With over 40,000 songs sung in over 16 languages, the Indian entertainment industry lost a true maverick this week. The painful year of 2020 has taken away yet another loved icon from us. SP Balasubrahmanyam was a true legend and lost his battle to Covid-19 on 25th September at the age of 74 in Chennai.
The sad demise of this hugely talented personality will be felt across fans of Telugu, Tamil, Kannada, Malayalam and Hindi movies. It’s almost impossible to find someone who has seen movies in any of these languages in the last six decades and not witnessed his talent in some form. As a record-breaking as a playback singer, he also donned hats of a music director, musician, film producer, even an actor and a reality TV judge. His talent as a singer has been recognised multiple times over his career with numerous best singer awards, six National Film Awards and even the highest civilian honours of India viz. Padma Shri in 2001 and Padma Bhushan in 2011.
This legend has worked with the top music directors from AR Rahman to RD Burman, from Ilayaraja to Raamlaxman, from Laxmikant-Pyarelal to Nadeem-Shravan. He has been the voice of some of the most iconic actors in the Indian film industry most notable being Kamal Haasan and Salman Khan among the biggies. Balasubhrahmanyam made Salman Khan the romantic heartthrob of the 90s being his voice for all his movies in that era and some of the biggest hit songs ever recorded in modern-day Bollywood!
SPB was one singer who could move across genres effortlessly and be it Karnatic, Hindustani or Western his expertise came through in each style. This was one gifted singer who could record 21 songs in a single day and has held a world record for that.
Let’s look at some of the biggest Hindi hits of S.P.B. and relive the magical moments he delivered.
Tere Mere Beech Mein and Hum Bane Tum Bane from the movie ‘Ek Duuje Ke Liye’ (1981) was his entry into Bollywood as the voice of Haasan and his first big hits in the Hindi language. Laxmikant-Pyarelal took the risk with this start from the south who delivered Anand Bakshi’s lyrics with so much depth and emotion that these songs became iconic in every way even winning him a national award for Tere Mere Beech Mein.
His next big hit came with the anthem O Maria from the movie ‘Saagar’ (1985). The genius of RD Burman brought a whole load of fun with this song using the unique delivery style of SPB to create a magical wedding tease song. His collaboration with Asha Bhosle made this song an instant hit with some amazing work by Haasan in the video.
The next decade was perhaps the biggest milestone in SPB’s Bollywood career. His breakthrough into the Sooraj Barjatya world as the voice of the newly launched Salman Khan took his Bollywood journey into a different dimension. Every song of ‘Maine Pyar Kiya’ (1989) was a superhit of another magnitude. Raamlaxman delivered an album with some of the most iconic compositions in the film history with some amazing lyrics written by Dev Kohli and Asad Bhopali. SPB delivered Dil Deewana is a stunning way capturing the separation in love and the aggression of the character in a fabulous way winning him a Filmfare award for that song that was truly well deserved.
Aaja Shaam Hone Aayee is yet another brilliant vocal by the singer that delivered a fun playful side of him while Mere Rang Mein showcased that he can deliver a western melody perfectly too. Romantic songs Kabootar Ja Ja Ja and Aate Jaate Hanste Gaate made him the defining voice of romance of the 90s.
His next Khan movie ‘Saajan’ (1991) firmly as the romantic singer with massive hit songs including Bahut Pyar Karte Hain and Dekha Hai Pehli Baar under the direction of composers Nadeem-Shravan. The classically sound complex melodies of these songs were delivered to a tee by SPB who was on his career high point. The brilliant romantic lyrics of Sameer made these the must listen songs that these were but most importantly demonstrated that he can effortlessly transit from Karnatic to Hindustani classical styles of music.
His next collaboration with the genius of AR Rahman was a match made in heaven and a relationship that would last for decades. ‘Roja’ (1992) was a musically path breaking project and SPB. got to lead the sad title song Roja Janeman and perhaps what is the best SPB song ever – Yeh Haseen Waadiyaan. The romantic vibes of both these songs is amplified by the iconic depth of his voice that he is most known for and it worked like a charm of with perfect arrangements created by Rahman.
Working with Raamlaxman again, SPB got back to voice Khan in what is the considered to be the biggest blockbuster of Bollywood ever ‘Hum Aapke Hain Koun’ (1994). Yet another movie that delivered one hit song after another and his pairing with Lata Mangeshkar went down as a rage amongst listeners. His delivery style on Didi Tera Devar Deewana and Jhoote Do, Paise Lo is just something else. The playfulness he brought to the song is what makes these must play wedding songs till date.
The romantic number Pehla Pehla Pyar is nothing short of a lovers anthem with some emotional depth that SPB delivered like a master! Title song Hum Aapke Hain Koun and Mausam Ka Jaadu are other brilliant songs of SPB.
One also can’t ignore the cute romantic song Yeh Raat Aur Ye Doori released the same year from the cult comedy ‘Andaaz Apna Apna’ (1994). He takes a different approach in this light lovey-dovey song leaving the depth aside and taking a lighter vocal and such an easy number to sing along to. While the cheeky Do Mastane Chale showcase a different side of his singing personality that will be deeply missed.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.