In the over two decades he ruled the Kannada film industry, he also sang for other stars

The late actor Rajkumar once described P.B. Sreenivas as his shaareera (voice) while he himself was a mere shareera (body), summing up how some of the best-known films of the thespian are unthinkable without the legendary singer lending his voice.

Sreenivas, who passed away in Chennai on Sunday, ruled the Kannada film industry for over two decades as a playback singer and was the voice of many stars, including Rajkumar, Uday Kumar and Kalyan Kumar.

Evergreen numbers

Songs such as Aadisi nodu, Olave jeevana sakshatkara, Panchama veda premada nada, Vittala Vittala, Ivalu yaaru balleyanu, Aakashave beelali mele, Baare baare, Ravivarmana kunchada kale and Maanava dehavu moole mamsada tadike are still loved by thousands of people in Karnataka. Songs he sang in praise of Kannada language, including the famous Naavaaduva nudiye Kannada nudi from Gandhada Gudi, are among the most popular.

First film

The Kakinada-born Sreenivas entered the Kannada film industry in 1953 through Jataka Phala, which was also made in Tamil and Telugu. In Kannada, he achieved great success through Bhakta Kanakadasa, directed by Y.R. Swamy and starring Rajkumar, in the Sixties. The song Baagilanu teredu of the film was an instant hit. Similarly, the songs of 1974 hit film Bhakta Kumbara, a Rajkumar-starrer, were hugely popular.

Though Sreenivas sang hundreds of songs over two decades in Kannada, his own favourite was Apaara keerthi galisidanta, as he once told this correspondent. This was the song written for Vijayanagarada Veeraputra by R.N. Jayagopal.

Apart from being a singer, Sreenivas was fluent in several languages. He could not only speak but also write in eight languages, including Kannada, English and Urdu. He penned ghazals and tried his hand at writing a few Kannada songs as well.

Across borders

Governments of both Tamil Nadu and Karnataka have honoured Sreenivas, testifying to his reach beyond languages. While he was honoured with Kalaimamani award from Tamil Nadu, he got Karnataka Rajyotsava award here.

New breed of singers and their success hardly ever worried Sreenivas, given his philosophical attitude and lack of rancour.

Sreenivas was never bitter about the fact that he could not sing many songs for Rajkumar after the actor started singing for himself. He accepted the change with a philosophical approach and often said everything was bound to change and it had to be accepted.

When Rajkumar was honoured with Dadasaheb Phalke Award in 1995, Sreenivas rejoiced as though he had got an award himself. Sreenivas said he was honoured because his “voice” had won a great honour.