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Sunday, July 13, 2008

Being Balasubrahmanyam: The perfectionist

Hi to all SPB fans,

Posting an interview of our guruji “Being Balasubrahmanyam: The perfectionist” was broadcasted yesterday at 10.30 pm to 11 pm on CNN IBN channel.

I am very thankful to Mr. Ashok for his quick sms to me & other fans. So if anybody missed that interview, watch it here..

The Tamil and Telugu moviegoers were familiar with his deep voice and though he had already got a national award in 1979, he became extremely popular because of the songs in the film Ek Duuje Ke Liye in 1981.

Anuradha SenGupta: Let me start by talking about a movie which helped the rest of India discover you. You know which one I am talking about.

SP Balasubrahmanyam: Yes, Ek Duuje Ke Liye.

Anuradha SenGupta: 1981, Ek Duuje Ke Liye.

SP Balasubrahmanyam: Prior to Ek Duuje Ke Liye, I sung in couple of dubbed films from Tamil or Telugu to Hindi. The journey was made but not straight into the nucleus actually. When I was at a concert tour in US, suddenly Prasad ji called me.

He somehow caught hold of my number and called and he said, ‘You have to break your journey in Mumbai Baalu because we are making a film, the Hindi version of a Telugu film in which you have sung’ and he said ‘Mr Balachander wants you to sing in the film. My music directors Lakshmikant Pyarelal want to meet you’ and actually Lakshmi ji was there and he asked me to sing a Hindi song.

Anuradha SenGupta: What did you sing? Do you remember?

SP Balasubrahmanyam: I sang their number only from Dosti, Jaane walon zara, mud ke dekho mujhe.... That was a comfortable number, which I was used to doing on stages prior to my entry into the films. Then he asked me to sing another number, I sang the title number from Mere Mehboob. He was not very convinced. He said he would get back to me. That is exactly what he said. I too was very apprehensive. I did not even dream of it, so even if it fizzled, I would not feel too bad about it.

Then I went back and Balachander was adamant that I should sing in his film. Even if there is a problem in my pronunciation, he said the character himself is a Tamil person in the film. He said it should not be a problem at all. Since then, I have sung in many films and no one has found fault even in my pronunciation. So, that was my entry into the Hindi film music.

Anuradha SenGupta: You have won six National awards and one of it was for the film Ek Duuje Ke Liye.

SP Balasubrahmanyam: Yes, Tere mere beech mein...

Anuradha SenGupta: Yes, but can I tell you the song that I still remember and love, was picturised on Kamal Hassan and Rati Agnihotri in the lift.

SP Balasubrahmanyam: Mere Jeevan saathi…! That song was fun. We had a very nice time and moreover those days, there was live recording with the orchestra and even the musicians felt so nice while recording it.

Anuradha SenGupta: It is an energy which in itself gives you a high. Isn’t it?

SP Balasubrahmanyam: Even in a cubicle, through a glass, if you look at the musicians, and you give your feedback, it is an amazing feeling.

Anuradha SenGupta: It is the feeling of the feedback that is coming instantly from everyone around.

SP Balasubrahmanyam: You get so much of energy. That is what we are losing now. For a beginner, when you start your career, it is very important to have the presence of senior singers, co-singers, musicians etc. There are lots of corrections and improvisations to be made and by the presence of these people, you feel you have some support. That is missing now. Most of the times, these days, we don’t even have the music directors present in the recording studios. Now, everything is so fixed and stipulated. These are small compromises one has to make, but at the same time, there are some advantages also. You save a lot of time.

Anuradha SenGupta: You can do more work.

SP Balasubrahmanyam: You don’t have to strain yourself. When there is an advantage, there is always a disadvantage following it. All said and done, we have to move with time.

In 1989, SP Balasubrahmanyam sang for Salman Khan in Maine Pyaar Kiya and the hit connection was made endearing him even further to Hindi movie goers.

SP Balasubrahmanyam: When it happens, it happens! They thought they needed a voice that was not too heard of in Hindi. Though I was quite popular before Maine Pyaar Kiya, my voice was heard, but not overheard yet. All the songs made a lot of difference and then came Hum Aapke Hain Kaun and the other subsequent films. The best thing is that the music should become a hit, only then a voice will be heard. And the combination here became successful. Even out of Rajshri films, the other film, the song, Dekha Hai Pehli Baar... from the film Saajan became a hit. It was pure luck. There are no reasons for certain things. I feel that things just happen. Like my becoming a singer!

Anuradha SenGupta: Yes, we lost an engineer to get a singer. Isn’t it?

SP Balasubrahmanyam: My dream was to become an engineer.

Anuradha SenGupta: Did you complete studying engineering?

SP Balasubrahmanyam: No, one more year is left.

Anuradha SenGupta: Just gave it up.

SP Balasubrahmanyam: For three years, I did both studying and singing but it was very difficult. Then I had to take a decision. I thought that if it does not work well in music, I could go back and finish my engineering. But with singing, I may not get a chance again. I might get late. So, the industry never allowed me to go back and study.

SP Balasubrahmanyam holds a record for recording most number of songs. He is amused with the fact how people keep inflating the number from around 36, 000 that he says it is, to 39,000 and even 50,000. Though he is not working towards any records, he says that the numbers do mean something.

SP Balasubrahmanyam: Even at the age of 62, even after 42 years of singing, I everyday record at least two songs, unless I feel lethargic. That means that I am still in the race. And I am still able to give what my music directors are asking for. That feeling gives you satisfaction. It is not the numbers but the fact that I am able to shell out what my directors’ want. I think even at 62, I am very comfortable in going out and doing shows and singing.

Anuradha SenGupta: Shivaji was the big hit. Balle Lakka, the Rajini introduction song as they call it. You did that. But are you now consciously doing less work?

SP Balasubrahmanyam: No, not at all. Usually if you ask a celebrity whose numbers come down, they say, ‘I am very selective and choosy. I am doing so many shows’ and so on. However, let me not talk like that. It is a natural process. After four decades, we have seen two generations of singers and actors who have come up.

They have caught the attention of the audience and filmmakers. But I am still shoulder-to-shoulder with them. But with time, the number of songs does come down. Thee only way I can say I have cut down, is because I am a little conscious of the content of the songs now. I know I am doing my job for a commercial purpose, but there should be a level below which I should not go.

Anuradha SenGupta: On an average, over 700 songs a year, I am guessing that everyone wanted a bit of SP Balasubrahmanyam. So, why did he say yes to them? Is it because he wanted to make hay while the sun shines or is it because it becomes difficult to say a no.

SP Balasubrahmanyam: The second one is right. Till today my younger brother Kamal Hassan tells me that I should learn to say no. I have not sung songs to make a record. It just happened. The 19 songs day recording was with a senior colleague Sushila ji. We were going to US for a concert in 1977. We were literally the only two singers who were known there at that time. So, on the last day before leaving, we started at 8 30 in the morning and ended at about 1 30 in the early hours, with one hour lunch break.

Anuradha SenGupta: How does an artist cope up with this?

SP Balasubrahmanyam: Creativity was not the question because they were simple songs. I was 46 then and the energy levels were very high. I still enjoy what I do. I don’t do what I don’t enjoy. I want to tell my viewers and friends that they should not get carried away with this 36,000 songs record. I just count on how many good numbers I have sung. Whenever I listen to my songs, I carefully listen to how many mistakes I have made. Everyone says that I have become senile and that I calculate everything. Even if there is a little mistake in some note, one tends to feel the world has come to an end. I also know that no body is perfect. Even the best singers tend to go wrong at times. But as much as humanly possible, I want to be perfect.

SP Balasubrahmanyam: Everyone thinks that I am Tamil. But I am actually from Andhra.

Anuradha SenGupta: You have to prove that by singing a couple of lines from a Telugu song.

SP Balasubrahmanyam: Sankarabharanam is good enough to prove that.

Anuradha SenGupta: It is classical music and you are not a trained classical singer.

SP Balasubrahmanyam: Until Sankarabharanam people used to greet me by saying, ‘Hi Baalu’, but after that they greeted me with joined hands and said ‘Hello Baalu’.

Besides singing SP Balasubrahmanyam is an actor, composer, TV host and a dubbing artist. His output is as prolific as it is varied.

Anuradha SenGupta: I heard you said somewhere that every singer is an actor. Singing in front of the microphone is acting. But unlike every singer, though there have been some notable singers who have acted, you are also an actor. Why did you act in Mohammed-Bin-Tughlaq?

SP Balasubrahmanyam: First tell me how much homework have you done for this interview. From where did you get these lines? I appreciate your work. Anyway, from my younger days I have been acting in school days. It just happened when I started my Telugu film career. The second year after my entry, there was a film where a famous singer has to come and sing a song for an occasion in the film. I was young. I was 21 at that time. I was quite handsome at that time. They thought that I should enact the song sung by me by me. It was the first time that I faced a camera. Couple of my friends who became directors, they knew that there is a lively person in me who could act. So, I started doing some cameos. Then they became bigger roles. But I was very conscious while I was doing these roles. I wanted to fit the role that I did. I got a couple of awards that time for my acting.

Anuradha SenGupta: I saw you dance with Prabhu Deva in a film. You have done it all. Isn’t it?

SP Balasubrahmanyam: I never thought that I would be dancing in the film. The director and Prabhu Deva were so secretive about it. One day they just told me that I was going to dance that day. I asked if I was dancing with him. He said that what he does while he runs around in the set, I should stay put in one place and do it. Somehow, I did it and I enjoyed it.

Anuradha SenGupta: When you sing for Rajinikanth, or Kamal Hassan, I don’t think you are trying to sound like they are singing. Am I right?

SP Balasubrahmanyam: Most people think that I change my voice for actors that I sing for. But that is not right. You are absolutely correct. The style can be different. I just try to get the vibrancy of actors in my singing. When I sing a romantic number for Kamal, I try to get the style in my singing. I mostly sung for them. It also helped me to dub them properly. Naturally, people suggest that a singer should not do anything more than singing as it affects the vocal chords.

My younger brother screams at me for taking up dubbing and other things. But I get carried away. No other singer has undergone a surgery like the way I underwent because of all this. I had to get a surgery twice on my vocal chords. I miss a lot of things.

I miss my personal life. I did not see my children growing up. It is so sad. I was working like a mad guy. I pity my wife. She was very young when I got married to her. You won’t believe she was 15 and I was 20 when we got married. I did not know at that young age how to manage my work and time and I could not afford to keep a manager at that time. But, now I am giving 200 per cent to my family.

Anuradha SenGupta: You are trying to make up now.

SP Balasubrahmanyam: Now they want me out of the house. They have had too much of me.

Anuradha SenGupta: The sun is setting and as we close, will you sing a few lines for us.

Guruji rendered some lines of Tere Mere Beech Mein..


Anonymous said...

Dear Vikas, so nice of you to have posted these clips. I really enjoyed watching them.Actually speaking, when i sms-ed you i wasn't able to see this show. Our webmaster asked me to sms and hence i did it to many of our group members.I am lucky to have seen this interview. Thanks again...

Sincere regards


zakaas4u said...

Dear Ashok,
Thnx for ur comment. Its my pleasure to share this.