A Revolutionary Singer and crafty entertainer – SP Balasubrahmanyam

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Last Updated on 4 weeks by Aaron Lee

A Revolutionary Singer and crafty entertainer – SP Balasubrahmanyam. Sripathi Panditharajyula Balasubrahmanyam is 74 years old. He hails from Konnetammapeta, Nellore, Andhra Pradesh.

A Revolutionary Singer and crafty entertainer - SP Balasubrahmanyam
A Revolutionary Singer and crafty entertainer – SP Balasubrahmanyam

Sripathi Panditharajyula Balasubramanyam is 74 years old. He hails from Konnetammapeta, Nellore, Andhra Pradesh. He discontinued Engineering in Chennai after films started happening for him. He always remembers those few people who have given him his first opportunities. He regards SP Kondandapani as his Guru and a fatherly figure in his life.

When he couldn’t really believe in himself that he had the potential in him to become a playback singer, SP Kondandapani believed in him. He took him to the studios, offices of musicians, music composers, directors and producers to listen to him. He gave Balu singing opportunities in his films like Sri Sri Maryada Ramanna. Balu sang his first song in 1966, in Telugu for the above-mentioned film. He did not believe in himself so much that he could leave everything behind and take up singing as his profession.

Slowly, his confidence grew as people like MG Ramachandran loved his voice and legends like MS Viswananthan, KV Mahadevan and Saluri Rajeswara Rao liked him from the word go. They couldn’t really give him many opportunities at first even though his song for MGR, Aayiram Nilavee Vaa, became a classical hit and earned name, “Nila” Balu. Telugu legends like NTR, ANR preferred aging giant, “Gaana gandharva” Sri Ghantasala garu over young Balu as they feared backlash from their fans.

But SP Balu needed to prove himself at any cost looking at the kind of belief, SP Kondandapani showed on him. And he met upcoming music composer, back in the day, Challapalli Satyam. With Satyam encouraging him to sing for Krishna, another upcoming hero, SP Balu could find strong footing in the Industry. Still, he did not get into the league of masters as he kept singing for Padmanabham, Allu Ramalingayya, Chalam kind of comedians, second leads.

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Krishna asked him to be his voice only, but Balu decided to take all the opportunities that came his way. His versatility and mimicking talent helped him to balance between Krishna’s manly songs and humorous ones. He rendered classics like “Prathi Rathri Vasantha Ratri” with Ghantasala, “Ooo Bangaru Rangula Chiluka”, “O Chinnadana”, “Ravamma Mahalakshmi” before 1970’s in Telugu Cinema.

He established himself in Telugu, Tamil and Kannada languages in 1970’s. After the death of Ghantasala, he did not straight away get to see to big stars in Telugu as singer Ramakrishna, whose voice closely resembled “Masteru garu”, SP Balu had to struggle for 2 to 3 years. Even in Tamil and Kannada, he couldn’t sing many songs due to the availability of stalwarts like T. M. Soundararajan in Tamil and P.B. Srinivas in Kannada for big stars. When he had to take a decision about his next move in his professional career, he got an opportunity to sing for star hero like ANR in 1970’s.

His voice became a fresh change to regular voice and he even imitated ANR to suit him. Soon enough, he got the opportunity to sing for NTR as well. His songs for them in the albums composed by Satyam, Chakravarthy, KV Mahadevan became record breaking hits. He became single card male singer for Telugu films with every song in the album being sung by him. Similarly, he became the voice of young heroes in Kannada like Vishnuvardhan and Kamal Hassan, Rajinikanth in Tamil. Also, the entry of young composers, at that time, like Ilaiyaraja helped him dominate the scene, further.

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In Kannada, he recorded 21 songs in a day from morning 9:00 AM till evening, 9:00 PM for composer, Upendra Kumar, on 8th February, 1981. He recorded 19 songs in Tamil and 16 songs in Hindi, just in a day. 1980’s made him a National sensation with Shankarabharanam, Ek Tujhe Ke Liye albums release. Both became highly popular in Telugu and Hindi, Nationwide. Still people who can’t write, speak or talk in Telugu, can sing songs from Shankrabharanam, perfectly. His association with KV Mahadevan and the legend’s assistant, Pughalayendi, transformed into an all-rounder who can sing even classical songs along with western, modern classical, semi-classical, folk, pop, jazz, rock.

For entire 1980’s, he became the only voice of big heroes and won many National Awards, State Awards from different languages for his singing talents. In the meantime, director K. Vasu noticed his acting talents and asked him to act in Pakkinti Ammayi (1981), remake of Padosan (1968) in the role of legendary singer, Kishore Kumar from the original. Balu excelled in acting as well, with his comic timing. He got a chance to compose music for films as well and worked for films like Mayuri, Padamati Sandhya Ragam, Vivaha Bhojanambu in Telugu.

Vasanth, Tamil writer and director decided to ask Balu to act in his film, Keladi Kanmani with Raadhika as leading lady, in a leading role. In the film, SP Balu sang the breathless song, “Mannil Indha (Materani Chinnadani in Telugu)”. Film became a massive hit and ran for more than 285 days at few theatres in Tamil Nadu. SP Balu occasionally started acting in films in 1990’s. But he had to give way to the new wave of singers in Hindi, Telugu and Tamil. He wanted filmmakers from Telugu, Tamil and Kannada to give more opportunities to local singers and hence, launched singing shows in each language to bring out fresh talents. Many young singers got opportunities after they have been discovered by him.

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In 2001, he got Padma Shri and in 2011, he got Padma Bhushan awards from Indian National Government for his contribution to musical industry. He won 6 National Awards for songs from different languages. He revolutionised singing by shifting away from traditional singing and introducing more expression according to the actor, situation into the songs. He proved to be a crafty entertainer with his sense of humour on stage and his lively hosting skills. He became a dubbing voice artist for Kamal Hassan in Telugu and matched the talent of the legend’s acting skills with his voice. We just wish to see him laughing out loud and singing again on stage!

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