Sripathi Panditaradhyula Balasubrahmanyam ( pronunciation (help·info); born 4 June 1946) is an Indian playback singer, actor, music director, voice actor and film producer. He is sometimes referred to as S. P. B. or Balu. He won the National Film Award for Best Male Playback Singer six times and the Nandi Awards 25 times from Government of Andhra Pradesh.
He has sung over 40,000 songs in various Indian languages. He is the only playback singer in India to have won National Film Awards across four languages. He has also won a Filmfare Award, three Filmfare Awards South and numerous state awards from Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. He is a recipient of civilian awards such as Padmashri (2001) and Padma Bhushan (2011) from the government of India.
Balasubrahmanyam was born to S. P. Sambamurthy in Konetammapeta of Madras Presidency, present day Chittoor district in Andhra Pradesh. Balasubrahmanyam's father was a Harikatha artist who had also acted in plays. He has two brothers and five sisters. He is the elder brother of singer S.P. Sailaja. He is married to Savitri and has two children, Pallavi and S. P. B. Charan who is a playback singer and film producer as well.
Balasubrahmanyam developed an interest towards music at an early age, studied notations and learned to play instruments such as the harmonium and flute on his own while listening to his father. His father wanted him to become an engineer, which brought him to Anantapur, where he enrolled for the Engineering course at JNTU College of Engineering Anantapur. Later he discontinued the course due to typhoid, and then joined as an Associate Member of the Institution of Engineers, Chennai. Meanwhile, he also pursued his hobby and won awards at many singing competitions. In 1964, he won the first prize in a music competition for amateur singers organised by the Madras-based Telugu Cultural Organisation, and earned his first opportunity from music director S. P. Kodandapani.
After dropping out of engineering, Balasubrahmayam used to regularly visit music composers seeking for opportunities to sing. The first song that he sang for an audition was, "Nilave Ennidam Nerungadhe", a melody rendered by veteran playback singer P. B. Srinivas. It was P. B. Srinivas who used to write and give him some multi-lingual verses in Telugu, Tamil, Hindi, Kannada, Malayalam, Sanskrit, English and Urdu.
Balasubrahmanyam has sung more than 40,000 songs in different Indian languages.
Before becoming a cinema singer, Balasubrahmanyam 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). 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. He was selected as the best singer in a singing competition which was judged by S. P. Kodandapani and the legendary singer Ghantasala.
He recorded his first Tamil song in the 1969 film Shanthi Nilaiyam starring Gemini Ganesan and the song is " Eyarkai ennum illaya kanni". He sang "Aayiram Nilavae Vaa" for M.G.R in the Tamil film Aadimai Pennwhich released first before Shanthi nilayam could release. He was introduced to Malayalam film industry by G.Devarajan in the film Kadalppalam in 1969 he sang "Ee Kadalum Marukadalum"
He received his first National Film Award for Best Male Playback Singer in 1980 for the Telugu film Shankarabharanam, a film directed by K. Vishwanath. In 1976, he recorded up to 23 songs, including 15 duets with P. Susheela in a single day. For Kannada composer Upendra Kumar, Balasubrahmanyam recorded 16 songs in just 6 hours. Again for Ram Laxman, he recorded six songs in 4 hours in Mumbai. Between three recording theatres in Mumbai, he sang 17 songs in a day for Anand-Milind.
He is the first recipient of the "Ghantasala National Award" named after the famous and legendary singer Ghantasala Venkateswara Rao, and whom Balasubrahmanyam admires a lot. He has often referred to himself as "Ekalavya Sishya" (untutored disciple) of Ghantasala
Balasubrahmanyam's first break in Hindi films was Ek Duje Ke Liye (1981), for which he received the National Film Award for Best Male Playback Singer. He was playback singer for Bollywood actor Salman Khan in most of his movies from 1989 to 1995. For example, in movies like Hum Aapke Hain Koun..! and Andaz Apna Apna, all songs pictured on Salman Khan are sung by him. They were very well received and remembered even to this day due to his voice's apt setting with Salman Khan.
In the 1990s he worked with composers like Vidyasagar, M. M. Keeravani, S. A. Rajkumar, but his association with A.R.Rahman turned out be a major success.
The song "Umandu Ghumandu" from the Kannada film Ganayogi Panchakshari Gavayi (1995) was based on Hindustani classical music, for which he received his 4th National Film Award for Best Male Playback Singer.
M. S. Viswanathan used S.P.B's voice in the 1970s various Tamil movies. Under his composition S.P.B got opportunities to sing for senior actors like M. G. Ramachandran, Sivaji Ganesan and Gemini Ganesan during this period. SPB recorder numerous duet numbers with P. Susheela, Vani Jayaram and L. R. Eswari.
Balasubrahmanyam recorded many songs with K. V. Mahadevan throughout the 1970s, mostly in Telugu. The duo worked in a film called Shankarabharanam in 1979 which was based on carnatic music. He got his first National Film Award through this film.
Balasubrahmanyam's association with Ilaiyaraaja began in the late 1970s when the latter made his cinematic debut. Balasubrahmanyam began to record more songs in Tamil especially for Ilaiyaraaja. The Ilaiyaraaja-S.P.B-S. Janaki trio was considered to be highly successful in the Tamil film industry from the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s. The trio went on to work in Telugu films based on classical music like Saagara Sangamam (1983), for which both Ilaiayaraaja and S.P.B won National Film Awards, Swathi Muthyam (1986) and Rudraveena (1988) which again fetched National Awards for Ilaiyaraaja and S.P.B
Balasubramanyam's association with Hamsalekha began after the latter's successful venture premalokha in Kannada. Balasubramanyam sung most number of songs for Hamsalekha in Kannada. He also got National Award for the song 'Umandu Gumundu' of the movie Ganayogi Pachakshari Gavayi composed 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 songs in the musical love story Duet and "Thanga Thaamarai" from Minsara Kanavu which fetched his sixth and latest of his National Film Award for Best Male Playback Singer till date.
He has sung thousands of songs in Kannada for all the actors and stars of the industry, mainly for Vishnuvardhan.
In an interview to Deccan Herald news paper on August 27th 2001, SPB said, "The love and affection shown to him by people of Karnataka was unparalleled, which no other state had given him since the last 35-years as a film playback singer". This was when he received the annual ‘Sangeeta Ganga’ award for his contribution to Kannada music. He also said that, the award presented to him was more prestigious than several other awards given to him.
In the musical show that he hosts in ETV Kannada called ‘Ede Thumbi Haduvenu’, he said "People of Karnataka have forgotten that I am from other state and have accepted me as a Kannadiga. They have made me a part and parcel of Karnataka and I am overwhelmed by their love towards me. I have always told the public and the press of all languages that the love Kannadigas can give no others can give and that's motherly love. This is something extra-ordinary. I am scared too because people will not be able to take it if a very small mistake happens from a person they love. For the love they have given me, I have to go to each one’s house in Karnataka, wash their feet with water and sprinkle it on my head. If god gives me another Janma (Life), I want to be born in Karnataka as a Kannadiga and I proudly say it. Tomorrow the press and media may say, I am from Andhra and I have sung songs in Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam, Hindi and many other languages, but why such a statement. But that is the kind of love Kannadigas have showered on me". In another episode of the show he said, "In any state or Language, I have seen people’s behavior changing a lot once they taste success, but in Karnataka, whether it is Vishnu (Dr.Vishnuvardhan), Raj (Dr.Rajkumar), Ambi (Dr.Ambareesh), Srinath or any actor for that matter, there is not a single change in them despite the heights they have reached till date. They are all still like children and our friendship remains the same. These gentlemen of Karnataka have never forgotten their past. I haven’t been respected in such a way in any other language in India".
He mentioned in a function that he was a 'Sevaka' (a servant) of all the Kannadigas. He said that the second song he recorded in his career was in Kannada, while the first was in Telugu, but both in the same year. "I don't know why I have become the Servant of Kannadigas. I have been singing from decades in all other languages and in all other states, but the kind of love, affection and respect Karnataka and Kannadigas have given me, no other state or people could give. Though I have sung in all the languages, the place given to the Kannadigas in my heart can never be given to any one else".
He started singing for Vishnu from the film Naagarahaavu (his first film as a full fledged hero) in 1972 and their very first song 'Haavina Dwesha Hanneradu Varusha' composed by Vijaya Bhaskar and written by Vijaya Narasimha. From then he has sung thousands of songs for the actor. He has sung numerous songs for Vishnu and his love for the actor continued when SPB marked his first Kannada film as a Music Director and composed all songs for Vishnuvardhan's film Sowbhagyalakshmi directed by Bhargava. In every film of the late actor, he had to sing couple of songs and Vishnu would insist. S.P.B sung 5 songs in the actor's last Kannada film Aaptharakshaka and won the best play back singer Film Fare Award South for the song 'Gharane Ghara Gharane'. When he went to receive the award, he said "This award belongs to Vishnu. I sang for him from his first film till the last film. This shows our friendship. It is his award". After the demise of the actor, SP Balasubrahmanyam, who has sung most of the songs for the late actor, paid tribute to him in a musical night in Bangalore. In the concert he emotionally said, "Vishnu was a lovely friend of mine. Though I stopped celebrating my birthday, he never missed any of my birthdays. But when I used to celebrate, I haven’t celebrated a single birthday in Vishnu’s absence. I used to sing and he used to dance. He always used to tell me, you keep coming to Bangalore so many times and it’s been ages since you came home.’ He never liked me staying in a hotel. He always used to complain and ask me, ‘don’t you have one minute’s time to come home’. I didn’t find time, but he found it, to depart. It was too early for him to leave all of us. I don’t know why he took such a decision. This can never be digested. Great people like this friend of mine shouldn’t have left us. We are really unfortunate to have lost him. I cannot talk more, I feel like crying."
As an actor he played in films like Muddina Mava, Hethare Hennanne Herabeku, Mangalyam Thanthunana, Pakkinti Ammayi, Parvathaalu Paanakalu, Pelli Varamandi, Kalyanathasava, Malle Pandiri, Raja Hamsa, Keladi Kanmani, Minsara Kanavu, Manathil Uruthi Vendum, Thiruda Thiruda, Kanmani, Sigaram, Maya, Avvai Shanmugi, Ratchagan, Nandhini, Kadhalan, Prema Maha Yedabidargi, Maya Bazaar. He received the Nandi Award for Best Supporting Actor for the Telugu movie Pavithra Bandham (1996) from the Government of Andhra Pradesh. Recently he worked in a telugu film called Mithunam directed by Tanikella Bharani. Mithunam got a critical acclaim from various people
He has composed music for around 40 films and albums like Seethamma Pelli, Bharyamani, Sandarbha, Bangaru Chilaka, Mayuri, Ramanna Shyamanna, Ksherasaagara, Devaralle Dane, Belliyappa Bangarappa beside few films like Muddina Maava, Sigaram, Unnai Charanadaithaen, Padamati Sandhya Ragam in Telugu, Hindi Tamil and Kannada languages. He also owns a production company called Kodandapani Film Circuits (now Captain cine creations) and produces film under this banner. Films like Subha Sankalpam, Bhamane Satya Bhamane were produced by him.
He began a Tamil serial with actress Lakshmi called En Jannal Vandha directed by K. Balachander. He hosts many music shows in Telugu television including Paadutha Theeyaga on E-TV, Paadalani Undi on MAA TV, a very popular Kannada show called Ede Thumbi Haaduvenu on E-TV Kannada, and the Tamil shows Ennodu Paattu Paadungal on Jaya TV and Vaanampaadi on Kalaignar TV. He also anchors a music show called Sunada Vinodini on TTD Channel. He is a judge on ETV Telugu's Paduta Teeyaga. This is a semi-classical music competition airing on Monday evenings.
Balasubrahmanyam accidentally became a dubbing artist with Kamal Hassan's film Manmadha Leela, the dubbed 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 Hassan in Telugu dubbed versions of Tamil films and vice versa. For the Telugu version of Dasavathaaram he gave voice to 7 characters (including the female character) out of 10 characters played by Kamal Hassan. He was awarded Best Dubbing Artist for the films Annamayya and Sri Sai Mahima.