He’s sung thousands of songs in several languages but not all of them reached the yesteryear equivalent of viral-dom. S.P. Balasubrahmanyam, who was honoured at the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) with the Centenary Award, had a productive career in Hindi film music as well. Here’s a glimpse of some of his less-popular numbers from the 80s and the 90s.
After the success of Maine Pyar Kiya (1989), S.P. Balasubrahmanyam (SPB) became a permanent playback for Salman Khan in the muscular bhai’s early days. However, by then, SPB’s journey in Hindi film music was already more than a decade old. His stint in Bombay can be divided into two phases — pre and post- Maine Pyar Kiya .
During the first phase, SPB’s voice was used primarily for films starring actors from the south — like Kamal Haasan, Rajinikanth and Chiranjeevi. However, he also had songs for Dharmendra, Vinod Khanna and Jeetendra.
Here is a look at some less-heard songs from that phase:
1. Dil Diwana, Bada Mastana — Meethi-Meethi Baatein (1977)
Much before Ek Duuje Ke Liye, SPB was registering his presence in Bombay through dubbed versions of his Tamil songs. This film, dubbed from K.Balachander’s Manmatha Leelai, had him mouthing a phrase -- ‘Dil Diwana’ -- that would earn him many awards when sung for another film more than a decade later.
2. Title song — Main Intequam Loonga (1982)
In an album, like most of the ones in the period, dominated by Kishore Kumar, SPB got the most important song. As Dharmendra’s character prepares to avenge the death of his father by preparing for a boxing championship, SPB’s voice provided the context by mixing deep-throated riffs, à la R.D. Burman (listen to his shout of ‘heebaahoo’ at the end of the second antara), and the angst that a high-pitched Kishore could provide.
Interestingly, Main Intequam Loonga was among the many film names thrown-up as Salman and Raveena Tandon’s characters romance in the dream sequence of Patthar Ke Phool . The singing, again by SPB.
3. Iska Naam Hai Jeevan Dhara — Jeevan Dhara (1982)
The Hindi remake of K. Balachander’s Aval Oru Thodarkathai had the title song sung by SPB, in what sounds like a reprisal of Tere Mere Beech Mein .
4. Imtihaan, Imtihaan — Himmatwala (1982)
The most-famous of the Jeetendra-Sridevi-Bappi Lahiri collaborations — there were perhaps a dozen of them in the 80s. The album’s most famous song. Nainon Mein Sapna , overshadowed other numbers. However, the most important song in the narrative was reserved for SPB.
The philosophising in the songs listed here featuring the two ‘indra’s —Dharmendra and Jeetendra — was not unlike that in the title track of Rajinikanth films like Manithan .
5. Mujhe Baahon Mein Bharke — Mahadev (1989):
Illayaraja’s use of Antha Nilavathan tune in Hindi. The Tamil version, sung by Raja himself, overshadows the Hindi take, which is much more light-hearted and somewhat juvenile in lyrics.
Maine Pyar Kiya and later...
SPB, who competed with Kishore for similar-themed songs in the early part of the decade in albums composed by Bappi Lahiri and Laxmikant-Pyarelal, had a uniqueness in his voice that combined the depth of Rafi’s style with the raw, untrained innocence of Kishore’s. The lilt in SPB’s voice, apparent while emphasising the most important part of the lyrics — like Yehi Sach Hai from Maine Pyar Kiya ’s title song and the mukhda of Mere Rang Mein — became among his trademarks.
Most of his songs in the 90s were for either Anand-Milind or Raamlaxman. Though many of them had Salman Khan in them, the voice was also used for other actors. These are some less-appreciated songs from SPB’s post- Maine Pyar Kiya Hindi playback phase:
1. Sun Beliya — 100 Days (1991):
Salman was not the only actor with whom SPB had a productive partnership in the 90s. Some of the singing legend’s best Hindi numbers were also for Jackie Shroff. The most popular song of 100 Days , Gabbar Singh , outscored Sun Beliya and the partly-classical Tana De Re Na Tana De Re , both sung by him.
2. Banke Bigad Gaya Kaam — Love (1991):
Saathiya Tune Kya Kaha was the most-popular song of this Salman Khan-Revati starrer. However, in a quirky twist, SPB’s voice was used for Amjad Khan’s character.
3. Saddi Rel Gaddi Aayi — Antim Nyay (1991):
SPB goes Punjabi, sung in Kishore Kumar-style, in this recreation of a song by Britain-based Punjabi singer Mangal Singh.
4. O Meri Dilruba — Junoon (1992):
The best song of a Nadeem-Shravan album coming at the post-Aashiqui phase of their T-Series career, which saw the duo staying at the top till 1995, till a preternatural music wizard from Madras displaced them.
5. Sapnon Mein Aana — Chor aur Chaand (1993)
In Nikhil-Vinay’s best album prior to Tum Bin , SPB sang the three best songs — Lagne Laga Hai ; Baat Kiya Hai ; and Sapnon Mein Aana . This one stands out because of its symphonic prelude and the tinge of melancholy in its lyrics.
6. Hum Na Samjhe The — Gardish (1993)
Lyrically rich, the song was perhaps the last SPB sang for R.D. Burman. It was also his best for Jackie Shroff, one where his voice describes the state of mind of two characters — those of Shroff and his father, played by Amrish Puri.