The galaxy of Indian cinema mourns the loss of one of its greatest and brightest- S P Balasubrahmanyam, a playback singer with a Guinness record for having sung over 40,000 songs, spread across 16 languages, over the last five decades. It’s a world record that will be soon entered into the Guinness Book of World Records.
There have been many extraordinary singers in Telugu, but nobody has the status of ‘A legendary singer’ except Sripathi Panditharadhyula Balasubramanyam, or S.P.B as everyone fondly calls him. Ghantasala was the last person to be regarded as such and from then, till now S.P.Balu has been the only one to arise on the throne, and still, there is none to replace him. Such is his value in not only Telugu but the whole Indian music industry. At 70 years of age, he is still as active and sounds fresh as the time he took up singing, doing musical reality shows, performing in several countries, and recording some brilliant tracks.
He has won six national awards, most by any singer over four languages. Three in Telugu for Sagara Sangamam, Rudraveena, and Shankarabharanam, One in Hindi for Ek Duje Ke Liye, One in Tamil for Minsara Kanavu, and One in Kannada for Sangeetha Sagara Ganagoyi Panchakshara Gavai. Besides playback singing, Balasubramaniam is also the chairman of Kodandapani Audio Labs, Chennai.
Speaking about his lifestyle, SPB said that he did not maintain discipline like various others in the profession. ‘Because singing is important to him and he’s passionate about it, he doesn’t want to be a saint, he loved his life and If possible he will not choose to die,’ he tells the interviewer. SPB candidly revealed that he had been a smoker for over 35 years and also had been a social drinker, as opposed to many singers who followed extreme discipline.
The Major Turning Point In His Life…
SPB had also taken a significant risk in his prime years when he was suffering from singer’s nodule – a condition that clogs one’s voice and adversely affects speaking and singing. They are hard, rough, noncancerous growths on the vocal cords. This had rendered him unable to sing for nearly a month and he kept postponing his projects. But finally, he took a call to undergo a surgical procedure to have it removed. SPB recalls that Lata Mangeshkar had warned him against going in for surgery, as she feared that it could take a turn for the worse. However, SPB did not wish to postpone his projects and went under the knife to have them removed. Allowed extreme discipline.
He intended to be an engineer but had a fallout due to a bout of typhoid. Laxmikant-Pyarelal didn’t want him to render the songs of Ek Duje Ke Liye, but he was brought in by K. Balachander (with a good argument – the lead actor portrayed a non-Hindi-speaking Tamilian). This hit propelled him to super-stardom. He has also acted in several movies in full-fledged protagonist roles or cameo roles. And is also an anchor for a Telugu TV program by the name “Paaduthaa Theeyaga”. On Maa TV, he hosted a children’s singing show called ‘Paadalanivundhi’, which gained a lot of popularity and brought talent from all over Andhra Pradesh.