Politicians, actors and voices across the spectrum on Friday expressed their grief after legendary playback singer SP Balasubrahmanyam died at a private hospital in Chennai. He was 74.
Balasubrahmanyam, who recorded over 40,000 songs, was hospitalised at MGM Healthcare in August after he tested positive for the coronavirus. He tested negative on September 4, but he was put on ventilator support after his condition deteriorated. He died after suffering a cardio-respiratory arrest at 1.04 pm on Friday, the hospital said.
The singer has won six National Film Awards, and received the Padma Shri in 2001 and the Padma Bhushan in 2011.
Music composer AR Rahman, for whom Balasubrahmanyam had sung several songs, said he was devastated. Singers Lata Mangeshkar and Chinmayi Sripada also mourned his death. “Thank you for showing that a singer can be a fantastic singer, act, voice act, produce, compose and more,” Sripada wrote. “You lived and how! Your art will live for aeons and I’ll always celebrate you.”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said “our cultural world is a lot poorer today” after Balasubrahmanyam’s death. “A household name across India, his melodious voice and music enthralled audiences for decades,” the prime minister tweeted. “In this hour of grief, my thoughts are with his family and admirers.”
Union Home Minister Amit Shah was among several other political leaders who paid his tributes to the singer and music director. “Deeply saddened by the passing away of legendary musician and playback singer Padma Bhushan, SP Balasubrahmanyam ji,” he tweeted. “He will forever remain in our memories through his melodious voice and unparalleled music compositions. My condolences are with his family and followers.”
Vice President Venkaiah Naidu expressed his shock at Balasubrahmanyam’s death. “He leaves a void in the world of music that is virtually impossible to fill,” Naidu said. “His mellifluous voice, passionate love for languages and literature and genial humour have left an indelible impact on millions of admirers, including me. It is a personal tragedy for me as we both belong to Nellore. My heartfelt condolences to his family.”
Balasubrahmanyam was the voice-over artist for actor Kamal Hassan, whenever the latter’s Tamil movies were dubbed in Telugu. After his death, Hassan wrote that the singer will live on for generations.
Former Prime Minister and Janata Dal (Secular) chief HD Deve Gowda also condoled the singer’s death. “I am severely pained by the sad demise of renowned singer SP Balasubrahmanyam,” he said. “Reaching the pinnacle of music in Kannada, Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam and Hindi is an unassailable achievement. This is a great loss to our nation, especially to the field of music.”
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said Balasubrahmanyam’s “golden voice” will be remembered for generations. “Condolences to his family, many admirers and colleagues in the music industry,” she tweeted.
Five-time world chess champion Viswanathan Anand remembered his meeting with the legendary singer. “Really sad to hear about the passing away of such a great yet simple person,” he tweeted. “He was my first sponsor. He sponsored our team Chennai Colts in the national team championship in 1983. One of the nicest persons I have met. His music gave us such joy.”
Balasubrahmanyam’s legacy spans several decades, film industries and languages. He is associated with some of the most iconic film songs in his native tongue Telugu, Tamil, Hindi, Malayalam, Kannada and Hindi. Born Sripathi Panditaradhyula Balasubrahmanyam on June 4, 1946, in Nellore, he trained as an engineer but pursued his interest in singing throughout college. Popularly known as SPB, he sang his first film song for the Telugu movie Sri Sri Sri Maryada Ramanna in 1996.
Over the years, he became one of southern cinema’s busiest playback singers. He performed with some of the most well-known music composers in the business, including MS Viswanathan, Ilaiyaraaja, KV Mahadevan, Hamsalekha and AR Rahman. In 1981, he sang in a Hindi film for the first time, for K Balachander’s Ek Duje Ke Liye. Scored by Laxmikant-Pyarelal, Ek Duje Ke Liye resulted in further assignments for Balasubrahmanyam in Hindi films later, including, notably, films starring Salman Khan in the late 1980s and the 1990s.
Balasubrahmanyam was also an actor, dubbing artist and music composers. He appeared in roles in Manathil Uruthi Vendum (1987), Keladi Kanmani (1990), Sigaram (1990), Thiruda Thiruda (1993), Kadhalan (1994) and Kadhal Desam (1996).