Corona has added another name to the list of its celebrity victims – a singer par excellence S P Balasubrahmanyam. 74 years old doyen of filmy music lost battle to Corona.
I clearly remember, I was just out of the school and into college when a remake of a Telugu super hit movie took the country by storm. The movie was Ek Duje Ke Liye that had two new actors introduced to Bollywood fans. One already a super star down south Kamla Hassan and Rati Agnihotri. However, the movie also introduced S P Balasubrahmanyam, who was already ruling the roost in South to Bollywood. As the character played by Kamal Hassan was that of a Tamilian boy, SPB, who in any case was his voice down south, became a natural choice. And Laxmikant Pyarelal, who composed the music for the movie came up with some inspired scores thanks to their favourite Lata and the mint fresh voice of SPB. Tere mere beech main became a sort of national anthem, fetching national award for best singer for SPB, while the title song, with SPB singing his part of lyrics in English became a national rage. And who can forget the genius of Anand Bakshi in writing a full song by using titles of Bollywood movies , mere jeevan sathi pyar kiye ja, sung with much aplomb by SPB. In spite of his immense talent, Kamal Hassan acted in few movies, but SPB found his strong foothold in Bollywood, singing not only for LP, but also R D Burman ( Sagar) and Raamlakshman, whose compositions in three blockbusters – Maine Pyar Kiya, Hum Aapke Hain Koun and Hum Saath Saath Hain became a rage and were mainly sung by SPB. In fact, he became the voice of an upcoming Salman Khan.
Born in a Telugu family, he ruled the roost in South for decades singing in all the four languages. And whatever work he did in Bollywood became etched in 24K gold. He was not the first singer from South – before him P Sushila, Vani Jairam and K J Yesudas and later on S Janki also made their mark and but repertoire of Hindi songs sung by SPB is unmatched.
While we speak of damage by Corona to businesses, economy and jobs, the collateral damage in the form of lives of precious gems like SPB, a Padma Bhushan awardee and six times national award winner, is priceless.
Of course, legends like SPB always remain alive in the memory of their millions of fans through the work they leave behind. Even 40 years after his death, great Rafi is alive in the hearts of his fans and in fact, his popularity seems to be only going up. Ditto for Mukesh, Kishore and now SPB.
Rest in peace sir!