SPB: A legend who cherished friendship as much as his music

This article is all about the legendry singer who valued his relationship, as much as he loved his music.
Source: Twitter
Source: Twitter

Chennai

SP Balasubramanyam, who was hailed high by millions of music lovers, invariable of the languages across world, passed away on September 25.
Talking about this legend, brings tears to many, not just because of the emotions that he kindles with his soulful voice, but with reverberating persona. 'Gem of a man', is the phrase used by almost everyone who condoled his unfortunate demise. That's the impeccable persona, which holds the legendary singer high on the throne of everyone's heart.
This article browses through few such known and talked about friendship which SPB shared with few personalities and some unknown facts about this great man.
Lets begin with the much talked about friendship between SPB and director Bharathiraja!
Its a well known fact that both SPB and Bharathiraja share a friendship for more than 5 decades, now. Once in a stage show, SPB had said that he is acquainted with Bharathiraja, even before the director's cinema entry, when the latter was struggling to meet his ends, by working in a petrol bunk. SPB used to do play back singing for the director's stage plays. In an old interview, SPB had funnily said that Bharathiraja always prefers to be called by SPB as 'Vaada, poda'(in a colloquial Tamil slang), even though the director is elder to SPB, while the director refers SPB as 'Baalu'.
In another such interview, SPB was in full praises for the director's method of story telling. He also said that, earlier whenever SPB went for a long night drive, self driving, he ensures Bharathiraja accompanies him. The reason was because SPB likes the narrator Bharathiraja, which helps him drive the car tirelessly.
The mutual bond they both share, surely makes one envy. The friends wanted to produce a movie together, which is '16 vayadhinile', but unfortunately, due to lack funds, it didn't materialise. Surprisingly, Bharathiraja was the first one to approach SPB to act as a lead in his movie 'Mudhal Mariyadhai'. Even though SPB was willing to take up the offer, he couldn't afford for continuous call sheet, hence the offer went to veteran actor Shivaji Ganesan and the rest was history.
Now lets move on to the bond shared by Maeastro Ilayaraaja and SPB.
Bharathiraja played the key-man, who introduced these legends during their early days. Bharathiraja introduced the 'Pavalar Brothers' to SPB, who by then was running a music troupe on his own. SPB warmly accepted them into his music band, where Ilayaraja and Gangai Amaran were in-charge of composition, while SPB sings songs. Their association went on touring music troupe to winning acclodes in cine industry and weaving musical magics together. Both Ilayaraja and SPB became inseperable with the Numero one marvelous songs that are still creating history.
While the maestro weaves magical music framework that would last forever, the other’s soulful voice brought life to it. Even while tensions and IPR issues arose, the two men, always recognised the role each other has played in their respective lives, in almost all the stages they appeared.
There was also a message going viral in the media that SPB, while he was admitted in the hospital for COVID treatment, kept replaying raaja's video which the musician had released, saying 'Baalu yezhundhu va" and SPB went emotional that he planted a virtual kiss in the mobile, for his dear friend. This shows the emotion that Balasubramanyam had towards the maestro. Eventually, Ilayaraja also composed a tribute song for the former's demise. Ilayaraja also went on to lit a lamp 'Motcha Deepam' in Thiruvannamalai, for his close aide, Baalu.
“I have been singing for 30 years. I have sung with every music director in India. When a line comes, I definitely know how it will progress. But with you, I cannot catch it. You will go somewhere else. It is really amazing, Raja. I'm not saying this for the camera or to be modest. Very blessed person. One of the greatest music directors ever that this country has found out.” These are words with which legendary singer SP Balasubrahmanyam described his long-time friend, collaborator and music maestro Ilayaraaja.
SPB and Kamal Haasan
Kamal Haasan, in one of his recent interviews recalled his memories with SPB. He said, “It is like saying when did you first speak your language? When did you first see your mother or brother? You don’t remember it at all. Especially when the bond becomes very strong. Only after his demise, you realize what a big part he was of your life. I heard him first before I saw him. Like everybody’s life, he has been a part of my life, my romance, my melancholy, part of my first love and marriage."
Kamal who refers SPB as 'Annaya', was the one the first ones to visit him in the hospital, as soon as the singer's health deteriorated, on Thursday evening.
SPB had been the voice of Kamal Haasan for many years, in Telugu. For the close bond they share, Kamal offered a small, comical role in his Avvai Shanmugi movie, which the 'actor' SPB cracked it perfectly. Even though its a scene for 5 mins, its still is cherished by many.
Kamal said, “He never forgot the kindness with which he was treated as a young singer and he imparted it to young singers. They loved the respect he gave them.” "It wasn't not just because he was someone who I regarded highly but because he had been with me during my high and my low. SPB was so emotional about me that even when you say nice things about me, he would start feeling emotional and that's one reason why, in case you want to make SPB cry, you just say nice things about me and you will see him wiping away his tears.
Talking about his bonding with SPB, Kamal said, “There is a show in Tamil and in that SPB said he will show why he and I were made for each other and he started singing one of his songs and he asked me to lip sync it. He changed the way he sang the song and I followed him. When he was asked how I knew his mind. He said that I knew him well and which is why I was able to do it. I was so touched." S P Balasubrahmanyam was like Kamal Haasan's public relations officer because he always talked up the actor at every chance.
Yes. That down-to earth personality of this human, is the a rare to find quality.
SPB and Gangai Amaran
This friendship also dates back to the Music troupe days. The film historians reveal that it was SPB who drove Ilaiyaraaja and Gangai Amaran on his scooter and introduced them to film makers. Though SPB was a beginner, he spoke about the brothers to directors and producers he met during his recording sessions. SPB still shares the bond with Gangai Amaran as he is with Ilayaraja. The recent video, that's going viral as the singer's last video call, the singer is seen surprising Gangai Amaran. One can easily understand the bond that they both share with the conversation.
Apart from Gangai Amaran, the singer is seen interacting with Premji Amaran and director Venkat Prabhu, sons of Gangai Amaran. The entire conversation sounded more like a family interaction. The bond that the singer develops with everyone is so vivid with the friendly discussion that happened over video call.
Even when a rift arose between SPB and Ilayaraja, Gangai Amaran stood by SPB, which shows the regards Gangai Amaran had for his friend. Their friendship continued to the next gen too. Its a known fact that SP Charan shares a close bond with Venkat Prabhu and Premji Amaran.
Infact, it was Venkat Prabhu, who as a representative of the singer's family, was the first one to break the singer's demise. Gangai Amaran had also said that he will ensure that SPB gets 'Bharat Ratna' posthumously and will work towards it.
The above are relationship bonds that the singer has shared with well known personalities. There are more such un-talked deeds and kindness, that SPB holds. One such is the collaboration he had with 'Abbas Culturals'.
Abbas Culturals is one of the event organiser that the singer is collaborated with for more than 40 years. Abbas Culturals has conducted more than 100 shows with SPB, across the country. Started by Abbas Jayaraman, Abbas Culturals is populary known to conducted the 'Kalai Vizha', every year, in the city.
The Director of the Abbas Culturals, Abbas Karthick also shared his personal experiences with the legendary singer. "SPB, is more than a singer, is a well behaved, good natured human being"
After his father's sudden demise, Karthik had to run the event show as promised. SPB came forward, to help him organise the event, guiding him through the nuances of running a show and stood by him throughout the event. Karthik recalls that  not only SPB took the burden of running the show, on his shoulders, but also the singer had refused to take the fee, saying that its a tribute to the friendship that he shares with Karthik's father. SPB went on to say that 'I have never asked for any advance payment from you dad. Why would I ask You?" . The singer always had concern for the show organisers, said Karthik. Unlike  few other musicians or singers, who allot dates only after the entire payment is done, SPB always valued relationship over money. He ensures that the requested date is accomodated in his calender and is never rigid about the payment.
Karthik also revealed that after the IPR issue created a hustle, SPB was instrumental in finalising uniform pay for the all the performers- singers, orchestra and other musicians, for the live concerts.
In yet another incident, Karthick reveals the singer's regards for his 'Guru' even after the latter's demise.
SPB came to know that his Guru- MSV's manager Mr.Chandru was finding hard to make his family ends meet, after the latter's demise. So SPB voluntarily organised for a charity show and contributed the entire amount, including his payment to Chandru, on stage. This act of the singer, of his stature is what makes him stand apart from the crowd.
Once SPB with his usual wittiness, revealed in a show that he used to collect all the shawls that was drapped around him as a mark of respect, but would never give it back to organisers as everyone assumes. Instead, during winter season SPB and his driver, would go out daily and donate the shawls to the platform dwellers. He also said "Now that i have declared it to the public, I can openly donate the shawls to the needy, which till now was a hush-sush secret."
Karthik also said that SPB's last live in concert with KJ Yesudas was organised by Abbas Culturals. In which, KJ Yesudas had requested SPB to render a complete carnatic musical show, given his divine voice and SPB had accepted his request. Karthik was left teary eyed when he realised that his association with SPB, which is more than professional relationship, ended abruptly. Karthick says that SPB was more like a guiding light to everyone, irrespective of age or stature.
These are few pages of the legend. There are still another humane side of this legendary man, not know to many.
He is better known to his friends and fans for his down-to-earth humbleness, and his unwavering commitment towards giving back to the society at large. He believes that activities done to make the lives of weak and underprivileged better, however small, would cascade into overall betterment of the society that we live in.
His many acts of generosity are done without attracting any publicity. For instance, his charity initiatives done through a SPS Charitable Foundation, which he has founded in memory of his father Shri S P Sambhamurthy, are almost always never publicized.
He has raised funds for many a charitable causes through countless stage shows. His passion for pan social upliftment is as equal to that of his passion for singing and music as a whole.
The legend not only will live among us with his songs, but also also with his deeds and personalities, which surely has lot of take away learnings. His ability to firmly have his feet on the ground while achieving dizzying heights of professional success, has made him find a firm place in everyone's heart.
The nation will surely miss you 'Baalu'!

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