In focus In his distinctive voice P.B. Srinivos rendered songs with pathos, comedy and romance in equal measure.
“When you sing, it should touch the soul and not just the heart.” P.B. Srinivos believed in this dictum and not only touched the hearts but also stirred many a soul with his soulful rendition during mid-fifties to mid-seventies, considered the golden era of film music.
Never to miss a film event in Chennai, last Sunday he was seated in the front row at Kamaraj Auditorium with his trademark turban, shawl and thiruchoornam on his forehead and with an appreciative look while his colleagues received the ‘Cine Beats 2009' awards given away by the Madras Film Fans Association. The veteran singer is turning 80 this September 22.
Born on September 22, 1930 in Kakinada to Phanindra Swamy, a cooperative sub-registrar and Seshagiriamma, Prathivadi Bhayankara Srinivos's interest in music grew along with him from childhood thanks to his mother who had a “melodious voice.” However his father wished to see him as a lawyer. After obtaining B.Com degree from P.R. College, Kakinada, PBS joined Law College, Chennai. Srinivos utilised the opportunity to make regular visits to Gemini Studios to meet family friend and head of music department at Gemini, Emani Sankara Sastry. He discontinued studies even before completing the first year and joined him. PBS made his debut with S.S. Vasan's Mr. Sampath (1952) by singing a couple of lines along with Shamshad Begum, Geeta Roy and Jikki Krishnaveni. Much later he sang a duet with Lata Mangeshkar in Main bhi Ladki Hoon. The song Chanda se pyara turned out to be a big hit.
His solo debut was in a trilingual, Jathakaphala (Kannada), Jathakaphalam (Telugu) and Jathagam (Tamil) produced and directed by veteran Kannada actor R. Nagendra Rao in 1953.
It was Saluri Rajeswara Rao who gave instant popularity to PBS's voice when he made him sing, Bhayamela O Manasa in Narasu Studios', Bhale Ramudu. He sang for the film's Tamil vesion, Prema Pasam too. “Many asked me why I opted for a new voice when Ghantasala was around. I know Srinivos from his Gemini days. I liked his base voice. It has a smooth flow, a refreshing change from Ghantasala's. He later sang for me some of his best songs including, manasuloni korika from Bheeshma (1961) starring NTR and Savithri,” said Rajeswara Rao in an earlier interview.
His son and music director Saluri Vasu Rao shares an anecdote. “PBS rendered the popular, Oho Gulabi Bala… in Manchi Manishi (1964). For which both my father and his disciple T. Chalapathi Rao composed music. Many felt this song was tuned by my father. But he dispelled their doubts by saying that Chalapathi Rao composed the wonderful tune but Srinivos gave life to it with his melodious voice.”
Though PBS had rendered fewer songs in Telugu when compared to Tamil and Kannada films, most of his renderings are popular even today. Among his Telugu songs, he considers, Bujji bujji papayi (Aada Brathuku), Vennela Reyi (Preminchi Choodu), Oho chittemma chinnamma (Asadhyudu), Oho gulabi bala (Manchi Manishi), Andala O chilaka, (Letha Manasulu) and Manasuloni korika (Bheeshma) as his best.
P.B. Srinivos shot to fame in Tamil films after the release of Pavamannippu (1961) in which he sang the evergreen melody, Kalangalil Aval Vasantham under the baton of Viswanathan-Ramamurthy. Says M.S. Viswanathan, “At that time there were certain misconceptions that only T.M. Soundararajan's voice suited Sivaji Ganesan and M.G. Ramachandran while A.M. Raja's suited Gemini Ganesan. I wanted to break that and chose PBS to sing for Gemini Ganesan in Pavamannippu. Though he had sung for me earlier and other music directors in Tamil, that was the first time he was signing for a top hero. Later he sang for me for Sivaji Ganesan and M.G. Ramachandran too. Likewise even in Telugu in Aada Brathuku I made him sing for N.T. Rama Rao. When distributors protested that only Ghantasala's voice suited NTR, thanks to my producers, we retained PBS voice and the number, Bujji bujji papayi became an instant hit.”
MSV feels that Srinivos's strong point is his ‘swaragnana.' “He can sing the song as soon as he listens to the tune and the lyric. Modest and disciplined he has a distinct tone and a peculiar voice which blends easily, be it pathos, comedy or romance.”
But Srinivos attributes the success of a song not just to the composer and singer alone. “A song becomes popular only when it has a well conceived scene and a strong picturisation. Otherwise however good the singer, lyric and the tune, it does not help.”
In Kannada, Srinvos's voice became synonymous with the legendary Raj Kumar's voice. “I first sang for him in Ohileswara (1956). After that I sang for him in over 200 films,” says the veteran singer.