Tamil Nadu

Balamuralikrishna: a traditionalist who made waves in films too

Music Composer Ilayaraja pays his last respects to carnatic vocalist, playback singer and composer Mangalamapalli Balamuralikrishna on Tuesday. Photo: R. Ravindran

Music Composer Ilayaraja pays his last respects to carnatic vocalist, playback singer and composer Mangalamapalli Balamuralikrishna on Tuesday. Photo: R. Ravindran  

A traditionalist who was ready to be drawn into different experiences, M. Balamuralikrishna was a sensation in the film industry, even in the short while that he spent there. Though he rendered only a few film songs, they became all-time hits. He even won national awards for best playback singing and music direction. But his career in the film world began ironically, as an actor, and not as a singer.

He played the role of mythological Narada in Telugu film, Bhakta Prahalada, at the request of A.V. Meiyappan Chettiar. It was dubbed in Tamil, Hindi, and Kannada and he played the role in other languages also.

He, however, turned down subsequent acting offers. “Somehow, I was not attracted to acting. But I agreed to appear in a cameo role as a singer in a Malayalam film,” he had recalled in his biography.

Balamuralikrishna, with his prodigious skill, immediately made a mark as a playback singer and his first song was also for Telugu film Sati Savitiri.

“S. Varalakshmi was the heroine of the film and she had learnt music from Balamuralikrishna. She requested him to render at least one sloka in the movie. But he ended up singing all the songs for the hero, A. Nageswara Rao,” said Ranimynthan, the biographer of Balamuralikrishna.

No one could have matched his singing for T.S. Balaiah, starring in the role of the imperious Hemanatha Bhagavathar, in Thiruvilayadal.  In the music of K.V. Mahadevan, the song Oru Naal Pothuma,, beginning in maand and subsequently moving on to thodi, dharbar, mohanam and kanada ragas, proved an all-time classic.

He also scored the music for the first Sanskrit film, Adi Sankararcharya ,and Ramanujacharya and Madhvacharya , directed by G.V. Iyer . He won the national award for best playback singer for Kannada film Hamsageethe  and the best music director award for Madhvacharya. Playback singer P. Leela, who sang many duets with him, was also his student.

The music legends of the film industry had close links with him, finding in him an unassuming, friendly guide who could help them out with the nuances of a raga when they were in doubt.

The late music director M.S. Viswanathan (MSV) treated Balamuralikrishna as his guru and used to clarify his doubts with him. When K. Balachander directed Aboorva Ragangal (rare ragas), he asked MSV to compose a song in a rare raga to justify the title of the film. Viswanathan, in his memoir, had recorded that it was Balamuralikrishna who helped him set the song Athisaya Ragam to raga mahathi. “It has only three swaras — ka, pa, ni,” Viswanathan had recorded.

In Viswanathan’s music, he rendered Thanga Ratham Vanthathu Veethiyile in Kalaikovil, Mounathil Vilaiyadum in Nool Veli. Ilayaraja roped him in to sing Chinnakannan Azhaikiraran in Kavikuil.

In Malayalam, he sang a few songs for Swathi Thirunaal and won the Kerala State Government Award. Noted Malayalam music director Sharath is his disciple.

He had composed many keerthanas and thillanas. The other ragas he composed are Sarashree and Sumukam.

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Printable version | Apr 2, 2020 4:37:10 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/Balamuralikrishna-a-traditionalist-who-made-waves-in-films-too/article16684396.ece

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