Sunday, October 18, 2020

AP CM YS Jagan Writes To PM, Seeks Bharata Ratna For SP Balahsubrahmanyam

TADEPALLI: Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy on Monday appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to confer India’s highest civilian honour ‘Bharata Ratna’ to legendary playback singer late SP Balasubrahmanyam. The Andhra Pradesh chief minister has written a letter to the prime minister in this regard.

The iconic singing legend has recently passed away in Chennai after a 50-odd-day battle with COVID-19 and other co-morbidities at the MGM Healthcare hospital in Chennai. Fondly called SPB or SP Balu, Balasubrahmanyam hailed from Nellore in Andhra Pradesh long before he attained international name and fame. With a mellifluous voice and maverick brilliance coupled with a naturally gifted talent in effortless singing, he ended up crooning more than 40,000 film songs in as many as 16 Indian languages in an illustrious career spanning over 50 years.

As a household name in south India, he also made people sit up and enjoy his music in north India as well. Keeping in view his unparalleled achievements, many people have already started demanding a ‘Bharata Ratna’ as the only fitting tribute and reward for all the services he had rendered to the Indian film music. He was not just a renowned singer but an actor par excellence, superb dubbing artiste, very tasteful music composer besides being an occasion producer of films in Telugu.

Though the name Balu is synonymous with Telugu film music, he enthralled and endeared fans equally well in Kannada, Tamil, Malayalam and Hindi. An unofficial breakup of his songs makes it clear that he sang more songs in Kannada (15,000) than Tamil (11,000) and his native language Telugu (over 10,000). It only proves his stamina beyond words and his undying zeal to croon for films.

Several film personalities and die-hard fans, heart-broken by the sad demise of the iconic singer, have been voicing their appeals to confer the Bharata Ratna on SPB. There is already a campaign going on in social media to this effect. Now, with Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy himself taking the issue upon himself and making the pitch for it, the ‘Bharata Ratna For Balu’ campaign has received the biggest push.

One only can wait with fingers crossed hoping that the Narendra Modi government would take a call on this in the near future.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Sivamani on SP Balasubrahmanyam’s death: It’s a big shock and loss but his voice and music are with us

Sivamani started his music career at a very young age and he considered SP Balasubrahmanyam to be his godfather when he started his professional career. He is saddened by the demise of his Guru but he says that his music and voice will always be with the music lovers. In a recent interaction with Bollywood Bubble, Sivamani also shared with us the last voice note sent by SP Balasubrahmanyam to him.

Remembering his guru, Sivamani said, “He has given not only to me but to all the music lovers. He was like a Baby. 35 years I travelled with him and  I learnt how to respect musicians, he never talked bad about anybody. That is the biggest quality of my master. He just left us like that and it’s a big loss but his voice and music are with us. 20 years back I played one song and when he was singing the antara (words), there he mentioned that ‘Even my body is going, my voice and music will always shine’. When I played the song I didn’t want to see my Annaya dying but he died. It’s a big shock and loss.”

His wife Runa Rizvi added, “I used to call him Guruji and father in Chennai. He used to tell me ‘I’m your father in Chennai and anything you come to me. Every time he used to tell Sivamani ji ‘I’m proud of you son’. He loved him a lot.”

Talking about the last voice note, Sivamani said, “He sent me a note saying, ‘Siva on my birthday (which was on June 4) don’t send any bouquet and don’t celebrate because I don’t want all these because all the musicians are suffering due to the lockdown’. I took video bytes of all my band members and made a video wish and sent him on his birthday.”

SP Balasubrahmanyam passed away on September 25 after a long battle with health complications that was due to the coronavirus infection. He was 74.

Thursday, October 1, 2020

I can’t believe Balu’s voice has fallen silent

Vice President M. Venkaiah Naidu recalls his decades-old association with S.P. Balasubrahmanyam.

The devastating news of the passing away of the legendary playback singer, S.P. Balasubrahmanyam has left me shattered and shell-shocked. I am benumbed and words fail me as I struggle to express my deep anguish. Like millions of people across the globe, my wife, Ushamma and I, prayed fervently for his speedy recovery. We hoped that he would win this battle against the dreaded Coronavirus. Alas! The cruel hand of destiny has snatched away ever-smiling Balu from us.

I wake up every morning and get rejuvenated by listening to Annamacharya Keertans and devotional songs of late Sri Ghantasala Venkateswararao and Sripathi Panditharadhyula Balasubrahmanyam. This has been my routine for many years. The words that Balu is no more has left a void in me. How can my morning routine be the same without listening to your mellifluous voice, Balu?

Ever since I came to know about his hospitalisation, I have been in constant touch, initially with Balu and later with his family members. It became my daily routine to seek updates on his well-being. I was regularly in touch with the doctors who were treating him at MGM hospital. For the past many days, the doctors kept me informed on how he was coping with the aftermath of contracting the virus. I must compliment the doctors for doing their best.

During the initial days of his treatment, I felt happy when the doctors told me that he was improving and responding to treatment. They informed me that they were taking advice of experts from Mayo Clinic and Boston Medical University and used to update me on their line of treatment too. Upon my suggestion, they took the advice of leading pulmonologists in South India. When the doctors informed me of the need for physiotherapy treatment for Balu, I had spoken to Apollo Hospitals Group Chairman, Dr C. Pratap Reddy for arranging the machine.

Balu’s son, Charan was also in constant touch with me, briefing about his health condition.

Four days ago, it came as a relief when the doctors told me that he was progressing and responding to the treatment. They said that he was spending time with family members by speaking to them. I was relieved on hearing this as initially his communication was only through gestures or by writing down his thoughts on a piece of paper.

I was told that he had recently expressed his wish to watch TV as he was a keen cricket enthusiast. On getting those updates a few days ago, I felt confident that he would pull through. All this made me not believe the news that he is no more when it was broken to me. I can barely stay composed and collect my thoughts. Memories come flooding to me, unable as I am to cope with this sudden tragedy.

I have always had a special affinity towards Balu… it could be due to the fact that I knew him since childhood or because he hailed from my village in Nellore district of Andhra Pradesh or for his humility, dedication and hard work, which he imbibed from his father, late Sri Sripathi Panditaradhyula Sambamurthy, who was a harikatha artiste and a great musician. Sri Sambamurthy used to organise Thyagaraja music festivals and invite eminent musicians. It was a great opportunity to me and music lovers of Nellore to listen and enjoy the music of legends like D.K. Pattamal, M. S. Subbulakshmi, Chambai Vaidyanathan Iyer, Mangalampalli Balamuralikrishna, Violinist Lalgudi Jayaraman, Veena expert Chitti Babu, vocalist M.L. Vasanthakumari, eminent percussionist T.K. Murthy and others. It could be any or a combination of all these reasons which endeared Balu to me. I will miss him personally in ways beyond the pale of language — such is the deep bond I shared with him.

With his friendly disposition, Balu was equally affectionate towards me whenever we interacted. We used to go down the memory lane and get nostalgic.

His conversations used to be interspersed with interesting anecdotes, which I cherish.

Our love for Telugu language and Bharatiya Samskrithi ( Indian culture) was one of the common factors that further cemented our bonding.

Balu was an institution by himself. Undoubtedly, he was like a binding force, an overarching bridge between the past and present generations. He was a mentor par excellence and a genteel guide for the younger generation. Not only did he earn name and fame globally as a versatile singer, but was equally at ease in donning the greasepaint. He slipped effortlessly into the supporting characters he had enacted. The fact that he lent his voice to leading actors from the sixties till recently and in different languages speaks volumes of his brilliance. He had the unique gift of modulating his voice to suit the actor’s persona. Voice modulation was his forte.

Apart from Telugu, he has sung in many languages, including Tamil, Kannada, Malayalam and Hindi.

The Telugu people in particular and the world of music in general will be indebted to Balu for unearthing fresh and hidden singing talent through the popular programme of Padutha Theeyaga patronized by Ch. Ramo Rao, Chairman, Eenadu Group and telecast on ETV for many years. The soft-spoken Balu always used to encourage the budding performers by subtly correcting them in a friendly manner. It was a great quality of this iconic personality. I can never forget the moment when I presented the centenary award to Balu at the inauguration of the 47th International Film Festival of India in Panaji, Goa 2016.

It will be difficult to me and millions of his fans to accept the fact that Balu’s voice has fallen silent. Om Shanti!

(M. Venkaiah Naidu is the Vice-President of India)