SPBs masterly voice, a tonic for all seasons :

Posted by-Kalki Team

There can never be a perfect tribute to a voice that has been part of everything in your life – from the bubbly childhood to a reclusive old age. No award can match its contribution. When I heard of S P Balasubrahmanyam being bestowed with yet another honour by the Indian government on Tuesday, I was not surprised. There is nothing in this world that his voice doesnt deserve— a voice that traversed over generations from K V Mahadevan to A R Rahman. And yet held a sway over Tamil cinema in its own way. Awards are not new to this singer. He has won at least 6 National awards, a string of Filmfare awards, a bunch of Nandhi awards and a bouquet of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka State awards. In 2011, he was conferred with Padma Bhushan. Recognition sits lightly on his shoulders as he goes about his work without much ado.

I still googled him, out of curiosity, and found that he has sung about 40,000 songs in all the south Indian languages and Hindi. Again, an unsurprising number that pales into insignificance against the millions of hearts that grew up on the songs. If you are a product of the 80s, 90s and 2000s, there would be no aspect of life that would have remained untouched by the sheer uplifting voice of SP Balasubrahmanyam. His voice is a lullaby, a sibling you can share good times with, a friend that will cry with you, a hand that will hold you strong, the inner voice that will guide you and everything else.

There are times I would spontaneously break into the peppy Unnai naan paarthathu or a breezy Ilaiya nilaa pozhi girathu on a particularly heart-warming day. There are times I would bury my head into the pillow listening to his calm yet fervid Nilaave vaa or a soothing Van nam konda vennilave and put myself to peaceful sleep on a restless night.

There is perhaps no genre that S P Balasubrahmanyam couldnt handle. When he almost monopolised the playback singing field in the 80s, it was not without a reason. He was best in classical songs and there are evidences aplenty from Sankara Bharanam to Salangai Oli . He was at his best with earthy numbers and you are left to wonder if anybody else could pull off songs like Ye aatha in Payanan gal Mudivathilla i or Manoothu mand haiyile in Kizhakku Cheemaiyile with the same effortless ease with which SPB pulled it off. Payanangal Mudivathillai remains a cult classic in different ways. A musical hit of 1980s, the film had seven numbers and all of them were rendered by S P Balasubrahmanyam. If Ilaiya nila was soft and chirpy, Salaiyoram was breezily romantic. If Ye aatha was passionately folk, Mani osai kettu ezhunthu was powerfully melancholic. If Vaigakaraiyil was tearfully moving, Thogai ilamaiyil was fun and blithe.

If Mounamana neram from Salangai Oli did not make you feel romantic enough or if Enna satham intha neram ( Punnagai Mannan ) doesnt make you shed a secret tear or two, you are probably made of stone. There is nothing that SPBs voice wont deliver for you. There is nothing that SPBs voice wouldnt give you or take away from you.

He created a record of sorts when he sang two stanzas of Mannil intha kaathal indri from Keladi Kanmani in a single breath. He was also one singer who transcended the language barrier to become equally successful in Hindi. Besides the iconic Ek Duje Ke Liye , S P Balasubrahmanyam has also sung songs for Salman Khan in Maine Pyaar Kiya, Hum Aap Ke Hain Kaun and Saajan. He won the National award for Ek Duje Ke Liye and walked away with Filmfare awards for all the three Salman Khan movies. A recognition of his music. An acknowledgement of the fact that music has no language. It was not just his voice. S P Balasubrahmanyams love for music perhaps found its almost full expression in Sigaram – one of the few movies he had scored music for. SPB composed 15 songs for Sigaram and all of them were hits. To just call them hits would be a disservice to the music. Its sensitivity was only matched by director Ananthus craft in brilliantly portraying two contrasting relationships – between SPB and Radha, and between Anand Babu and Ramya Krishnan.

The Sigaram songs had the capability of etching themselves into any soul – happy or lost. From the comforting Vannam konda vennilave to philosophical Agaram ippo sigaram aachu, from a mildly erotic Muthamma and Jannalil to a dignified romantic Unnai kanda pinbu, S P Balasubrahmanyam composed a string of emotions.

S P Balasubrahmanyam experimented with various voices, intense at various levels to deliver what he exactly wanted to deliver – songs that would float in our souls. There are many singers that all of us admire but SPB poured his soul into his voice, and made us do so. For someone whose voice was criticised as not being appropriate for a hero like MGR—who made him sing after a difference of opinion with T M Soundarrajan — SP Balasubrahmanyam has travelled a long way to stay put in many Tamil hearts. His voice is part of Tamil psyche, part of modern Tamil culture, part of ordinary Tamil lives.

Like in Sigaram s Nithiyathil iru perum kalanthirupom , S P Balasubrahmanyam sang songs that made us dissolve in to a moment of eternity and fill its endlessly.

But what made him even more special was the fact that with every song he sang, he connected a bit more with the listener. He would leave the listener feeling that the song was sung just for her/him. When I feel uplifted by many of his songs, these lines from his Unnai naan paarthathu instinctively come back to me: Naan unakkagave paaduven, kan urangamale paaduven (I will sing for you, I will sing without sleeping). Even as he keeps delivering song after song without sleeping, I, and many others, wrap ourselves comfortably in his soothing voice and nestle ourselves to sleep. There is no word to explain this feeling, no award that would do justice to this service.

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