The Story of SPB's First Ever Playback Recording

By - August 17, 2014 - 11:37 AM IST

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It was the month of December 1966. Thursday.

The huge metro Madras was quite peaceful. But the 19 year old Balu was not peaceful at all. He was quite tensed and nervous. He was feeling extremely tensed.

He happened to get a golden opportunity to sing for a film. Thanks to his association with composer S.P.Kodandapani, he got a chance to sing for Padmanabham starrer Sri Sri Sr Maryada Ramanna film. He was supposed to sing the song along with great stalwarts such as P.Suseela, Eelapata Raghuramayya and P.B.Srinivas. The call sheet was given as 2PM and the recording was to be commenced in Vijaya Gardens. The production people told Balu that car would be sent for him to his room by sharp 1PM.

Balu and his friend Murali were there in the room. Balu promptly got ready by 12:30PM itself. He dressed his best by wearing ironed clothes for the memorable occasion.

The clock ticked 1PM..2PM…3PM…and 3:30PM..but the car did not arrive!

Balu started feeling terrified and his heart was racing. He was almost close to tears. He started worrying that something wrong must have happened and the production people must not have liked his singing in rehearsals. His mind started thinking in various ways that the production people must have replaced him with some other singer and it went on and on. Unable to bear this stream of troubled thoughts, Balu told his friend Murali, “Let us go for a film!” and proceeded to change his clothes.

But Balu’s friend Murali was very cool. He said, “No Mani(Balu's nickname)..there must be some mistake!”.

As an answer to that, Balu continued ,”What can we do now, anyway!” in a sad tone.

Vijaya Gardens was quite far from the place where Balu was residing. There were no cell phones those days. Balu did not have a landline in his room either. Even to make a short phone call, they had to request somebody who had a phone in their house. For that also, Balu and his friend did not have the contact number of Vijaya Gardens. Murali said, “ Let us go to Vijaya Gardens and find out”.

Balu and Murali started off to Vijaya Gardens riding bicycles. When they were about to enter the place, they were stopped by the watchman.  He was a malayali and almost shouted on them asking where they were dashing into. Balu was very scared with the reaction but Murali said confidently, “This guy (Showing his friend Balu) is a singer. He has a recording inside. They said they would send a car but it did not happen. We have to go inside.”

But the watchman said sarcastically, “ Is there only recording, or you friend would act as well?”.

Murali said in a polite tone “Sir , why are you saying like that”?”.

The watchman justified his tone saying , “ Many people come over here saying such stories to me every day. Despite being educated, can you guys do like this? Why do you waste my time? Go home and study. I am not going to send you both inside!”. 

Balu was almost in tears listening to this harsh conversation and asked his friend to back off and let us go back.

But Murali did not perturb. He said, “ You keep these two bicycles and this guy also here. I will go inside and get permission from any officials there and bring them here for proof.”

Watchman continued, “Are you planning to go inside by yourself and see the studio with this excuse. Sorry, I am not going to send you in.”

Murali requested, “ Please give me ten minutes time. I will go inside. After that I wouldn’t object whatever you would do!”.

Finally the watchman agreed and Murali raced inside the studio and intimated the production people about the delay. The production manager said, “Oh no! We have been worried about Balu all the while. It is almost time for the recording. We have been wondering where Balu has been!”  and came near the gate to take Balu in.

When Kodandapani saw Balu he got very furious. He started scolding Balu non-stop saying, “What is this Balu? This is your first chance to sing. Don’t you know you have to be here in time? Senior singers were waiting all the while here. Even the 40 musicians are ready! I sent exclusively car for you, and you come one and half hour late?”.

Balu said in an undertone, “Sir, the car did not come at all..”

A surprised Kodandapani said,” What! The driver Gopi started for your place even before 1PM!” . Gopi is none other than Padmanabham’s assistant and his driver as well.

At the precise moment, Gopi arrived saying that as he was on the way to Balu’s room, he met with an accident by hitting an auto. After admitting the injured in hospital , he was delayed!

Knowing what exactly happened, Kodandapani cooled down and rushed Balu inside the recording theatre. Padmanabham blessed Balu and told him that if the song is approved they will keep Balu’s version but if it is not, the song may be replaced by another singer. But he assured that Balu would get paid for the singing. Balu got terrified and was determined to sing his very first  playback song perfectly. Thanks to the long days of rehearsal of the song, Balu could sing with courage.

After waiting with bated breath, Balu’s first ever playback song was approved and the senior singers Suseela, P.B.Srinivas and Raghuramayya congratulated him and gave him compliments that he has a bright future. With a turbulent start for a first playback song, Balu never looked back in his film singing career right from then!

The rest of the story is well known to every Telugu person with Balu becoming one of the most celebrated singers and versatile film personalities in not only Tollywood but also in Indian Film Arena. There can be only one verstaile playback singer like Balu and he still continues to prove it with his memorable renditions.

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