“Some friendships form due to circumstances, common friends and profession even if you stay apart after a ‘hello’. That’s how Balu sir became Balu garu and then Annaya for me,” began Kamal Haasan at this evening’s condolence prayer meeting held for late singer SP Balasubrahmanyam in Chennai.
Talking about his Annaya, he said, “If he had only been singing Telugu songs, he’d have sung only for Maro Charitra. But since he was a pan-Indian singer, especially one who journeyed along with me. Whichever language I went to, Annaya garu’s voice came along as a source of strength. For some north Indian heroes, his voice was a tool to sustain their market. He’d have stopped me from saying this if he were alive, but I guess I can say this now… this kind of achievement is impossible for any other singer, even singers whom he worshipped. What kind of statistic is 40,000-plus songs! Even if we take his career to be 54 years, that would have been possible only if he had sung more than two songs a day!”
Recalling his sorrow at the loss, the Ulaganayagan said, “When I got the news that he might not live long, I’m neither a pessimist nor an optimist, I understood… I could see there was fatigue in his body language. He never used to be that way. I still hoped he’d recover and sent him a video message as per Charan’s request. I hope he had seen that. When I went to comfort Charan, I kind of knew that we were at the climax of this epic. Tears welled up in me, but I controlled myself. I wanted to be a source of comfort for Charan, who is younger than me. I’d become quiet after that while speaking about him. But the sorrow has been building up all along. I thought it was happening only to me, but I saw it in everyone I spoke to, and I think it will last for 10 more days. Everyone is playing his songs, they reminisce about me, K Viswanath sir, Balachander, Ek Dujje Ke Liye… Yaanai irandhaalum aayiram pon-gra maadhiri he remains a mahaan who is still useful for us.”
He further added, “If it is New Year, for Tamilians, it is only Balu Annaya’s song; it is the same for me as well. He’d try to be with me for every birthday of mine, and even if that wasn’t possible, he’d speak to me. Not just that, he continuously held the show Naanum Kamalum. Last year, he couldn’t be part of it… only because he wasn’t in town. That’s not an event I organise, but he spoke to me apologetically about not being able to attend it. That is going to be my wish for my every birthday from now on. Because, I have it as a voice note. He had tried my number, luckily, I hadn’t attended the call. Now, I have a birthday wish and a wish for me to live long, and a cautionary message to stay careful in Annaya’s voice. I can listen to it every year or whenever I want to hear him calling me Thammudu.”
Remarking that it’s a death that couldn’t be imagined, Kamal said, “I always believed that he’d live as long as I acted, singing playback for me. He has sung playback for four generations of artistes. It could even be five! But he has left behind something that will cherished for seven generations from now. He has reached the level of MS Subbulakshmi. I could sense that in these last few days. He did not sing playback for actors alone; he was the playback even for Venkatachalapathy. You hear his voice when you go there; you hear it in a Christian institution; he has sung for Islam. Just like how he supported every hero, he did the same for every religion. I don’t think there can be any singer like him in this world. ‘Enough. Everyone has to go, so do I. Continue celebrating art. Continue celebrating me’ That would have been Annaya garu’s message. And for the first time, I’m doing playback for Balu garu!