindu

Monday, February 15, 2016

Ghantasala’s voice is a medicine, says SP Balasubrahmanyam

Rajahmundry: Ghantasala’s voice is a medicine, said renowned singer S P Balasubrahmanyam. He was the chief guest at the Ghantasala Aradhanotsavalu in which songs of Ghantasala were sung uninterruptedly for 24 hours by singers from across the State. This programme was organised by Kinnera Arts Theatre under the aegis of language and cultural department of the State government at Sri Venkateswara Anam Kalakendram in Rajahmundry on Saturday.

Speaking on the occasion, Balasubrahmunyam recalled that Ghantasala’s voice has done immense help to careers of great actors like N T Rama Rao and Akkineni Nageswara Rao. Stating that Ghantasala is irreplaceable, he informed that Ghantasala and Mohammod Rafi are two eyes for him.

Rajahmundry rural MLA Gorantla Butchaiah Choudary, City Mayor Pantam Rajani Sesha Sai, Municipal Commissioner V Vijayarama Raju and noted music director Madhavapeddi Suresh were also present.

Courtesy: The Hans India

Friday, January 15, 2016

SP Balu touches Anna's feet

It was that rare humble moment when SP Balasubrahmanyam fell on Yesudoss' feet. Yesterday, in a seemingly spiritual mood, SPB expressed his gratitude to the "divine contribution" of Yesudoss to the world of music.

"Long live my elder brother Gaana Gandharva, Sri. K.J. Yesudoss. His contribution to music world is divine. Many many more happy returns of the day Anna," he said later on a social networking site, sharing the pic.

It is known that Yesudoss and SPB have had a long association.

Monday, January 4, 2016

SP honoured with ‘Swara Kala Samrat’

Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu felicitated playback singer S.P. Balasubrahmanyam at the ongoing Visakha Utsav.

Addressing the gathering of visitors on the Beach Road here on Saturday, the Chief Minister praised the resilience of the people of the Port City and showered praise on S.P. Balasubrahmanyam. The singer was honoured with title ‘Swara Kala Samrat’.

Courtesy: The Hindu