The much eagerly awaited Annual Meet with SPB organized by the SPB Fans Charitable Foundation took place on 21st February 2010 (Sunday) at SPB’s very own “Kothandapani Audio Laboratories” at Chennai between 11.30am to 2.00pm
I am once again tremendously pleased to present to you a detailed write-up of the event. I have tried my best to make it as elaborate as possible. Please pardon me if anything is left out.
Before starting off on the event, let me brief about what took place at the venue in the preceding one hour to the Meet.
On one side, we had Madhumita, Lakshmi and a few others commanding posts at the entrance to the venue and ensuring that all the participants registered themselves for the event by paying the fees and collecting their badges & payment receipts
We also had the Bangalore Fans Team (coordinated by Prabhanjan Tattar) displaying an array of rare Gramophone records & CDs of SPB’s songs. He was so possessive about it and rightly so, that he had displayed a placard which read “Please do not touch” which many fans obliged. (SPB later during the fag end of the Meet expressed his thanks to this fan for having taken pains to display a collection of his rare audio records of his songs)
Inside the auditorium, we had the primary organizers Giridhar Raja, Ashok, Seshadri & Sampath going over the final arrangements for the Meet. There was Satish on the Keyboard who was preparing himself to support some of the enthusiastic singers who were to perform during the Meet
We had some of the fans rehearsing their part to perfection and eagerly awaiting the moment to perform on stage in the presence of the Legend. There were supporting members who were getting the necessary “minus-1” tracks organized & then with Ashok going around finalizing the list & order of performers.
Here & there, we had many fans enquiring each others’ health & wealth, as for many, it had been a long time that they had met
Ashok, as his role demanded, gave a brief summary of the events planned for the Meet and he also presented a few guidelines to the participants in the program as how to organize themselves for each event of the Meet so that time could be fruitfully used & spent. For eg., he requested that Photographs be taken in batches of 4 so that time could be shortened, that performers understand their place in the queue so that they are ready to come to the stage to perform without delays & so on.
Simultaneously there was a slide show running on the big screen of the auditorium on the various charity events that have been organized by the Fans Association over the last several years.
For first time visitors to the Kothandapani Audio Laboratories, there were a few things to observe. Many of us have heard the Legend talk so passionately about Shri Kothandapani (his Mentor), Mohammed Rafi (his Inspiration), Ghantasala (his Master) and Radhakrishnan (his close Friend). Many people talk a lot but lack in deed. But when one observed the Audio Laboratory, one could see the walls at the entrance decorated with big size paintings of all the above 4 personalities for whom our SPB had so much regard & love & about whom he has talked a lot in his public interviews.
Having given a prelude to the Meet, let me now go to the body of the Meet.
The program was to start at 10.30am. However, the Legend had all the fans restless when he did not turn up on time. Anyway, waiting for him is also a pleasure in a sense that it shows us again & again how much we all adore him when we almost die to see him sooner. Some of the fans participating in one of the special events planned for the day may have been thankful as they could rehearse their part of the program to perfection. Performing before a Legend like him was never going to be easy
The Legend entered the venue at 11.30am and greeted one and all with his trademark ‘Namashkaaram”. We had a few children offering him flowers at the entrance. While many fans were quite eager to get his image embedded on to their cameras and cell phones without any delay, he chided them and took them into the auditorium along with him.
As he entered the auditorium, fans inside gave him a standing and applauding welcome. We had one die-hard fan Balaji ( a grown up boy with the mind of a child) literally stopping him in his tracks and lovingly & adamantly pleading with him to sing the Sankara song from Sankarabharanam for him. SPB promised him that he would do so in the later part of the Meet. The organizers then guided him to the dais where he greeted all the fans
Ashok first announced the list of programs that were to take place which read like this
- Invocation Song
- Photograph Session (combined with memento presentation to fans by SPB)
- Celebrity Talk Video
- Charity Event
- Special Performances by Fans (Dance & Music) (first time ever at the Meet with Karaoke tracks)
- Speech by SPB
- Vote of Thanks
- Launch of Audio/Video Website by Bangalore Branch
- Distribution of autographed photograph of SPB
With reference to the earlier Meets, one of the prime events missing out was the “Question & Answer” session which has been part & parcel of all earlier Meets. As understood, this was replaced with the Fans’ Special Performance event (organized for the first time in a meet in a planned manner) which was a pleasant addition as it provided a stage for many to perform in front of an artist that they admire and adore. Time never permitted having both events and hence we had to do away with the Q&A.
Satish started off with the rendering of a devotional number (his own composition as understood later). It was a classic performance in a low and controlled tone which was very much appreciated by the Legend himself who blessed him with a legendary kiss on his forehead
Next, as planned, we had the fans (many with their families as well) capturing themselves with SPB for the present, future & posterity. Many of the fans had brought their own presents which they offered to the Legend before posing for the photographs. Happiness was abundant on all the faces considering that it was one of the rare moments when one came in contact physically with the much loved human being. On his part, SPB as ever, lent his pleasing disposition to the photographs. He also presented a memento (a pen holder with a clock) to all the fans on behalf of the SPB Fans Charitable Foundation (Courtesy :: Sridhar & Team for capturing the moments both on Still & Video Cameras)
Next was the Celebrity Talk Show on the Video. Each & every time, the Legend mentions this part of the program as the most embarrassing one. He likes talking a lot about others but is at sea when others praise and talk good about him. This is one of his traits which had drawn one and all to him. In this show, first, we had the veteran Music Director M.S.Viswanathan talking about all the good qualities of our SPB. He went on to narrate the incidents which led to SPB singing his first Tamil song in his composition. This I will not repeat in detail as many already know about it (like how he sang “nilave ennidum nerungadhae and MSV asking him to learn Tamil – as his Tamil diction was not OK and come back for a sure chance and how two years later MSV once passed SPB in a recording studio in the then Madras and recalled him and gave him his first break in Tamil Films………….). MSV pointed out that apart from Sangeetham (Music), Balu had lot of Ingidhum (courteousness) which had made him a success. He mentioned that Balu never forgot his seniors in the film industry and that has been one of his success points which had endeared him to one and all. Kamalahaasan then followed in the show. He mentioned how they had grown up together in the film industry and how SPB’s voice had become synonymous with his in the Telugu Industry for dubbed films and how his singing voice had become an identity for him in the Tamil Industry to which he had danced & emoted a lot. He considers SPB as his Annayya (big brother). In fact, he made the comment of the day when he said “Balu is my Telugu Annayya and I am his Tamil Thambi (younger brother)” This created a pleasant ripple of laughter and applause from the gathering. He also mentioned that the workload handled by Balu was stupendous in the sense even though he was a senior to Balu in the film industry there were many dry years for him whereas Balu had been working non-stop for so many years and still working and may give many more thousands songs
Next, we had his long lasting friend Gangaiamaran (a music composer / lyricist and compere) speaking about SPB, how they had grown up together, and those early years in their career when they had all worked together in SPB’s orchestra and how SPB had even then shone as a good human being. Melody songs composer Vidyasagar was the next & final celebrity. He said that SPB was a very blessed person and a great human being. He was sure that SPB still had it in him to last for over 100 years and that even today he is a very disciplined singer who added great value & meaning to the songs composed by Music Directors
Following this, was the Charity event, one of the prime purposes of the Annual Meet. Two deserving institutions namely Dean Foundation (a center for Palliative care for terminally ill patients like cancer patients etc.,). They are based out of Chennai. The other was a school by name “Thirumpundi N Munuswami Memorial government senior secondary school” and “Panchayat Union elementary school”. Both are in a village called Keezhkuvalaivedu near Vandavasi, around 120 kms from Chennai. These two institutions had been earlier identified by the organizing committee comprising Ashok, Seshadri, Sampath and token donations were handed over by SPB to the representatives of these institutions. We also had the representatives talking about their institutions and the services rendered by them. One of the institutions based in Chennai helps out those terminally ill patients (like those suffering from cancer, brain tumours etc…) who are homeless and without any support and help them to tide over the last days of their lives in a bearable manner. It is really heartening that such institutions exist to serve the society and the SPB Fans Charitable Foundation is indeed headed towards its objective while serving such institutions. The other institution was a school in Vandavasi for whom the Foundation donated class room furniture, stationeries etc…. Goods worth Rs.1.30 lakhs were donated to these two institutions in kind comprising Table/Benches, Bureaus, storage racks, ceiling fans, food plates, self-care kits and floor mats. The SPB Fans Charitable Foundation expresses its heartfelt thanks to all those who have contributed generously to this good cause.
The next event that followed was one of the most awaited one as it was to be a platform for the many fans to showcase their talent, love and admiration for the Great Singer and Human being. First it was film singer Kalpana (also daughter of SPB’s close associate during his early singing career) singing a medley of SPB’s Telugu & Tamil songs with Satish accompanying her on the keyboard playing the lead notes. From then on it was the non-professional fans that had a dream day singing his songs passionately. Every effort that day had a beauty to it and the Legend patiently listened to each and every rendition with great attentiveness and gave due appreciation for the efforts. (Later in the program he mentioned that this program was much better than him talking all the time – he advised the fans not to restrict themselves to his songs but also to perform good songs of other singers as well – Aah!!!! – that is our beloved SPB. The List of performers is given below
||Salangayil oru sangeetham
||Kuluvai Unnadae devadevudu
||Ramachandran with Vijay
||Enna Satham indha neram
||Anuvu anuvuna velasina deva
||Lakshmi & Raghav
||Pudhu pudhu arthangal
||Roja Jaaneman / Keeravani etc
||Combination of songs
||A medley of songs.
He is a paadutha theeyaga finalist
||Pagali Or Iravu
||Unnai Naan paarthadhu
||Yaava Raagoko Yeko Nannede veene
||Non-filmy album song
||Pon maalai pozhudhu
||Medente meda kadhu
||Hungama hai kyoon
||Ghulam Ali's Ghazal
||Naanaga naanillai thaayae
||Thoongadhae thambi thoongadhae
||Combination of songs
The penultimate event was the Legend’s Speech. He started off on a humane note by narrating the incidents of his previous day (to the Meet) which he had spent with Kanchi Shri Jayendra Saraswati. He said that he had performed for him for about 45 minutes and had later had a discourse with him on human behaviour and nature. He said that Shri.Jayendra explained that even though animals are not blessed with the sixth sense they gave better output for their intake of food whereas humans though possessing the sixth sense and ate better food failed to perform better most of the times. So, he requested one and all to be a better human being and serve the society. He then congratulated the organizing committee and the fans for churning out such a wonderful Meet. He was not keen in pointing out any one person in particular and he called himself and the fans included as one big tree and he did not want to name specific branches as he felt all branches were important for him. He encouraged the fans to go on and continue doing such good events and charities and never ever to break this wonderful chain that has formed now. He wants it to get bigger and stronger so that bigger charity events could take place finally benefitting the society. He said that he had very ambitious plans in contributing to the society and for that he would need the help of his fans to raise funds by organizing his concerts for a good cause. He paid due respects again to his Mentor Shri.Kothandapani who had predicted this popularity and fame as early as 44 years ago. He also became nostalgic and recollected those days (around 20 years ago) when the Kothandapani Audio laboratories (the venue of the Meet) was built. He mentioned that it was one of his friends who had heard that the site was available for purchase and had recommended to SPB to purchase the same (that was many years ago) and build a recording studio. Initially it seems the Legend had declined the proposal citing financial constraints. However his friends came together especially his close friend Radhakrishnan from Madurai who went ahead and paid Rs.30,000 as token advance for the land and handed over the document to SPB and asked him to do whatever he liked with it. This effort & initiative of his friend had forced SPB to embark on building this monument in the form of an Audio Laboratory and naming it on his Mentor Shri.Kothandapani. He also specifically mentioned that every brick of the building had his friend Radhakrishnan’s blood and sweat as his friend had shifted from Madurai to Chennai for this purpose and had completed it in a record 6 months time. The unfortunate thing, he mentioned, was that his friend was no more when the inauguration ceremony took place. He citied this as one of the reasons for not celebrating his birthday every year and also for not being available to others for getting greeted on that day. To make it lighter he pointed out certain ardent fans like Covai Ravee however somehow get hold of his whereabouts and wished him each year on his birthday. He felt that they would make good FBI or CBI agents. He also felt happy for all the love and affection showered on him by his fans. He was appreciative of the performance of the fans who sang his numbers. Apart from Kalpana & Satish whom he called professionals, he was impressed with all fans who sang his songs and the enthusiasm that accompanied their singing. He specifically congratulated the child performers namely Kumari Sheela (the niece of Mr.Srinivas, an ardent SPB fan from Yelloru and who has been generously donating big amounts for charity year after year) who performed a kuchipudi dance and Master Srinivasa Raghavan (son of our Seshadhri) who played a few English numbers on the keyboard. He felt it was better having a performance like this than him talking all the time. He suggested that fans also sing good songs of other singers as well. He was also very appreciative of the good charity work being done by the Fans association and he felt proud in lending his name for such good causes. He pleaded with one and all never to let this good chain break but continue even in his absence later. He also promised that he will continue giving good songs till his vocal cords support him and that he would stop singing the day when he is not good (LET US PRAY TO GOD THAT THIS NEVER HAPPENS). He still felt that even though he may not possess the range of his yesteryears, he was right now performing at 95% range. This should be happy news coming from the man himself and one that should make all of us happy for many more years to come. He particularly mentioned that he was overwhelmed by the love and affection of all his fans who had taken time from their busy schedules and attending this meet. He was however more overwhelmed by the love of fans from Karnataka whom he had termed as being crazy about him and who would give their life for him. While on this, he was very appreciative of the tremendous efforts of his fans namely Narayan & Abubakkar etc to whom he expressed his thanks for putting in efforts to collect his songs from all remote parts of South India and compile the same in an effort to create a total database of his songs (he went to the extent of saying that they have become his reference books for any rare songs that he wanted for any of his concerts. When he needed he would get it over internet from them in a few minutes. Such was the efforts that these fans have taken and for which the Legend expressed his gratitude). He wanted this exercise on database to be done as it would be a great reference guide for the upcoming singers as they could learn how he (SPB) had performed badly in his younger years and how he had become better & better and then very good in the later years. He felt that the database of his songs would guide the present young singers who had abundant talent in not committing such mistakes as his. He was of the opinion that Kalpana who sang in the event was very much talented and that the industry had not tapped her potential to the hilt. He admitted that she was much more knowledgeable than himself & well learnt with proficiency in Carnatic & Hindustani genres of music and he praised her in saying that she had sung his sings better than him during the Meet (what magnanimity – no one in the world will never ever say such words as our Legend)
He expressed surprise on how fans like Ashok, Seshadri etc could find time to organize such an elaborate event involving identification of the right institution for contributions and visiting them to determine their authenticity and their needs and also getting the “minus 1 tracks” organized for the performers. Finally on behalf of the SPB Fans Charitable Foundation, he gave away mementos to the chief organizing committee members. When Ashok wanted SPB to present memento to SPB’s brother and also Mr.Vittal who had helped out at the Audio Lab, the Legend mentioned that it was their duty and declined any memento for them.
Next, we had the final closing off event in the form of a Website inauguration. As mentioned in the earlier paragraph efforts are on for compiling all of SPB songs and towards this initiative, a set of Bangalore Fans have created a website with the help of a professional agency. A sample demo was given on using this website. One could search for details of SPB songs compiled so far and download songs as available or could also upload details of rare songs that one came across. By this, the database records can go larger thereby encompassing more number of SPB songs. Hope fans will support this endeavour by including details of the song into this website for the benefit of one and all
(Website Reference :: www.spb.abhimani.info – this was mainly coordinated by Toufeeq in association with an agency known as Sysnest)
We finally had the Legend heed to the request of one of the fans (Balaji who had asked him to sing Sankarabharanam song earlier) and we were treated to a few lines of the “Sankara nadha…….”. When SPB completed singing it, the fan was overwhelmed with emotion to the extent that he said to SPB “You are my Sankara”. This phrase really humbled the Legend but he promptly replied “If I am Sankara, then you are my son Balasubrahmanyam”. That resulted in a great round of applause. In fact Balaji was accompanied by his mother who was getting embarrassed with the childish behaviour of her son. The Great Human Being that he is, our SPB promptly convinced the mother not to get embarrassed with her son saying that one rarely gets blessed with a son who lives his entire life as a child not hurting others and being innocent always and a child at heart. It was a heart warming & heart touching moment.
With this, the great Meet came to a close formally at around 2.30pm and all the Fans then were treated to a typical Chennai Lunch which also provided an opportunity to interact with one another and appreciate the organizers and performers of the day.
HOPE YOU ALL ENJOYED READING THIS AND THAT THE NON-ATTENDERS OF THE MEET COULD ENVISAGE THE HAPPENINGS AT THE MEET