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Veteran playback singer & actor SP Balasubrahmanyam passes away

 A press release put out last evening by the private hospital in Chennai where he has been admitted said that SPB as he is called, was extremely critical. His condition in the last 24 hours had deteriorated further warranting maximal life support. A team of experts was closely monitoring his health.

On September 7, his son Charan had announced that SPB had tested negative for the novel coronavirus.

The veteran singer got himself admitted to hospital on August 5 after he developed symptoms of Covid-19.

Noted singer and actor SP Balasubrahmanyam or SPB as he is fondly known was born on 4 June 1946 in Nellore in then undivided Andhra Pradesh. He was one of eight children born to  S. P. Sambamurthy, a Harikatha artist who also acted in plays and Sakunthalamma.  He has two brothers and five sisters, including singer S. P. Sailaja.

Balasubrahmanyam developed an interest towards music at an early age, studied notations and learned music. He made his debut as a playback singer on 15 December 1966 with Sri Sri Sri Maryada Ramanna, a Telugu film scored by his mentor, S. P. Kodandapani. The first Non-Telugu song that he recorded  was in Kannada in 1966 for the film Nakkare Ade Swarga. He recorded his first Tamil song “Athaanodu Ippadi Irundhu Eththanai Naalaachu”, under M. S. Viswanathan for the film Hotel Ramba, which never got released.

He has the rare distinction of rendering the most songs on a single day by any singer- 21 songs in Kannada on 8 February 1981 and 19 songs in Tamil and 16 songs in Hindi in a day which is a record.

 In a prolific career, he also worked in Tamil movies for actors such as M. G. Ramachandran, Sivaji Ganesan and Gemini Ganesan and recorded duets with P. Susheela, S. Janaki, Vani Jayaram and L. R. Eswari. 

Balasubrahmanyam came to international prominence with the 1980 film Sankarabharanam, directed by K. Vishwanath, Not a classically trained singer, he used a “film music” aesthetic in recording the songs. Balasubrahmanyam received his first National Film Award for Best Male Playback Singer for his work.

 Balasubrahmanyam recorded songs in Tamil especially for Ilaiyaraaja and A R Rahman and the trio were highly successful through the 1970s and 80s. The songs in Saagara Sangamam (1983),  Swathi Muthyam (1986) and Rudraveena (1988) won National Awards for Ilaiyaraaja and Balasubrahmanyam.

He also received National Film Award for Best Male Playback Singer in his first Hindi film Ek Duuje Ke Liye (1981). Balasubrahmanyam won a Filmfare Award for Best Male Playback Singer for the song Dil Deewana for Bollywood actor Salman Khan in the blockbuster Maine Pyar Kiya in 1989. For much of the next decade, Balasubrahmanyam continued as the “romantic singing voice” for Khan’s films including Hum Aapke Hain Koun which became the all time hit highest-grossing Bollywood film of the time .This solidified Balasubrahmanyam as one of the biggest playback singers in Indian cinema.

Besides acting in some films, he has also provided voice-overs for various artists, including Kamal Haasan, Rajinikanth, Salman Khan, Anil Kapoor, and Gemini Ganesan in various languages.

He has recorded over 40,000 songs in 16 Indian languages and holds the Guinness World Record in this regard. He has garnered six National Film Awards for Best Male Playback Singer for his works in four different languages; Kannada, Telugu, Tamil, and Hindi; 25 Andhra Pradesh state Nandi Awards for his works in Telugu cinema and numerous state awards from Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.

In 2012, he received the state NTR National Award for his contributions to Indian cinema. In 2016, he was honored with the Indian Film Personality of the Year award. He is a recipient of civilian awards such as Padma (2001) and Padma Bhushan (2011) from the Government of India.

 

Report by: Philip Mathews

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