The best of S.P. Balasubrahmanyam

The Hindu pays a musical tribute to the legendary singer

Updated - September 26, 2020 01:44 pm IST

Published - September 25, 2020 06:47 pm IST

S.P. Balasubrahmanyam. File.

S.P. Balasubrahmanyam. File.

S.P. Balasubrahmanyam, who died in Chennai at the age of 74 on Friday, was one of the greatest playback singers of all time in Indian cinema.

Few singers could rival him in popularity. Fewer were as versatile. Still fewer were as prolific. He sang over 40,000 songs in different languages in different eras of Indian cinema. The Hindu plays back his finest.


Maanguyile poonguyile.. . (Karakattakkaran)


Ilaiyaraaja and SPB formed one of the most successful composer-singer combinations in cinema. A large percentage of the biggest hits tuned by the maestro were rendered by SPB. This song from the delectable rustic Tamil drama, released in 1989, tells us again why Ilaiyaraaja had so much faith in him.

Right with the background music – a superb arrangement of percussion and nadaswaram – the music director captures your imagination. Then the magical voice of SPB takes over.

Rarely has the charms of rural Tamil Nadu been captured better in music. Add the fresh, innocent face of Kanaka, in her debut, you get a slice of the great tradition of Indian film music.

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Kaadhal Rojave... (Roja)


The world woke up to A.R. Rahman's astounding talent with this brilliant debut album for director Mani Ratnam. And this song captures the essence of the lovely, beautifully shot romance.

It is one of the finest love songs ever in Indian cinema, in any language. SPB brought out the pangs of separation so beautifully.

Sujatha's hauntingly delicious humming was just the right prelude for this timeless classic. Rahman's genius has brought out the beauty of Raga Kapi so well. He would go on to do several timeless melodies in the Raga.

Sundari kannal... (Thalapathi)


Another Mani Ratnam classic, which actually preceded Roja , also had splendid music, by Ilaiyaraaja, who was his collaborator before he discovered Rahman. Songs like Rakkamma kaiya thattu... and Kattukkuyilu... may have climbed higher up the charts, but this duet by SPB and S. Janaki was the pick.

It is a melody that never fails to sooth you. The beautiful Shobana and Rajinikanth, who gave one of his career-best performances for Thalapathi , with the aid of Santosh Sivan's camera, made the song a delight to watch, too.

Malare mounama... (Karna)


Vidyasagar is one of the most gifted composers of our time. Though he belongs to Andhra and is based in Chennai, it is in Malayalam he has given his best. The kind of music gave Malayalam cinema for the last two decades and a half is astounding.

It is doubtful if Tamil cinema has used his talent properly. This gorgeous duet, in which SPB has the company of S. Janaki once again, is a reminder of that fact. It is among the best songs of SPB in the latter half of his career.

Mannil indha kadhal... (Keladi Kanmani)


Another melodious composition from Ilaiyaraaja. This time, SPB didn't lip-synch for Rajinikanth or Kamal Haasan, but for himself, as he played the hero in the film directed by debutant Vasanth.

Omkaara naadaanu... (Sankarabharanam)


Four decades ago, director K. Viswanath made a film based on classical music and dance and created history. Not many could have imagined it would become such a rage across south India.

Its success had surprised even those associated with the film. Its heroin, Manju Bhargavi, once told me there was hardly anyone in the theatres in Andhra on the day the film was released.

The music, composed by K.V. Mahadevan, played a big part in the film's success. SPB sang all but one of the ten songs. His voice helped Carnatic music – what if he wasn't a trained musician – reach the lay listener. This song, set in Raga Sankarabharanam , fetched him the first of his six National Awards.

Tere mere beech mein... (Ek Duuje Ke Liye)


Two years after Sankarabharanam won him new fans across south India, he moved north and made a splendid debut in Hindi with K. Balachander's romantic tragedy featuring Kamal Haasan. This beautiful composition by Laxmikant-Pyarelal won SPB his second National Award.

It also helped him make his voice felt in Bollywood. He would become so popular, he would become the main singing voice of Salman Khan.

The list of SPB's timeless melodies would go on and on, with songs like Thoda thoda... (Indira), Paattu onnu naan... (Pudhu Vasantham),Muthumani malai... (Chinna Gounder), Aracha santhanam... (Chinna Thambi),Kaadhalin deepam... (Thambikku Entha Ooru), Kalyana malai... (Pudhu Pudhu Arthangal), En kaadhale... (Duet), Kappaleri poyachu... (Indian), En veettu thotrathil... (Gentleman), Maanoothuthu

manthaiyile... (Kizhhakku Cheemayile), Pehla pehla pyar hai... (Hum Aapke Hai Koun), Dil deewana... (Maine Pyar Kiya), Bahut pyar karte hai... (Saajan).

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