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  • Birth NameSripathi Panditaradhyula Balasubrahmanyam
  • Date of birth Jun 4th, 1946
  • Birth Place Konetammapeta
  • Occupation Singer

"Chala mandhi paaduthunnaru Balu, kanee manasu tho paadagaligedhi nuvvokkadive - S Janaki"

Did You
know

SP Balu has sung over 40000 songs in various India languages.

Overview

There are many singers who graced the Telugu Film industry right from its inception. But only few legendary singers made a real mark on it, by growing close to the listener with their expressive voice and taking the listener along with them into the song’s situation. One such greatest singer Telugu Cinema is always proud to have is none other than Padmbhushan S.P.Balasubrahmaniam (Commonly referred to as Balu). He is one of those singers, despite having no formal training in any form of music, who could win over million hearts of Telugu people with his melodious and enchanting voice.  His talent was not confined to playback singing alone, but expanded phenomenally in other spheres of film making such as Composing, Acting, Dubbing, TV Host and so on!

Personal Life:
Born in Konetammapeta, current day Chittoor district of Andhra Pradesh to S.P.Sambamurthy, Balu developed an early interest in Music by listening to his father and trying out writing notations too. His father incidentally is a harikatha artist , yet wanted Balu to become an Engineer. On his father’s wish , Balu joined Engineering at JNTU Ananthapur but pursued singing as a hobby simultaneously, earning much deserving appreciation at a young age.  Balu happened to earn first prize in a competition hosted by Madras Telugu Association which brought him close to the popular composer of that age- S.P.Kodandapani.

Balu later married Savithri, and the couple has two kids namely S.P.Charan and Pallavi. It is interesting to see that both his children inherited his singing talent and have some really good songs in their respective singing careers - though it were short lived. His sister S.P. Sailaja is a popular singer, dubbing artist and best remembered for her role in K.Vishwanath’s Sagara Sangamam.

Career:
After making an entry to Tamil film music overcoming many obstacles, Balu was a leader of a music troupe which included Maestro Ilaiyaraaja in guitar. His association with the Maestro still continues even now, and they share a wonderful friendship off the musical world as well. Coming to his playback singing career, the year 1966 was a great turning point for Balu as well as South Indian Cinema.

His first Telugu song came in a Padmanabham starrer Sri Sri Sri Maryada Ramanna during the year 1966. Right from then, in the midst of greatest singers like Ghantasala and A.M.Raja, SPB started being noticed by Telugu Audience. 

Balu was just 20years old when he recorded his first song.  His voice was still in evolving stage then. Though he earned a good name that he is singing well, opportunities were less. There was tough competition from senior singers such as Ghantasala and P.B.Srinivas as well. Hence, Balu had to wait for some time to get a much needed break.

After Kodandapani, it was K.V.Mahadevan who encouraged Balu a lot. His first solo was in K.V.Mahadevan’s music direction. Balu rose to prominence with this support and was singing for films like Private Master, Bangaru Picchuka, Ekaveera, Undamma Bottu Pedatha and so on. Between 1972-73, Balu started becoming a busy playback singer. He frequently used to sing for heroes like Sobhan Babu, Krishna and Chalam then.

When Ghantasala era was slowly fading away, Balu was picking up his shortcomings in the way he sings. He started improving his expression, diction, and style of singing tremendously during the 70s. M.S.Vishwanathan played a pivotal role transforming Balu as a singer with expressive voice. Balu has a unique quality of singing in a way which would pretty much suit the actor and his onscreen acting and he used this to a great advantage.  Some of the songs sung by Balu for NTR such as “Aresukoboyi” in Adavi Ramudu resembles NTR so much- just in the voice!

K.Vishwanath’s Shankarabharanam was a milestone for Balu’s playback singing career. Being a singer who is not well versed with Carnatic Music, Balu was very doubtful about how far he could pull it off. Moreover, the character Shankara Sastry was an elderly person and Balu had to sing with a modulated voice- without losing the Carnatic Technicalities. With the help of great composer K.V.Mahadevan  and his assistant Pughazendhi, Balu took it as a challenge and not only excelled in his singing but enthralled the South Indian Audience of that age. Till that time Telugu Cinema considered only Ghantasala as the greatest singer ever- started finding Balu as a new ray of hope for playback singing.  Needless to say, Balu won his first ever national award for his memorable singing in Shankarabharanam (1980).

Balu was the first choice for any music director, or the actor who did a lead role in films right from then. He even sang the popular hit “Erakkaboyi Vacchanu” for ANR- with such perfection of expressions that Telugu Audience was amazed by his skills. In short, Balu monopolized the playback singing in South India- Right from Tamil, Telugu and Kannada- and sang every language with the much needed indigenous touch.  Not just AP, even people of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka started treating him as their own for the amazing quality of Balu to bring any song to life.
Balu has been singing for all popular heroes right from the 80s- such as Chiranjeevi, Nagarjuna, Balakrishna,Venkatesh and the list is endless! He covered a staggering range of songs which had duets, solos, devotional, love, estrangement, sadness, sentiment, comedy, dance, western, classical and so on. The best thing is- whenever he takes up one style of singing, he does complete justice to it.  Singing expressively and diction in Telugu has always been the best strong points for Balu’s playback career. He sang beside greatest female singers of Telugu Cinema ranging from Jikki, P.Suseela ,S.Janaki, Chitra and still continues to sing beside young upcoming singers such as Usha, Malavika and so on. The wonderful rapport he maintains outside his profession is another asset Balu has.

Balu’s multifaceted talent was evident when he ventured out to Composing as well during late 70s. His films with Bapu such as Toorpu Velle Railu and Jockey have some wonderful songs. Being very fond of lyricist Veturi, Balu has a golden association with him through many wonderful songs- both as music composer as well singer!  Balu and Jandhyala’s combination also was also memorable - thanks to films like Padamati Sandhya Ragam, Vivaha Bhojanambu and so on.

Balu adorned the silver screen as an actor as well. Beginning with the role a musical police officer in Jandhyala’s Vivaha Bhojanambu, Balu had some memorable roles in his acting career too. One cannot forget his acting in films like Oh Papa Laali, Kallu, Prema, Pavithra Bandham, Premikudu and so on.  He made a mark as a wonderful actor with his unique histrionics and doing justice to every sort of role he did-ranging from Comedy to Sentiment. He continues to mesmerize the audience with memorable performance as Appadas in recent Mithunam (2012) directed by ace writer Tanikella Bharani.

Balu is one fantastic dubbing artist who dubbed for many Tamil films starring great actors like Kamal Hassan and Rajanikanth. Telugu Audience could enjoy these dubbing films so much just because of his indigenous touch in voice- especially for Dasavatharam (2008) which had 10 different characters for Kamal, which had Balu dub for most of them. Each character is disjoint from another and he did a phenomenal job in dubbing for all of them. He even dubbed as an elderly lady for Kamal Hassan’s Bhamane Satyabhamane (Avvai Shanmugi). Some of the fantastic films starring Kamal Hassan for which SPB dubbed were: Michael Madana Kama Raju, Vichitra Sodarulu, Bharateeyudu, Panchathanthram and so on.  His dubbing for Lord Venkateshwara Swamy’s role in Annamayya fetched him Nandi Award as well.

During the recording of Sri Manjunatha in Telugu, Balu was singing the song “Ee Paadam” and S.Janaki was hearing the song in the studio. When SPB came out after recording, S.Janaki was in tears. She said, “Chala mandhi paaduthunnaru Balu, kanee manasu tho paadagaligedhi nuvvokkadive!” (There are countless singers who can sing. But you are the only one who can sing with heart!).

This one statement is enough to say the versatility and the mesmerizing skill SPB has – to grasp a listener’s attention towards his song!

Interesting Facts:
  • Balu is known to be quite jovial and more like a child in real life. His unfaltering smile off the profession itself is a great example for this!
  • For one particular song in Kamal Hassan starrer Indrudu Chandrudu, Balu had to sing in a voice which resembles Mayor Character in the film. The song was “Nacchina Foddu”. When Kamal Hassan’s wife Sarika heard it after recording, she thought it was Kamal himself who sang for it! But when she realized that it was Balu, she was so happy and delighted that she congratulated Balu’s great work with a boquet the next day!
  • Balu and Janaki share some wonderful songs together from many music directors such as K.V.Mahadevan, MSV, Ilaiyaraaja, Raj-Koti and so on. Many of the expressions or the add-ons which the final song has are not prepared beforehand. They do this right at the time of recording spontaneously and they complement each other wonderfully well!
  • Balu’s singing tenure with Chitra began differently. Chitra, who hails from Kerala was not familiar with Telugu initially. It was Balu who used to help her out in pronunciation, diction, expressions and so on during the recordings. The rest is history. We all know how many wonderful duets came from Balu-Chitra combination!
  • During the song recording for Geethanjali, Balu developed severe throat pain. He had to struggle a lot singing for each song then. After leaving to US for throat operation, Balu thought he may not sing again in his life. But just like a phoenix, Balu came back with flying colours and sang more and more amazing songs from then!
  • Balu proved himself to be a producer with taste by making a first Science Fiction film in Telugu- Aditya 369.
  • During Padutha Teeyaga first series finals, Balamurali Krishna was the judge. The great carnatic exponent said, “Balu can become a Balamurali Krishna anytime. But Balamurali Krishna can never become a Balu!”. This statement is enough to explain the incredible talent and respect Balu has in Music arena!
  • Balu even hosts a popular singing show “Padutha Teeyaga” in ETV which began in 1996- in search for aspiring young singing talent. The show became highly popular and even brought many good young singers to Telugu Cinema such as Usha, Mallikarjun, Gopika Poornima, Nitya Santhoshini.
  • A lover of Telugu language, Balu is very particular about diction. Even when any singer makes a mistake on stage or in his own show Padutha Teeyaga, he never hesitates to correct it.
  • Balu earned amazing respect in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala as well with his brilliant diction in Tamil, Kannada and Malayalam respectively. Every south Indian state treats Balu as their own – thanks to his incredible style of singing which suits the indigenous tastes!
  • First composer ever to record a Telugu Film song abroad. The song was Pibare Ramarasam for Jandhyala’s Padamati Sandhya Ragam. Infact, it was Balu who suggested the title for the movie. He also advised Jandhyala to cast drummer Sivamani for a lead role in the film.
  • Takes special care in singing songs with carnatic style. He learns the technicalities and the raga details to do better justice to the song. That is why songs in Shankarabharanam or Sri Tumbura Naarada(Bhairava Dweepam) became carnatic jewels in Balu’s career.
  • A great orator and a wonderful host, every Telugu person- let it be a music lover or not, Love to hear Balu speak. He is quite friendly and relaxed on stage while singing, by constantly making jokes and thereby making singers ease up!
  • Balu shares a special friendship with lyricist Athreya. The latter was so fond of Balu that, whenever they met he used to ask Balu to sing his most favourite song “Nenoka Prema Pipasini”. Incidentally, it was Balu who sang Athreya’s last penned song “Priyathama Naa Hrudayma” from Prema.
  • Balu’s singing career began in Hindi as well with Ek Duuje Ke Liye, a remake of Balachander’s Maro Charitra. When Lakshmikanth-Pyarelal, the composers for the film objected that Balu’s diction may not suit for Hindi, Balachander intervened and said that as the lead character hails from the South, Balu is perfect for the song.
  • Bollywood hero Salman Khan used to insist the composers that he would want Balu to sing for his films. That was when Balu sang many songs in Hindi for films like Maine Pyaar Kiya, Saajan , Hum Aapke Hain Koun and so on.
  • Balu is very fond of the old melodies sung by P.Suseela. He was so fond of the song “Paala Kadali Pai” from Chenchu Lakshmi that he used to sing that song frequently in music competitions. The reason being: There is a line in the song which reads “Balu ni nanu daya palinchutakai” which Balu used to imagine as himself!
  • SPB is a die-hard fan of legendary singer Mohammad Rafi.

Singing Style:
Balu focuses more on the expression and diction when he sings a particular language song. Pertaining to the style and what the song would want to convey in the film, Balu modulates his voice accordingly. Even if he sings a fast paced song, the melody element in Balu’s singing is one of his remarkable assets. His phenomenal vocal range and superior dynamics help him out to give the best in his songs.


Composing Style:
Balu as a composer makes sure that he gives the Telugu nativity for a film. He even ventured out into fusion genre with Pibare Ramarasam song which features Stevie Wonder’s “I just want to say I love you” piano version in the prelude which launches itself to the carnatic composition Pibare Ramarasam. His orchestration is rich, with various instruments yet used in permissible fashion.


Musical Influences:

  • Mohammad Rafi in singing.
  • S.D.Burman, Shankar Jaikishen, R.D.Burman are some of his favourite composers.


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