Fans in UAE remember precious SP Balasubrahmanyam moment

Ashwani Kumar and Dhanusha Gokulan/Dubai
Filed on September 26, 2020 | Last updated on September 26, 2020 at 12.16 pm
Fans, UAE, remember, precious, SP Balasubrahmanyam, moment

(Supplied photos)

Tributes to SPB poured in from all corners of the world soon after his son announced his death.

Along with fans in India, close friends, music industry professionals, and his admirers in the UAE mourned the death of SP Balasubrahmanyam on Friday.

The legendary playback singer and actor, popularly known as SPB, tested positive for Covid-19 in August and succumbed to complications caused by the virus on Friday. He passed away at a private Chennai hospital. He was 74.

Tributes to SPB poured in from all corners of the world soon after his son announced his death. His fans and close collaborators in the UAE held back tears as they remembered their precious SPB moments - be it through a song or a special encounter.

'A very sad day for Indians everywhere'

Dr Aman Puri, the Consul General of India in Dubai offered his sincere condolences to SP Balasubrahmanyam's family and fans. "It is a very sad day for Indians everywhere. I am personally a very big fan of SP Balasubrahmanyam. His works in Hindi films such as 'Ek duje ke Liye', 'Hum aapke hain kaun', and 'Maine pyaar kiya', and endless other songs will always remain fresh in my memories. He had an ardent fan following not just in India, but abroad as well. We have truly lost an Indian icon today," Dr Puri told Khaleej Times.

SPB left behind a vast body of work that spanned 40,000 songs in 16 languages. He frequently visited the UAE, where he had given several memorable live performances.

Naresh Oberoi, founder and chairman of Oberoi Middle East Events, had hosted SPB in two "super shows" held in Dubai - in 2008 and 2015. Nearly 7,000 people attended both concerts organised at the Dubai Tennis Stadium.

Naresh and his wife Shashi Oberoi said SPB had a voice that cannot be replicated. "We shared some great moments with them. For us, it was unbelievable. He was also a very simple person," said Naresh. Reminiscing fond memories, Shashi said: "I spoke to him sometime back, in June 4. I speak Telugu language, and whenever I would speak to him in Telugu, he would joke that I looked like a weirdly dubbed television show."

'A guide and inspiration to many'

Abu Dhabi resident Murali Venkatraman, a research scientist and musician, was in deep shock. He could still clearly remember the "30 priceless minutes" he shared with the legend back in 2006.

"SPB was on a tour in the US. My friend helped me talk to him over the phone. Our team at had published a rich tribute to him on his 60th birthday. After reading the tribute letter found on, he replied: 'Why do you people shower so much love for me when I am singing for my livelihood?' I told him that he wasn't singing for his livelihood but for our lives," said Venkatraman, a founding member of the Australian chapter of Spic Macay (Society for the Promotion of Indian Classical Music and Culture among Youth).

"We talked a bit about my composing. And I unwittingly sang a composition written by my friend. The conversation wandered off to SPB's singing experiences. When we were about to sign off, to my surprise, he sang my composition back and said: 'Nice Ghazal-type composition like 'Thedum Kan Paarvai'. I was stunned because after all the digression, I didn't really expect him to remember the tune, let alone singing it to me. His modesty and attention to detail with a faceless fan still haunt me as I try to contain my brimming eyes."

Venkatraman had a chance to meet SPB in person during a tour to Berkeley, California.

A musician couple, Jitendra Gangani and Sonal Jain, turned emotional thinking about the songs of 1991 Hindi cinema 'Love', which made them a life-long fan.

"The voice, which captivated the world, is gone, but the magic will never fade away. Our first memory of his soothing voice was 'Saathiya Tune Kya Kiya', which mesmerised us and was the first step towards falling in love with his voice," said the music mentors at Abu Dhabi Indian School.

"He was not just a singer but a legend, one of the most versatile artists. His voice will be with us all through our lives and generations to come. The music world will miss him."

Prakash Soni, a local actor-writer-director, said: "SPB is one of my favourite singers. What a soulful voice! His song 'Madhuban Khushbu Deta Hai' has been my favourite since my childhood."

Suraj Bharti, a vocal coach, performer and healer, said SPB was among the very few singers in the world who could sing any song perfectly. "His sheer dedication towards his work and his evergreen smile would always be remembered. His passing is a huge loss."

Dubai's singing prodigy and student of Indian High School, Suchetha Satish, said there was not a day when they didn't hear an SP song. "I had the good fortune to meet him and seek his blessings a few years ago. SPB sir will forever stay in the hearts of all music lovers."

I don't want to think he is gone!!!

Resul Pookutty (Tribute)

As a young kid in a village in Kerala, I first heard SPB on the cassette tape recorder brought by my brother-in-law who returned from the Gulf. While I hardly understood the Hindi lyrics, I hummed the song Tere Mere Beech, from Ek Duje Ke Liye. It was the first song the legendary singer sang in Hindi, one that won him the Indian National Award. I had no idea who he was, but the song stayed with me.

Then I met him. During my film school days in Pune, we were taken on a tour to Chennai and we, students, met him at his studio. "Boys, you can set out to do things you want to do or you can set out to do things you are marked to do and the choice is yours," he had said then.

The lesson I learnt that day was how simplicity should be carried to the core of everyday life. He was an embodiment of goodness.
The last time I met him was on February 24 this year at a ceremony, where both of us were awarded. While we have never worked together, he always made it a point to admire my work, one thing I feel extremely humbled about. I had made plans for him to sing in my upcoming movie. No matter how big a movie I may make, there will always be that void.

On August 8, I messaged him and he assured me he would overcome the 'mild illness'. Now I realise that a sookshmaanu (atom) can take away a life so well lived.

- As told to Sami Ha Zen

(Resul Pookutty is an Oscar-winning sound designer, best known for his work in Slumdog Millionaire) 

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