Tribute to S P Balasubrahmanyam: Music and art transcend regions and boundaries.
S P Balasubrahmanyam who had the world record of singing more than 40000 songs in 16 different languages of India represented the idea of ‘India’, very much under attack.
The Film Industry in Bombay was actually Hindustani and not really Hindi because I believe it was built mostly by those whose mother tongue was neither Hindi nor is the cities original mother tongue is Hindi, it is Marathi or Mumbai Hindi. Obviously, Bombay was a very cosmopolitan city but when the name was changed for the purpose of respecting the local sentiments, then one cannot say anything as name changing is the new culture in the world. That is a long-debated issue and need not be discussed here.
In the late 1970s and early 80s when cinema was going through a new patch, and though Mohammad Rafi had passed away and Kishore da was there, many new singers emerged to give playback to new actors but they were no match to the old trio of Rafi, Kishore and Mukesh. Every one of them was trying to copy them. Yes, many became popular but two outstanding personalities actually provided us some of the most melodious songs of all times in the Hindustani Cinema and they were the spiritual voice from Kerala and I call him the golden voice and he is legendary Yesudas. Yesudas sang a very limited number of songs for the Hindustani films like Chitchor, Dada, Chhottee see baat, Swami, Sawan ko Aane Do and so on. However, he remained a favourite of music director Ravinder Jain who introduced him to Hindi world with ‘Gori Tera gaon bada pyaara’. Almost all the songs that Yesudas sang became super-duper hit such as aaj se pahle, aaj se jyada khushi aaj tak nahi mili, jab deep jale aanaa, jab saanjh dhale aana, kaa karoon sajni aaye naa balam.
SPB’s entry into Hindustani films happened in the 1981s with Kamal Hasan’s remake of old Telugu film with Kamal Hasan and Rati Agnihotri in the lead while the music of the film was composed by Laxmi Kant Pyarelal. Film ‘Ek Duje ke liye’ became one of the biggest hits of all times and it was not merely the new actor Rati Agnihotri but because of the melody of the voice of SP Balasubramanian. What a class? For us, who were coming to teen age that time, it was a treat. ‘ Tere mere beech me, kaisa hai ye bandhan… anjaana’, or mere jeevan saathi pyaar kiye jaa or hum bane tum bane ek duje ke liye.
Later on, we had listened to his voice for various Salman Khan films which were super-duper hits of his time like ‘ Maine pyaar kiya’ and I am sure anyone who listens ‘ aate jaate.. hanste gaate, socha tha mane man me kai baar’, can list fall in love with the voice of SPB. Whether you like the films or not, his voice was energetic, versatile and youthful. There are many other songs in the same film. Perhaps he became the voice of Salman Khan in Badjatya’s film who could define the romantic and flamboyant mood of the actor. Whether it is Maine Pyaar kiya or Hum Apke hain Kaun or
What is important for me is that the way SPB sang these songs turned them classic. Hindi speaking Bihari-UP wallahs won’t do that kind of hard work though want to now ‘dominate’ the industry. Pick up any song and how much ‘lachak’ exists in the voice of SPB.
If Yesudas is spiritual, SPB is definitely versatile and perhaps after Kishore Da, he was the only one who could sing in such diversities with that ease.
SP Balasubramanian became a legend in his life as he started his acting career much before many of us were born. He was not merely a playback singer but an actor and producer too but of course we will remember him mostly for his melodious songs.
When we pay tribute to SP Balasubramanian and his versatility, it is important for the Hindi speaking people to respect the contribution of the non-Hindi speaking people to Bombay cinema. It is time, we do not use cinema to spread hatred. Don’t destroy it. We know this Bombay Cinema may have loads of problems, nepotism and so many things but it also gave us Raj Kapoor, Dilip Kumar, Devananda, Shailendra, Sahir, Mazruh, Kaifi Azami, Rahi Masum Raja, Kishor, Rafi, Mukesh, Talat Mahmood, Sachin Dev Berman, Naushad, Lata Mangeshkar, Yesudas,
SP Balasubramanian and many more. While we may or may not watch the movies but it is sure that the songs and lyrics have given life to millions of people all over the world. They gave hope, they shared pain, they gave a reason to live. As I said, most of them did not have Hindi as their mother tongue and yet the compositions, the films actually became the voice of the nation.
We must respect people’s languages. Don’t impose them. Art and culture bring people together. Art is a creator so don’t use it for division and destruction purposes. The world of art transcends all the boundaries and though the Bombay cinema respects diversity yet it still has not been able to grapple with caste and colour prejudices and on that, we can speak on some other time. There is no doubt that on Hindu Muslim relations, on secular values, cinema has produced some of the superb films but when the issue of Dalit identity, women’s challenge to male dominance or political issues of the marginalised people are yet to take shape in the cinema world and for their proper representation, this world will have to open up its spaces for the aspiring Ambedkarite filmmakers, writers and actors. It will ultimately bring inclusion in the industry. At the moment, my point is that the current attempt to defame the tinsel world of Mumbai is not with good intention but to only hurt its diversity which we hope will not succeed.
Once again, we hope people will realise how inclusion and diversity pays. If this had not happened through cinema, we in North India would not have ever gotten the opportunity to enjoy the serene voices of Yesudas, SP Balasubramanian and many others. Let us celebrate diversity and inclusion in the successes of late S P Balasubramanian and Yesudas in the Bombay cinema or Hindustani cinema.
S P Balasubrahmanyam will always remain alive through his lively and energetic youthful songs. Our tribute to this legend.
Vidya Bhushan Rawat