When SPB sang for A.R. Rahman

The composer was constantly on the lookout for fresh voices, but many of his great songs demanded S.P. Balasubrahmanyam. Together, they created magic, over and over

September 26, 2020 06:21 pm | Updated 10:50 pm IST

SP Balasubrahmanyam and A.R. Rahman

SP Balasubrahmanyam and A.R. Rahman

Roja 's music sprang many a surprise. The tunes and the orchestration were refreshingly different. And then there were the voices.

Who would have thought Minmini would be just perfect for Chinna chinna aasai, Unni Menon for Pudhu vellai mazhai ? Or Hariharan for Thamizha Thamizha . Who would have imagined Sujatha's voice could be used so effectively just for humming?

Minmini, Unni and Sujatha had all been around for years, but their presence in the stunning album for Mani Ratnam's 1992 film made many wonder where they had actually been all this while. But, there was no element of surprise in A.R. Rahman's choice of one voice.

The album's most melodious tune was reserved for S.P. Balasubrahmanyam. We should thank Rahman for that. Only S.P. Balasubrahmanyam could have brought out the sweet pain of Kadhal Rojave so evocatively .

Also read: The best of S.P. Balasubrahmanyam

Rahman revolutionised film music in many ways, among the most significant of which was the wide variety of voices he opted for. Unlike the music directors before him, he didn't just choose the busiest, the most experienced singer around. He was constantly on the lookout for fresh voices, even as he brought back from near oblivion several exceptional but underused singers.

Still, he always went to the established singers when the song demanded them. Many of his great songs demanded SPB. Together, they created magic, over and over.

There could not have been a more magical song than Kadhal Rojave to begin their fascinating journey together with. Nearly three decades after we first heard this song, it sounds just as fresh and enchanting.

Also read: A. R. Rahman: ‘Growing up in south India, SPB was part of our culture, victories and love’

The pangs of separation, portrayed with conviction on screen by Arvind Swami, found the right expression and notes in SPB's voice in this timeless classic based on Raga Kapi , which Rahman would revisit for more out-of-the-world love songs, such as En mel vizhudha mazhai thuliye(May Madham).

Kadhal Rojave was a tough act to follow, but Rahman and SPB came up with one winner after the other. In Gentleman, SPB had two chart-toppers – the delectable duet En veetu thottathil with Sujatha and the catchy Ottagathai kattiko with S. Janaki.

In Kizhakku Cheemayile , Rahman had SPB in top form in Maanoothu mandhaiyile , a song as earthy and as melodious as imaginable. In Uzhavan , the singer was back in his romantic elements with Pennalla pennalla oothapoo , while Vandicholai Chinnarasu saw him reuniting with Vani Jairam – they both were brilliant in the classical album of Sankarabharanam over a decade before – for Idhu sugam.

Duet remains among the best albums Rahman and SPB joined hands for. En kadhale and Anjali Anjali dipped with romance, while Kulicha Kuthalam and Mettuppodu mettuppodu could get you on the dance floor.

Mind you, all these songs came within just two years of Roja 's release. The Rahman-SPB combine grew stronger over the years.

The sheer variety in the kind of songs they came up with is astonishing. You will be amazed when you refresh your memory with songs like Theendai (En Swasa Kaatre), Thoda thoda and Odakara Marimuthu (Indira), Azhagana Ratchasiye (Mudhalvan), Kadhalenum thervezhudhi (Kadhalar Dhinam),Thanga thamarai (Minsara Kanavu), Kappaleri poyaachu and Maya machindra (Indian), Ennai kaanavillaiye (Kadhal Desam), Swasame (Thenali), Minnale (May Madham), Erani kuradhani (Kadhalan), Velli malare (Jodi),Oruvan oruvan (Muthu),Manasukkul oru puyal (Star), Enthan vanil (Kadhal Virus), Kaatril oar varthai (Varalaru), Suthi suthi and En peru Padayappa (Padayappa) and Medhuvaga (Kochadaiiyaan).

SPB is undoubtedly one of the most versatile singers we have ever hard. Rahman, much like Ilaiyaraaja, made full use of his range.

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