Legendary singer KJ Yesudas admits he is shattered by the unfortunate demise of veteran singer SP Balasubramanium. “For me, Balu was not just a colleague but my own little brother. I am sure everyone who loves and admires Balu would be feeling the same. His songs and unique character had truly conquered hearts. I cannot even express how much Balu had loved me. I could feel his love when he called me ‘Anna’ (elder brother). Even though we weren’t born in the same womb, I have always felt that we share a special brotherly bond. We had known each other for more than half a century. I can say that our love, care and respect for each other had only increased in all these years,” says Yesudas.
Yesudas notes that SPB was a true wonder in playback singing. Even though SPB wasn’t trained in classical music, he surprised everyone with his mesmerizing rendering of songs in different genres. He was able to give more than what the music composer had imagined in mind. “How can you believe that he wasn’t trained in classical music, hearing his spectacular semi classical songs in the movie Sankarabaranam. I think Balu had all his musical training in his previous life. It indeed was a blessing of God,” Yesudas praises the late singer.
The legendary vocalist says that he had always enjoyed singing with SPB for the movies and on stages as well. He recalls that the late singer had an infectious energy and they supported each other. The song ‘En Kathalee yaar sollava’ from the movie Thankathil Vairam was first one that they had sung together in a movie.
“There wasn’t the track system during those days. We would stand together in front of a mic and sing. My favorite among the songs that we had sung together is ‘Kattukuyilu Manasukkullu’ from Thalapathi. That song reflected the special bond that we shared with each other. Even the audience wanted to hear that song whenever we performed in concerts together. We never got tired singing the beautiful song that was composed by Ilayaraja. We also sang a few more songs in Tamil,” recalls Yesudas.
In Malayalam, the duo sang ‘Swarna meeninte chelotha’ from the movie Sarppam, ‘Manjeva’ from Thusharam and more recently the song ‘Ayyasamy’ from Kinar. They sang in Kinar around 25 years after singing ‘Kattukuyile’. Yesudas recalls that both of them were excited to sing ‘Ayyasamy’ after such a long time. “To be honest, I liked to sing with Balu the most, in stage shows. The fabulous bond that we shared is the reason for that. Moreover, our families too shared the same lovely relationship. I had proudly watched Balu, who hailed from Andhra Pradesh, conquer the Tamil hearts. His unique voice and expressive singing were his greatest strengths. It was solely because of this reason that he could create hits in all major languages,” notes Yesudas.
Yesudas says Balu created magic when the latter had turned to music composing as well. The veteran singer considers the song ‘Agaram ippo sigaram aachu’ composed by SPB in the movie Sigaram as a wonderful gift from him. “It is a beautiful melody that is amazing to sing and listen too. To be honest, it is not very easy rendering that song. However, it is one of my favorite songs. Whenever I sang that song for concerts, Balu too would be on the stage, conducting the orchestra,” says Yesudas.
“Balu made sure that he didn’t hurt anyone. Moreover, he showed great care for the people around him. Once, it was too late when a concert in Paris, in which both of us had performed, got over. We didn’t get any food and I was really hungry. Suddenly, someone knocked on my door and I heard a voice say ‘room service please’. When I opened the door, Balu was standing there with a plate full of hot saadam in his hand. He had changed his voice to amuse me. He had himself prepared the saadam for me. That saadam tasted incredible especially since I was hungry. He was my little brother who knew my hunger and served food for me,” notes the singer.
Yesudas considers it an honor that SPB had seen him as his guru in music. It was because of that Yesudas had accepted when Balu wished to do a ‘paada pooja’ (showing reverence for teacher) at a celebration as Yesudas completed 50 years as a singer. Balu had called this gesture a ‘guru dakshina’ (homage for guru). Last year, Yesudas and SPB performed together in a concert at Singapore and in Hyderabad as well. Chitra too had joined the duo on the stage for these concerts.
“I often told Balu to get trained in classical music. It was my greatest wish to see him perform a classical concert. I had performed classical music in a concert organized by a trust in memory of his father. I had expressed this desire on stage that day. He, however, just stood beside me with folded arms and a smile,” recalls Yesudas.
The senior singer always advised SPB to take care of his health. Yesudas firmly believes that good health is vital for a singer. He regularly contacted the family when he knew that SPB had tested positive for Covid 19. Like everyone else, Yesudas too believed that his beloved Balu would survive the disease and comeback. Even during SPB’s last hours, Yesudas was sitting, miles away in his home in the United States, praying for a miraculous recovery. However, SP Balasubramanium became the greatest loss among the hundreds of losses that the pandemic has gifted.
“Senior citizens aren’t allowed to fly in the United States. I am sad that I couldn’t see my Balu for one last time. But, in a way, it is a good thing that I haven’t seen a motionless Balu. Just like he had been a great singing partner on stage, Balu, with his amazing smile, would always remain in a corner of my heart. Rest in peace, my dear Balu,” concludes Yesudas.