S. P. Balasubrahmanyam
S. P. Balasubrahmanyam
S. P. Balasubrahmanyam in 2013
|Born||4 June 1946|
Nellore, Madras Presidency, India
(now in Andhra Pradesh, India)
|Occupation(s)||Singer, actor, music director, film producer|
Shripathi Panditaradhyula Balasubrahmanyam (born 4 June 1946) mostly referred to as S.P.B. or Balu is an Indian playback singer, music director, actor, dubbing artist and film producer who works predominantly in Kannada, Tamil, Malayalam, Hindi and Telugu cinema. He has recorded over 40,000 songs in 16 Indian languages. He has garnered six National Film Awards for Best Male Playback Singer for his works in four different languages; Kannada, Tamil, Telugu and Hindi; twenty five Andhra Pradesh state Nandi Awards for his works towards Telugu cinema, numerous other state awards from Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. In addition, he garnered the Bollywood Filmfare Award, and six Filmfare Awards South.
He is honored with the Guinness World Record for recording the most film scores. In 2012, he received the state Nandamuri Taraka Rama Rao National Award for his contributions to Indian cinema. In 2016, he was honored with the Indian Film Personality of the Year consisting of a Silver Peacock Medal. He is a recipient of civilian awards such as Padmashri (2001) and Padma Bhushan (2011) from the Government of India.
Early life and background
Balasubrahmanyam was born in Nellore in Madras Presidency (currently Nellore District in Andhra Pradesh). His father was a Harikatha artist who had also acted in plays. His mother is Sakunthalamma. He has two brothers and five sisters, including singer S.P. Sailaja.
Balasubrahmanyam developed an interest towards music at an early age, studied notations and learned music. He enrolled at JNTU College of Engineering Anantapur with the intention of becoming an engineer. He discontinued his studies early, due to typhoid and joined as an Associate Member of the Institution of Engineers, Chennai.
He continued to pursue music during his engineering studies and won awards at singing competitions. In 1964, he won the first prize in a music competition for amateur singers organised by the Madras-based Telugu Cultural Organisation. He was the leader of a light music troupe composed of Anirutta (on the harmonium), Ilaiyaraaja (on guitar and later on harmonium), Baskar (on percussion), and Gangai Amaran (on guitar). He was selected as the best singer in a singing competition which was judged by S. P. Kodandapani and Ghantasala. Often visiting music composers seeking opportunities, his first audition song was "Nilave Ennidam Nerungadhe". It was rendered by veteran playback singer P. B. Srinivas, who used to write and give him multi-lingual verses in Telugu, Tamil, Hindi, Kannada, Malayalam, Sanskrit, English and Urdu.
His mother Sakunthalamma died at the age of 89 on February 4, 2019 in Nellore.
Balasubrahmanyam made his debut as a playback singer on 15 December 1966 with Sri Sri Sri Maryada Ramanna, a Telugu film scored by his mentor, S. P. Kodandapani. The first Non-Telugu song that he recorded just eight days after his debut Telugu song was in Kannada in 1966 for the film Nakkare Ade Swarga, starring Kannada comedy stalwart T. R. Narasimharaju. He recorded his first Tamil song "Athaanodu ippadi irundhu eththanai naalaachu" (duet with LR Eswari) for MSV in the film "Hotel Ramba", a film which unfortunately never got released. There are no surviving copies of this song. Other early songs he sang were duets with PSusheela: "Iyarkai Ennum Illaya Kanni" in the 1969 film Shanti Nilayam, starring Gemini Ganesan, and "Aayiram Nilavae Vaa" for M.G.R in Adimaippenn. His first song with SJanaki was "Pournami Nilavil Pani vizhum Iravil" in Kannippenn. He was then introduced to the Malayalam film industry by G. Devarajan in the film Kadalppalam.
He has the rare distinction of rendering the most songs on a single day by any singer. He has recorded 21 songs in Kannada for the composer Upendra Kumar in Bangalore from 9:00 am to 9:00 pm on 8 February 1981 and 19 songs in Tamil, 16 songs in Hindi in a day which is a notable achievement and a record. He established a prolific career. "There were days when I used to record 15–20 songs, but only for Anand-Milind. And I would take the last flight back to Chennai." In the 1970s, he also worked with M. S. Viswanathan in Tamil movies for actors such as M. G. Ramachandran, Sivaji Ganesan and Gemini Ganesan. He recorded duets with P. Susheela, S. Janaki, Vani Jayaram and L. R. Eswari. Balasubrahmanyam's association with Ilaiyaraaja began even before Ilaiyaraaja came to the cine field. In those days, SPB used to sing in towns and villages all over south India and Ilaiyaraaja, then an unknown harmonium and guitar player accompanied SPB by playing in his concerts.
International recognition: 1980s
Balasubrahmanyam came to international prominence with the 1980 film Sankarabharanam. The film is considered to be one of the best films ever to emerge from the Telugu film industry. Directed by K. Vishwanath, the film's soundtrack was composed by K.V. Mahadevan, and led to an increase in the usage of Karnatak music in Telugu cinema. Not a classically trained singer, he used a "film music" aesthetic in recording the songs. Balasubrahmanyam received his first National Film Award for Best Male Playback Singer for his work. His first work in Hindi films was in the following year, in Ek Duuje Ke Liye (1981), for which he received another National Film Award for Best Male Playback Singer.
Balasubrahmanyam began to record more songs in Tamil, especially for Ilaiyaraaja with S.Janaki, the trio considered to be highly successful in the Tamil film industry from the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s in Telugu films. The songs were based on classical music, such as in Saagara Sangamam (1983), for which both Ilaiayaraaja and S.P.B won National Film Awards, Swathi Muthyam (1986) and Rudraveena (1988) which again won National Awards for Ilaiyaraaja and Balasubrahmanyam.
In 1989, Balasubrahmanyam was the playback singer for Bollywood actor Salman Khan in the blockbuster Maine Pyar Kiya. The soundtrack for the film was very successful and he won a Filmfare Award for Best Male Playback Singer for the song Dil Deewana. For much of the next decade, Balasubrahmanyam continued as the "romantic singing voice" on the soundtracks of Khan's films. Notable among these was Hum Aapke Hain Koun..! which became the highest-grossing Bollywood film of all time Balasubrahmanyam's duet with Lata Mangeshkar, "Didi Tera Devar Deewana", was very popular. This solidified Balasubrahmanyam as one of the biggest playback singers in India. SP Balasubrahmanyam became identified as Salman Khan’s voice in the 90s just like Kishore Kumar became Rajesh Khanna’s voice through the 70s. 
Balasubramanyam's association with Hamsalekha began after the latter's successful venture Premaloka in Kannada. Balasubramanyam sung the most number of songs for Hamsalekha in Kannada. He received his 4th National Film Award for Best Male Playback Singer for the song "Umandu Ghumandu" from the Kannada film Ganayogi Panchakshari Gavayi (1995), which was a Hindustani classical music-based composition by Hamsalekha.
Balasubrahmanyam recorded three songs for A. R. Rahman in his debut film Roja. He had a long-time association with Rahman right from Roja, the latter's debut film. Other popular songs include "July Maadham" from Pudhiya Mugam, which also marked the debut of singer Anupama, "Mannoothu Manthayilae" from Kizhakku Cheemayile, which was a folk number and he almost sang all the songs in the musical love story Duet, and sang "Thanga Thaamarai" from Minsara Kanavu.
In 2013, Balasubrahmanyam recorded the popular title song for Chennai Express – chaniii Chennai Express song, singing for the lead actor Shahrukh Khan, under the music direction of Vishal-Shekhar. He returned to Bollywood music after being away from it for 15 years.
Balasubrahmanyam accidentally became a dubbing artist with Kamal Haasan's film Manmadha Leela, the dubbed Telugu version of Manmadha Leelai. He has also provided voice-overs for various artists, including Kamal Haasan, Rajinikanth, Salman Khan, K. Bhagyaraj, Mohan, Anil Kapoor, Girish Karnad, Gemini Ganesan, Arjun Sarja, Nagesh, Karthik and Raghuvaran in various languages. He was assigned as the default dubbing artist for Kamal Haasan in Telugu-dubbed versions of Tamil films. For the Telugu version of Dasavathaaram, he gave voice to seven characters (including the female character) out of ten characters played by Kamal Haasan. He was awarded the Nandi Award for Best Male Dubbing Artist for the films Annamayya and Sri Sai Mahima. He dubbed for Nandamuri Balakrishna for the Tamil version of the movie Sri Rama Rajyam in 2012. He also dubbed for Ben Kingsley in the Telugu-dubbed version of Gandhi.
Awards and nominations
Television title songs
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Today, S.P. Balasubrahmanyam is celebrating his 67th birthday. He was born on 4 June 1946 into a Brahmin family in Nellore. Balasubrahmanyam started singing from a very young age. After dropping out from an engineering program in JNTU, SPB got his first break in 1966, when he sang for Sri Sri Sri Maryada Ramanna and he has sung over 40,000 songs. The State Government of AP presented the Nandi Award to Balasubrahmanyam 25 times. The Govt. of India honoured him with a Padma Bhushan award in 2011 and also presented him with six National Awards.
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