His First Year
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The First Year and the Five Songs



As a child growing up in Nellore, the most exciting day that he remembers is the day when the family acquired a prized possession- a Philips radio, bought for Rs. 265, and that too payable in easy installments! Today his songs are aired throughout the day in most South Indian Radio Stations. The years have flown by, and the small boy who was drawn to music listening to his father’s Harikatha discourses has evolved into an unparalleled music icon. Sreepathy Pandiradhyula Balasubramaniam, or simply SPB or Balu as he is more endearingly referred to, is a name that generations have grown up listening to spellbound. For me personally, SPB’s songs that were aired in the late 70s and early 80s comprised my earliest introduction to tfm, and thus began a passion that remains ardent to this day. And its not just me, I cannot remember a single person of my acquaintance who hasn’t, at one time or the other, fallen for the sheer magic of SPB’s voice …

SPB was born on June 4, 1946 in Konnetammapetta near Nellore. He was the second son in a large family; he has two brothers and five sisters. His grandfather knew the nuances of Carnatic music and could sing well. His father S.P.Sambhamoorthi was a revered Harikatha exponent of his time. Though he was not formally trained, Sambhamoorthi’s devotion to music, Sanskrit background, and exhaustive knowledge of the ancient scriptures made his Harikatha discourses an unforgettable experience. He also staged plays based on mythological themes; his ‘Bhaktha Ramadasu’ was always staged to packed houses. As a child, SPB was fascinated by his father’s passionate pursuits, particularly music. He threw a tantrum and coerced his elders into buying him a flute that caught his fancy in the one of the colourful shops that had sprung up during a temple festivity. And practiced playing it with concentrated diligence. He also learned the basics of playing the harmonium and then progressed to playing the ghatam for his father’s discourses.

He started participating in inter-school music competitions, and won many prizes. In one of these events, S.Janaki was the judge. Listening to SPB sing, the clairvoyant chanteuse prophesized that he would become a singer of repute one day, and suggested that he try his hand in playback singing. Little did both of them realize that years hence they would together rule the airwaves as the leading pair of tfm, sharing a rare chemistry that would take their duets to the top of the charts. Sambhamoorthi was naturally overjoyed by his son’s inclination and innate talents, particularly his captivating voice. But prudent, practical considerations made him lay down stern stipulations that SPB should pursue his academic studies with single-minded dedication. Passing out of school, SPB enrolled himself in JNTU College in Anantapur. He had hardly completed his first year there, when a particularly virulent attack of typhoid hastened his return home. After a long, listless recuperation, SPB resumed his studies, this time in Madras, where he took up an AMIE course. And within a few months, his affable, easy going nature and pleasing personality won him a large circle of friends. He couldn’t suppress his passion for long, and soon became a popular figure in college competitions and cultural meets, his performances always eliciting encores and encomiums from the delirious campus crowds.

Then there was this music competition for amateur singers organized by a Telugu Cultural Organization at the Andhra Club at Vijayaraghava Road in T.Nagar. SPB was among the participants, and brought the house down with his fantastic performance. Needless to say, he won the first prize. It turned out to be a momentous day for him in more ways than one, as seated in an unobtrusive corner was Telugu Music Director S.P.Kothandapani. Much impressed by SPB’s performance, Kothandapani walked up to the excited youngster and patting him on the back, urged him to try his luck in film music. He went on to assure SPB that he would call him if he could spy a suitable break. And not stopping with mere words, Kothandapani took SPB around to meet various people connected with the film industry- producers, financiers, directors and even other music directors, recommending SPB with words of high praise.

Another friend who went out his way to help SPB at this juncture was artist Bharani Kumar. Bharani Kumar took SPB to meet Director Sridhar, as Sridhar was known to always be on the lookout for talented newcomers. Even in the midst of a tight shooting schedule, Sridhar took some time off and asked SPB to sing a few lines. The songs of the Hindi film Dosti were greatly popular then, and being a great fan of Rafi, SPB sang the song ‘chaahoonga mein tujhE saanjh savErE’. Sridhar was instantly captivated by the youthful mellifluousness of SPB’s voice and the nonchalant improvisations he brought into his rendition. He sent him to M.S.Viswanathan with words of recommendation. SPB thus had his first meeting with MSV in the Chitralaya office, and sang to the great mellisai mannar (‘nilavE ennidam nerungaathE’, among other songs, if I remember right) A visibly enthralled MSV listened to him, and gave him the happy assurance of a suitable opening in the near future.

But that opening proved elusive for a while. Waiting for a break, SPB continued his studies. He also continued meeting film personalities, presenting his credentials. Among those he met during this period was the redoubtable Bhanumathi. Herself a singer of no mean repute, an impatient Bhanumathi agreed to listen to SPB sing one song. But after the first song, she was so impressed that she sat back and listened to him render song after song. It was no doubt a proud moment for SPB, but all this didn’t translate into tangible gains.

Meanwhile, Kothandapani was quietly continuing his crusade for getting SPB a chance at playback singing. And one of the people who agreed to give SPB a hearing was Telugu comedian Padmanabham. As others before him, Padmanabham too fell for SPB’s charming voice, and gave the usual assurance of helping him get an opportunity. But this time, Kothandapani’s persistent efforts paid off. Padmanabham was producing a film; Kothandapani was composing the music, and Padmanabham kept his promise by telling Kothandapani to ahead and give SPB the break that he well-deserved.

Thus December 15, 1966 was the red-letter day when SPB sang his first film song ever. The song was ‘Emi yee vintha mOham’, the film was ‘Sri Sri Sri Maryada Ramanna’ (1967/ Rekha & Murali Productions), and the music director was S.P.Kothandapani.

Listen to SPB's first song.

After P.Suseela is done with her soulful opening, SPB enters the song midway with an arresting alaap, and commences his piece with ‘raavE kaavyasuma baala’. PBS follows and then Raghuramayya draws the curtains over what presumably is a part-by-part portrayal of the individual dreams of three different men who love the same woman. Thus in his very first song, SPB was had the unique experience of singing with stalwarts.

Though the legendary Ghantasala was the reigning deity of Telugu film music then, the young SPB made swift inroads into the field, and won several fans even in his early years. When song offers started coming in increasing numbers, SPB was in two minds whether to continue his studies or concentrate on his career, as it was becoming impossible to do adequate justice to both. As always, he sought his father’s counsel. Seeing the increasing popularity of his son, Sambhamoorthi was now very clear in his views- music was God’s gift to SPB and he ought not fritter it away. SPB thus left his studies halfway, and plunged full-fledged into playback singing.

The Tamil debut took a few more years to materialize though. By the late 60s, TMS was the only singer left in the reckoning in tfm. PBS was already in the decline; A.M. Raja belonged to the distant past. A.L. Raghavan and Tharapuram Sundararajan were but peripheral players. Seergazhi Govindarajan was earmarked for particular songs alone. Yesudas was yet to arrive in tfm in a big way. Thus TMS was the universally accepted male voice- from MGR to Nagesh, Soundararajan was their singing sound. The time was favorable for a change….and the change, when it happened, took tfm to a new era….an era of caressing enchantment…

MSV didn’t forget the unassuming youngster who sang to him in Sridhar’s office. He decided to try SPB for a rollicking duet with the irrepressible L.R. Eswari. SPB was in the seventh heaven of delight when the summons came- for in those times, it was impossible for an aspiring singer to get such a treasured opportunity. The song was ‘aththaanOdu ippadi irundhu eththanai naaLaachu’, but the movie titled ‘Hotel Rambha’ was given up midway, and SPB’s first Tamil song proved a nonstarter.

But by now MSV and SPB’s destinies were interlinked forever; the astute master perceived in the buoyant youngster the determination and capacity to succeed and took upon himself the responsibility of making it happen… ‘shanthi nilayam’ followed, and the deed was done…

But wait….let us pursue a chronological order, and see how SPB fared in 1969, his very first year in tfm….. and we will follow the order of release of the films that featured his earliest songs.

Song # 1: ‘malligai poo vaangi vandhEn’ from paalkudam

Sung by SPB & P.Suseela
Lyrics by Vaali
Music by M.S.Viswanathan

14.1.1969. suba dhinam (Vinayaka Films), paal kudam (Manijeh Cine Arts), thanga malar (Ganga Productions), kuzhandhai uLLam (Sri Savitri Productions) and the Malaysian venture raththappEi (Moopen Productions) were released for Pongal, and SPB’s voice was heard for the first time in tfm in two of these albums.

Produced by the famed Dinshaw K.Tehrani under his ‘Manijeh Cine Arts’ banner, paal kudam was based on a stage play. Thooyavan wrote the dialogues. Pattu was the director. The film starred AVM. Rajan, Sivakumar, Pushpalata and others.

MSV set Vaali’s lyrics to tune. P.Suseela’s ‘muzhu nilavin thirumugathil kaLangam illaiyO’ was a song that was often aired even in the late 70s. ‘en vaalibam ennum maaLigaiyil ivaL thaan iLavarasi’ was a frolicsome duet that LRE crooned with TMS, with a chorus that went ‘1969….Baby, you are fine!’ I remember vaguely a rousing TMS solo too (was it ‘thuNindhu nil, thodarndhu sel’?)

And for a duet for which PS had been booked, MSV brought in SPB as the male voice, perhaps to bring some refreshing variety to the album.

‘malligai poo vaangi vandhEn… punnagaiyin ninaivaaga; shenbagathai vaangi vandhEn…peNmugathin ninaivaaga’ SPB commences with these lines of passionate wooing, ‘unakkaaga, anbE…naan unakkaaga’ being the highpoint of the irresistible appeal. The charaNam lines continue with lines highlighting the sanctity of his love and urging its acceptance, ‘neerinil thOndRiya nizhal alla kaadhal, ninaivugaL theettiya kaaviyappaadal unai ethirpaarkkum manamenum oonjal, indRE nee varuga....idhayam nalam peRavE idhazhaal thEn tharuga..unakkaaga....anbE....naan unakkaaga’… lines that tumble in haste as though so accentuate the depth of the emotional plea… PS makes a whispery entry and goes on sing the second charaNam…interestingly her lines too seem to continue his petition to the unbending female! This, and the villainous laughter that is heard midway are imponderables could perhaps be better understood if we knew the context of the song in the proceedings. MSV crafts the two charaNams in two enticingly different moulds. And to actor Sivakumar fell the honour of appearing for SPB’s first Tamil song to hit the screens.

Like in Telugu, P.Suseela was the lucky talisman who escorted SPB into tfm, and the 70s, the first half of the decade in particular, resounded with delightful duets by the duo. SPB maintains to this day a high regard for this venerable veteran…in a TV show at the beginning of this year that featured both of them, SPB paid repeated panegyrics to PS, which the living legend accepted with a blushing smile.

Song # 2: ‘muthu chippikkuLLE oru poovaNdu’ from kuzhandhai uLLam

Sung by SPB & P.Suseela
Lyrics by Kannadasan
Music by S.P.Kothandapani

V. Sarojini, wife of director V.Madhusudhana Rao, embarked upon an enterprising Telugu movie titled ‘chinnaari paappalu’ in the late 60s- it had an all-woman technical crew. Actress Savitri was the director, Sarojini produced the movie, I believe she wrote the lyrics for the songs as well. P.Leela composed the music for the songs. Mohana was the Art Director. ‘chinnaari paappalu’ (1968/ Sri Matha Pictures Pvt. Ltd) was a hit and went on to bag the ‘Silver Nandi’ in the Andhra Pradesh State Film Awards for 1968.

Emboldened by the success of this experiment, Savitri decided to remake the movie in Tamil, producing and directing it herself. kuzhandhai uLLam (Sri Savitri Productions) had Gemini Ganesh, Sowcar Janaki, Vanishri, Manohar, S.V.Ranga Rao, Shantakumari, Baby Rojaramani and Baby Shakeela in its cast. Dialogues were by Ma. Lakshmanan, editing by M.S.N.Murthy and cinematography by Shekhar- Singh.

S.P. Kothandapani set Kannadasan’s lyrics to tune. ‘poo marathu nizhalumuNdu, ponni nadhi paattumuNdu’, a gentle lullaby by P.Suseela and S.Janaki is easily the pick of the album, and found abundant airtime. I remember listening to it on vividh bharathi even in the 80s. ‘aathangkarai kaathukku vayasu adippOdudhu iLavatta manasu’ (PS), ‘kudagu malai magaLE’ (Seergazhi Govindarajan & PS), ‘angum ingum ondRE raththam’ (PS & Renuka) and ‘O dharmathin thalaivanE’ (TMS) are the other songs in this album.

His mentor being the music director, it seems only natural that SPB’s name finds place in the list of playback singers; but actually it was not through Kothandapani’s recommendation that SPB was offered this song in kuzhandhai uLLam. Immediately after ‘Hotel Ramba’, MSV was composing music for ‘shanthi nilayam’, and he called SPB to sing ‘iyaRkaiyenum iLayakanni’. The song was filmed on Gemini Ganesh. Gemini Ganesh was instantly hooked by the new singer’s voice, and he urged Savitri to give SPB a song in ‘kuzhandhai uLLam’.

‘muthu chippikkuLLE oru poovaNdu, kudi koNdadhE inba thEnuNdu’ is the song that SPB got to sing in the album. The young SPB’s voice is a treat in this forgotten number.

In those initial years, whenever SPB had misgivings about his decision to forsake his studies for a career in music, it was Kothandapani who instilled optimism and self-confidence in him. “If you take up singing, you will reign high for more than 40 years!” he is supposed to have predicted. This is SPB’s 40th year in the field, and how farsighted have the sagacious Kothandapani’s words been! SPB’s biggest regret is that Kothandapani is no longer in this world to see his prophesy for his protégé come true. But SPB has kept alive the sacred memory of his Guru by building a state of the art recording studio and naming it ‘Kothandapani Audio Laboratories.’

Song # 3: aayiram nilavE vaa from adimaippeN

Sung by SPB & P.Suseela
Lyrics by Pulamaipiththan
Music by K.V.Mahadevan

‘adimaippeN’ was MGR’s dream project. Mounted on a lavish scale, the original adimaippeN starred MGR, Sarojadevi, K.R.Vijaya, Jayalalitha, Rathna, Nambiar and others, and was directed by MGR himself. P.N.Sundaram handled the cinematography and Sakthi Krishnaswami wrote the dialogues. The shooting commenced, and the magazines carried pictures of some of the scenes canned; the opulence of the settings and grandeur of the costumes were of a kind seldom scene before. It was at that time that in the course of the shooting, Rathna fell from a horse and was grievously injured. Upset at this unfortunate mishap, MGR put off the shooting for a few days. The TN Assembly polls were announced just then, and the shooting got further delayed as MGR was himself a candidate from St. Thomas Mount. January 12, 1967 saw a different kind of shooting, and MGR was admitted to the Royapettah Hospital with bullet injuries. In the meantime, Sarojadevi got married.

When adimaippeN was taken up again, it was with a modified story, and a fresh crew and cast. K.Shankar was the director, and only Jayalalitha remained from the original team. Jayalalitha now had the rare distinction of appearing in a dual role in a MGR movie- her performance here in the characters of Jeeva and Pavalavalli, especially the latter, won widespread praise. Ashokan, Manohar, Pandaribai, Jyothilakshmi, Chandrababu, Cho and others were brought in now. Ramamoorthi handled the camera. Sornam wrote the dialogues. Most of the movie was shot in rich locales in Rajasthan and Hogenekkal. adimapaippeN (Emgeeyar Pictures) was released on 1st May 1969, and was a colossal success.

K.V.Mahadevan was the music director, and the album had 6 unforgettable songs; with 3 of them written by Vaali; and Alangudi Somu, Pulamaipiththan and Avinasi Mani getting one song each. ‘thaayillamal naanillai’ (TMS/ Alangudi Somu), ‘yEmaatRaathE yEmaatRaathE’ (TMS/Vaali), ‘unnaipaarthu indha ulagam sirikkiRathu’ (TMS/Vaali), ‘amma endRaal anbu’ (Jayalalitha/ Vaali), ‘kaalathai vendRavan nee’ (P.Suseela & S.Janaki/ Avinasi Mani) and ‘aayiram nilavE vaa’ (SPB & P.Suseela/ Pulamaipiththan)

How SPB bagged this magnificent opportunity to sing for MGR is a heartwarming anecdote, and goes to show the innate goodness of the makkaL thilagam.

It was sometime back, and SPB was just then getting a few offers in Telugu. One day he was rehearsing his lines in a recording theater, when MGR who was passing by happened to hear him. The great connoisseur of music that he was, MGR paused and listened in delight at this youthful, refreshing voice. He bade his assistant find out who this new singer was. Soon after, MGR listened to SPB singing his songs in Telugu for the dubbed version of ‘kudiyirundha kOyil’, and desired to give SPB a song in adimappippeN. He recommended SPB to KVM and informed him of his decision. When the unexpected call came, SPB was caught unawares and his joy knew no bounds. Within a few days, SPB was given the lyrics of the duet that he was to sing with Suseela, and with the much-awaited permission to shoot the song in the Jaipur palace coming through, rehearsals commenced with urgency. It was then that SPB fell ill; he couldn’t sing his lines and went home in disappointment. His condition worsened overnight, and when the car came to pick him up the following morning, he informed the driver of his inability to make it to the studio. Looking at him pityingly, the driver remarked that SPB was losing the chance of a lifetime.

It was a long convalescence for SPB, and his thoughts during this time were far from happy. He cursed his fate that had played such a cruel trick on him, he thought of the song that must have been filmed by now in the Jaipur palace, he imagined TMS replacing him in the recording…His only consolation was that MGR might call him for a future film.

More than a month had passed by, when a car stopped by SPB’s house. Imagine SPB’s amazement when a production assistant enquired if he had recovered enough to come to the studios and sing ‘aayiram nilave vaa!’ SPB had not wholly recovered from his illness, he was still feeling slightly feverish, but this time he would not let go of the opportunity. With resurrected hopes he climbed eagerly into the car, his father accompanying him. The assistant smiled at SPB’s excitement, and informed him that the song was yet to be recorded, as MGR was particular that only SPB should sing it. When SPB entered the AVM studios, he found MGR with a group of journalists- MGR smiled at him, and after enquiring about his health, introduced SPB to the press people. “He is Balasubramaniam who is going to sing for me in adimaippeN..

The recording commenced. SPB was so excited, and still being weak, took 11 takes before KVM was satisfied. MGR sat watching the recording with an indulgent smile.

Exhausted by the strain, yet filled with happiness, SPB gathered the courage to ask MGR why had they waited for him, for with the shooting schedule already set, the movie had now got unnecessarily delayed. MGR’s gentle reply was he had waited for SPB to recover, because this was SPB’s first big break, and SPB must have already informed his family and friends proudly that he was singing for MGR. After all this, if the song was sung by someone else, SPB might become the object of their derision. And more important, his career would be in jeopardy as word may go around that his singing was not satisfactory and that was why he was replaced. Words failed SPB as he stood choked with emotion at the large-heartedness of MGR; his eyes brimmed with tears of gratitude. A smiling MGR shook his hands, and took leave of SPB, wishing him well in his future endeavours. To this day SPB salutes the memory of the charismatic leader with admiration and love.

And as for the song, need I emphasize on its singular beauty, or its timeless popularity? Pulamaipiththan’s lines are soaked in sensuous poetry, and KVM creates a tune of arresting allure. The splendour of the Jaipur Palace, the sizzling on-screen chemistry between MGR and Jayalalitha, the dulcet PS and honeyed SPB adding to the spell with their light brigha-filled rendition… magic in the air….

Song # 4: ‘iyaRkaiyenum iLaya kanni’ from shanthi nilayam

Sung by SPB & P.Suseela
Lyrics by Kannadasan
Music by M.S.Viswanthan

The titles of shanthi nilayam (Gem Movies) credit the story to Mrs.Neeladevi. However it no secret that the story was a clever concoction of two well-known tales- the story of the Von Trapp family as adapted by Ernest Lehman for the musical ‘The Sound of Music’ (1965/Robert Wise Productions) and Charlotte Bronte’s 19th century classic, Jane Eyre.

Bhaskar is a strict disciplinarian, but for all his stringent measures, his wards, the group of kids in the sprawling ‘shanthi nilayam’ let loose a reign of mischief and incorrigible disobedience. Governess after governess have come and gone, giving up the responsibility in despair. It is then Malathi enters the house as their latest tutor, and she is able to achieve the impossible, not by stern injunctions, but by patience, understanding and love. In due course Bhaskar himself falls for Malathi, and they seem all set to enter a life of marital bliss. The story that follows ‘The Sound of Music’ till now, meanders thereafter to trace the course of Jane Eyre from the second half; the events that then occur in ‘shanthi nilayam’ bear marked similarity to those that occurred at Mr. Rochester’s Thornfield Hall.

Gemini Ganesh and Kanchana were just right for the roles of Bhaskar and Malathi. Nagesh, Balaji, K.Vijayan, Vijayalalitha, Pandaribai, the kids led by Ramaprabha(!), followed by Manjula, Master Prabhakar, Master Shekhar, Rojaramani, Mythili and Sumathi were all appropriately cast. ‘Chitralaya’ Gopu drafted the screenplay and wrote the dialogues. The movie was directed by G.S.Mani. Released on 23rd May, 1969, ‘shanthi nilayam’ was a thumping success.

With a great story like this filled with wonderful song sequences at every turn, MSV and Kannadasan came out with winner after winner. ‘iRaivan varuvaan, avan endRum nalvazhi tharuvaan’, ‘selvangaLE , deivangaL vaazhum nenjangaLE’ and ‘kadavuL orunaaL ulagai kaaNa thaniyE vandhaaraam’ were all songs that P.Suseela, accompanied by chorus voices, brought to vivacious life. TMS made merry with ‘bhoomiyil iruppathum vaanathil paRappathum avaravar eNNangaLE’. L.R.Eswari bestowed her characteristic exuberance upon ‘peNNai paarthum yEn pEchchu varavillai’ and ‘kaNgaL thEduvadhu uLLam naaduvadhu.’

‘iyaRkaiyenum iLayakanni’ is of course, the dazzling jewel of the crown. If the rich and colourful visuals, with the beautiful Kanchana at her stunning best, linger long in the memory, the accompanying audio track is simply unforgettable.

The song opens to a lilting humming by P.Suseela with an answering call by SPB, and following their celebration in unison, MSV leads them to the pallavi. And as for the pallavi…the charming elongation of each line therein is something so typical of the master’s handiwork. Kannadasan fills the lines with playful banter so natural for those besotted in love; and as always, there are adept analogies in abundance, this time the bard brings nature and her wonders into the context. MSV’s interludes are top class as always, and the ‘ha ha ha’ humming is something that we would instantly recognize anywhere, anytime. The song, I believe, remained at the top of the charts for a long, long while; and rightfully so.

Though my mother is not normally inclined to film music, this song is a great favorite of hers; she slips into a reverie whenever it is shown on TV, she remembers the early years of her marriage- my father was posted in Madurai then, and they used to wake up almost every morning to this song being played from a neighbourhood eatery…

Song # 5: ‘pournami nilavil pani vizhum iravil’ from kannippeN

Sung by SPB & S.Janaki
Lyrics by Vaali
Music by M.S.Viswanthan

kannippeN (11.9.1969/Sathya Films) was produced by R.M.Veerappan. Jaishankar, Sivakumar, Vanishri, Lakshmi, ‘veNNiRa aadai’ Nirmala, Major Sundararajan, Senthamarai, Manohar and G.Shakuntala were in the cast. The story was by the ‘Sathya Movies Story Team’, comprising of S.Jagadeesan, Vidwan Lakshmanan and RMV himself. The screenplay was also credited to RMV. Dialogues were by R.K.Shanmugam. The film was directed by veteran A.Kasilingam. Veerappan’s Sathya Movies/ Sathya Films bannners, though primarily formed to make MGR starrers, did produce some small budget movies with other actors in between. kannippeN was one such venture. Jaishankar had developed a sizeable fan following since the beginning of the ‘Bond’ series, and most of his movies assured producers of modest returns. Hence RMV roped in the popular young actor and embarked upon this project. Vanishri’s star was on the ascent then, she was being paired with the top stars of the time. Lakshmi had made her debut just the previous year; here she played the kannippeN that the title referred to. Being RMV’s movie, MGR attended the song recording and the first day’s shooting, offering the team his best wishes.

MSV came up with some worthy songs as always. ‘oLi piRandhapOdhu mannil uyirgaL piRandhadhamma’, by TMS & LRE, glistens with the poetic flourishes of Avinasi Mani. ‘adi yEndi asattu peNNE’ is a playful female duet by P.Suseela & L.R.Eswari. ‘aththaikku oththakkaNNu indha pakkam thaan’ is a fun-filled ditty, where TMS and P.Suseela bemoan the lack of privacy that a newly married couple have to put up with. TMS had a solo that went ‘iRaivan enakkoru ulagathai padachu’. LRE’s ‘dharmam ellaam uruvamaaga’ and Seergazhi Govindarajan’s ‘uLLaththai neruppilittu’ are the other songs in the album.

And for a duet to be filmed on Sivakumar and Nirmala, MSV came up with a bewitching tune and sent for SPB and Janaki to do the honours.

The whole of the 60s saw Janaki struggle for recognition in tfm. Though she enriched each song that came her way with dainty touches and inventive improvisations that showed her class, save some rare exceptions, she had to be content to remain in the sidelines. It was only at the end of the 60s and the beginning of the 70s, that tfm finally opened to her. And of course with IR anointing her as his prima donna, she rose to invincible heights in the latter half of the decade. Janaki, of course, was no stranger to SPB. As we have seen earlier, it was Janaki who first predicted to the high-school student that he would become a singer of renown one day, and it was her forecast that sowed in the impressionable teenager the seeds of motivation to make it big.

It must have been a wonderful moment when MSV decided to bring together SPB and Janaki to sing this song. Could the master have known that he was tethering together a tantalizing team, a pair of singing birds that would together rule the roost in the not so distant future? Would the sorcerer have supposed that he was setting the stage for a soiree whose entrancement would defy ravages of time and vagaries of taste?

Moonlight, in all its silvery splendor. The silky sands that line the turbulent waves. The lovers whose urges surge in greater turbulence. A setting that incites the master to craft a song of chiseled perfection…and the newly paired singers strike an instantaneous rapport and discover a comforting camaraderie that cajoles them to together strike cupid’s arrows on the on-screen lovers. The cool cadence of the moonlight, the urgency of the rising waves, and the pleasurable pain that only hearts athirst with love would recognize…..they are all right there…..have a listen..

There is a tide in the affairs of men-
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune…

                    - William Shakespeare (Julius Caesar)

This then was SPB’s first year in tfm, and these then, were the five songs that heralded his debut therein. And SPB marked his arrival in style- he was adjudged the ' Best Playback Singer' in the TN State Film Awards for 1969 for his 'aayiram nilavE vaa' and 'iyaRkaiyenum ilaya kanni'! What an epoch-making entry, and how propitious a progress! The 70s beckoned to him with beatitude; tfm would never be the same again....

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