Veteran Singer SP Balasubrahmanyam is No More. We’ll Be Singing “Sach Mere Yaar Hai” in His Memory


Veteran Singer SP Balasubrahmanyam is No More. We’ll Be Singing “Sach Mere Yaar Hai” in His Memory

Illustration: Robin Chakraborty

Another day, another tragedy in 2020. Legendary playback singer SP Balasubrahmanyam passed away at a private hospital in Chennai on Friday at the age of 74. He is survived by his wife, a son and a daughter – both are playback singers.

On Thursday, after learning that his health had deteriorated, actor-politician Kamal Hassan visited him at MGM hospital in Chennai. He’d told the media, “Life support machines are in use, can’t say he’s doing well. He’s very critical, everyone is praying to the almighty.” Balasubrahmanyam had been hospitalised in August after testing positive for Covid-19. On September 7, he tested negative for the virus but continued to be on ventilator and ECMO.

Fondly known as SPB, Balasubrahmanyam made his singing debut in 1966 and sung over 40,000 songs in as many as 16 languages including Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam, and Hindi. Balasubrahmanyam also acted in a few movies and was a voice-over artist for actor Kamal Hassan, whenever his Tamil movies were dubbed in Telugu.

Winner of six national awards, Balasubrahmanyam sang songs for five decades for generations of actors, from MGR, Shivaji Ganesan and Gemini Ganesan, to the stars of the day. “His was a breeze-like voice of AM Raja, with the softness of PB Srinivas and the effortlessness of Mohammed Rafi,” said film music historian Vamanan.

Balasubrahmanyam’s soulful voice coupled with his friendly nature and joyful demeanour made him a personality that was adored by co-stars and fans alike. “Paadum Nila” (Singing Moon), as he was called by his fans, will be dearly missed. Politicians, actors, businesspeople and ordinary folks from all walks of life paid their tributes, to a man who had touched their lives.

Prime Minister Modi expressed his grief and offered condolences to his family. The Prime Minister recollected how he had become a household name, enthralled audiences for decades, and that “our cultural world is a lot poorer” without him.

India’s musical maestro AR Rahman shared a picture of him with Balasubrahmanyam and expressed his shock at the news.

Actor and politician Rajinikanth shared a video message, stating that his voice and memories will live with him forever. As a voice artist, Balasubrahmanyam had been Rajinikanth’s voice for many years.

Telugu actor Mahesh Babu said his legacy would live on. “Nothing will ever come close to that soulful voice of his,” he tweeted.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi offered his condolences to the bereaved family and friends of SP Balasubrahmanyam. “His voice will live on,” Gandhi tweeted.

Film producer Boney Kapoor put his achievements in perspective, how his voice united people across languages and regions. “We lost a legend today,” he said.

India’s Chess wizard Vishwanathan Anand recollected how Balasubrahmanyam had been his first sponsor for the team Chennai Colts in the national championship in 1983. Vishy described him as one of the nicest persons he had ever met. A view that is shared by almost everyone who knew him personally.

“Someone so special can never be forgotten, may his soul rest in peace my deepest condolences to the family,” said actress Ramya Krishnan.

Actor Nagarjuna Akkineni gave a heartfelt tribute, sharing a song clip on Twitter. “As the memories and conversations with Balu Garu come flooding back so do the tears… I still remember the call I got from him after my film Annamayya. He was such an unsaid integral part of my life,” the actor tweeted.

Rest in peace, SPB. You have touched everyone’s lives in remarkable ways, and your memories will continue to live on through your soulful songs.