The Mega Event - "Meet & Greet SPB 2007"
(to commemorate his 40 years of singing and also launch of the SPBFans Charitable Foundation)
Venue : Hotel Hari International, Bangalore
Date : 28th January 2007.
Time : 3.00 ~ 7:00 pm (planned) ; 4:30pm to 8:30pm (actual)
Dear SPB Fans,
Many of you who had not attended the meet have been very eager to have an insight into the happenings at the meet and have been sending many emails. Due to time constraints, the details could not be posted and please accept my apologies for the delay. On behalf of the SPB Fans group i am posting this article for the benefit of all.
As all of you know that the physical activities of the event at Bangalore were organized by Sowmya & Maggie with our Webmaster, Venkat & Ashok coordinating other activities from here at Chennai. The other activities include preparation of banners for the event, memento for our SPB, memento for the participants, travel arrangements for the Chennai Fans and program schedule for the event.
My first physical contact with this event was the boarding of the Minibus (at Chennai) which carried 20 eager participants from Chennai. The travel started at around 5:00am and left Chennai at 6:00am. Ashok briefed us about the schedule for the event and he also displayed to us the memento that was to be presented to our SPB which was a unique wood carving of our SPB’s profile. It was really good. Please go through the photo album posted by Covai Ravee / Vikas earlier. Thanks to Venkat & Harikrishna for making this unique memento ready. There was also a momento for the participants of the meet to be presented by our SPB in the form of a Desk Top Calender with the front page carrying 6 photos of our SPB and these same photos appearing again alongside the months with 1 for every two months.
It was really great and would be a great memoir for the meet and a treasured possession for the fans . Each one was to be autographed by our SPB before being presented at the meet. We all had a great time singing our SPB songs (numbering around 50) with Balaji and Ashok taking the lead and the others lending their voices in a chorus with Madhumati and Priya also joining in and playing a major role. We reached Bangalore quite late than planned at around 2:45pm and after freshening up, were all assembled in the Hall at around 3:30pm.
This event if you remember (from various emails) was also planned to be a launch pad for the “SPB Fans Charitable Foundation” a registered entity now. As understood (me being a new member – 2 months old) our group has been doing charitable activities in the previous years at a small level and it was long felt that there should be an organized setup to take it to a higher level. This was the very reason why our SPB was ready to associate himself with this SPB Fan Group which was oriented toward social activities and not just serving as a forum for discussing about him and his portfolios. Towards this, our Chennai coordinators had made ready three banners announcing the launch of the foundation (with our SPB’s photo at the centre) and these were displayed at three strategic locations in the Hall. The main banner acted as a backdrop to our SPB’s seating (refer to the photographs).
The Hall was filled up with around 65 to 70 members and with some Press persons (Hindu, Deccan Herald….) also who had been invited to cover the event. From our side a Still Camera and Video Graphers were arranged to cover the event (courtesy the Chennai coordinators). Every one of us eagerly awaited the arrival of our SPB and each head turn of a person seated nearby presented an illusion that SPB would have arrived. The time was well past the scheduled start and we were all tensed up indeed. At around 4:30pm our compere Mr.RangaRaj announced that our SPB was on the way and that in order to avoid further delays later, requested us to have our High Tea before he arrived and that our SPB would eventually join with us. While we were half through with the High Tea, our Great SPB arrived at 4:40pm much to the excitement of all present. He was dressed up in a dark coloured pant, a light blue full sleeved shirt and sandals. He was straightaway escorted by WM for snacks and Tea. Those of us who were quite excited and impatient as well, started crowding around him and taking photographs of him attending to his snacks. Our SPB took all these in good spirits and at one point of time enquired if there would be a photo session and he would be with us for photos then. This did not deter the die hard fans and we still continued hovering over him and at one point of time he uttered a noble sentence “You all go to your seats and I will come to you”.
Following this, our Great was escorted to his seat. Before getting seated, he was presented flower bouquets by a few children which he gleefully accepted and he spent a few moments whispering to the young children. He also ensured that the bouquets were presented in the right position so that the photographs came out well (considering the position of the camera spotlights ..). Quite thoughtful of him to ensure that nothing went wrong for the fans.
Then, our SPB was shown his honorable seat and he was handed over a pile of mementos (desktop calendars) for his autograph. This was later to be presented by him individually to each and every participant. While he was on the signing spree, our compere Mr.RangaRaj welcomed the Hero of the Event and outlined the list of activities for the evening as follows :
- Welcome Speech
- Launch of a Revamped SPB Website www.spbindia.com (courtesy : SEAMIT for designing the site)
- Photo Session combined with Presentation of Memento to each participant
- Screening of a surprise Video Show to our SPB
- Our SPB’s small Speech
- Presentation of Memento to our SPB
- Launch of the SPBFans Charitable Foundation
- Question & Answer Session
- Closing up
I will not dwell much on the Welcome Speech as it is a formal opening to any event. Our SPB was signing the desktop calendars while our compere started his welcome speech,
Next was the launch of the Revamped SPB Website. The revamping of the site was handled by Mr.Vishwak of SEAMIT and he himself made a presentation through a Slide Show explaining the various features. The opening page of the site has a greeting message by our SPB. It has all the features of the previous site plus a few additions. Please visit the website to explore the modified version. Our SPB formally pressed the button on the Keyboard to launch it. This was followed by the Photo session. Wishing you all happy SPB browsing.
Upfront, our SPB made it clear to everyone that he did not want anyone bend down and touch his feet nor prostrate in front of him as it would embarrass him. (in spite of this some die hard fans did do that). The fans one by one were asked to come over to our SPB and take photographs and also receive the autographed memento (desktop calendar). There were quite a few fans who had come along with their family also. It was a great moment indeed especially for first timers like me who got to see him for the first time in real. I would like to mention one touching gesture by our SPB which will not be known to others. It seems one of our SPB fans (seated near me from Chennai) had taken photographs twice with him at the event and unfortunately both turned out to be unclear and were not good. The Fan hesitantly approached our SPB again for taking photograph for the third time informing him that he was sorry. You know what our SPB had said to this fan “Come on, it is my responsibility to ensure that you have taken a good photo with me – I want to take photo with you anyway”. The fan was really moved when he narrated this to me personally. What a great and heart moving gesture by our Great. Such gestures is also one of the reasons which attracts us all to the Great. Hats-off to him. There was also another gesture. When Ms.Sowmya went up to him alone for the photo session he made it a point to ask her to call her husband also (I understood that she was recently married) and then took a photo. What else to say about this Great Man. Thoughtfulness personified. Right through the photo session he was cool and calm and enthusiastically conducted himself giving an overall pleasant experience to one and all. At one instance, when one of the individual photographers had a problem with his camera he gave out a call to everyone to check their respective cameras so that they come out with good pictures without any disappointment. Our SPB was dumbfounded by one fan when he turned up for his autograph on a photo taken at the event itself. He wondered how that was possible and queried whether he was carrying a personal printer with him. There were many fans who took repeated autographs on note books, pieces of paper, diaries and so on and our SPB acknowledged everyone with a charismatic smile. The entire Hotel Staff also utilised this opportunity of getting themselves photographed with him and also obtaining his autograph.
Following this, was the surprise Video show played to our SPB. I would like to put in a few words about this. This was totally a surprise package and it was not made known upfront to others except a few who were involved in a fan meeting on 31st Dec 2006 at Chennai. All the speakers in this video were requested not to inform our SPB about the interview and I understand that even the Web Master was not aware of a major position of this Video. This was thought up by our Venkat & Ashok who felt it appropriate to interview some of our SPB’s Cine Colleagues, his mother and his close friends and make a video presentation to SPB on the eve of 40 years completion in singing. It was a really a good one. It started off with our Evergreen SPB partner “S Janakiamma” talking about our SPB, the happy times she had with him during recordings and the small fights (Oodal & Koodal as you may call it) they used to have. She expressed a longing once again for those times when they sang together and she blessed our SPB to continue till 100 years or more. This brought out the childlike enthusiasm of SJ amma. Really touching. PB Srinivas followed next and he went back to those days when our SPB recorded the first song with him, PS and some other Telugu singer. At that time, PBS was not sure that SPB would grow to such great heights and through bhakthi and dedication he had done it he said. Next was “Maanicka Vinaayagam” who highlighted about the human side of our SPB. The next person to speak was none other than the creator of our SPB “his mother”. We learnt that he was addressed as “Mani” by his family and close friends. She said she was blessed to have a son like him and may God bless him all through. During this portion of the video, I observed that our SPB was moved to tears hearing his mother speak about him. His friends 4 of them followed next. Their narrations clearly brought the high regard that our SPB had on friendship. Even to this day, he has never forgotten them in spite of all his name and fame and he makes it a point to be with them whenever possible. One of his friends shared his experiences of our SPB’s first song recording. As many would have heard, the car which was supposed to pick-up our SPB for the recording did not turn up. Worried that they might not have been satisfied with his rehearsals earlier, he thought he was out of consideration for the song. But this friend ensured that he pedaled our SPB on a bicycle and took him all the way to the recording theatre. The guard there was not willing to allow him inside and the friend was willing to place himself and the cycle as security for our SPB to be allowed in to the recording theatre. Meanwhile, hearing the commotion, people inside had summoned our SPB inside. This friend was really moved while narrating and said that he was indeed fortunate to be associated with SPB during those trying period and at the start of his career. Even the other friends spoke of him very highly and of his undying friendship and as fans we got to know one more facet of this Great Man. The Chennai Fans involved in recording this video shown were Venkat & Ashok. Thanks to them for having taken the initiatives and efforts to visit each speaker and also go to Nellore to meet our SPB’s mother and friends and record the interview. What was shown was a concised 20 minutes show edited from a 1-1/2 hour recording by the above team. Three Cheers to the Team.
Next, our SPB was requested to address the fans and also his comments on the Video. He started by saying that the Video embarrassed him as it had all of them talking high of him. As friends and close associates they were bound to do so. It also moved him to a great extent seeing his mother speaking. He said that any mother will tell only the truth about her son and he was indeed fortunate to hear his mother bless him. He stopped with this mentioning that any further talk on this would lead to his emotional breakdown as he was so moved by the occasion. During this speech, he mentioned about the pranks he used to play on Janakiamma. It seems that Janakiamma had the habit of holding a small handkerchief in her hand and keep fidgeting with it during recording of a song. Without that she would not feel comfortable. Our SPB sometimes used to pull at the hanky to distract her attention and she used to respond by slapping him or throwing things like pen, pencil etc. at him. On one such occasion it seems that she did this and walked away from the recording cabin. Later SJamma’s husband who also is a close family friend of our SPB came over to our SPB and told him that she was seated in the car outside and asked him to cajole her and bring back inside the recording room. This brought out the intimate relationship they had in their singing career which has given us so many great duet songs.
He also introduced to us some of his friends and close associates who were there in the meet. One friend had come from Dallas and one of his associates happened to be the owner of the Hotel Hari International where the meet took place
He once again wondered why the fans were so attached to him and what great work he has done for that (modesty to the core) except taking up singing as a profession like any other person. He jokingly said that he had no chance of switching over to any other profession as he was neither skilled nor would his age, past retirement now, would fetch him one. When one enthusiastic fan got up to throw a counter to that, he stopped him saying that he did not expect any answer to that. He expressed his happiness to be associated with this fan group which had the intention to carry out charitable activities as part of the fan club and felt proud that his name was used for this purpose. He was not for fan clubs which had no social cause attached to it. He mentioned that he was aware of many fan clubs started in his name (without his approval) which had no noble purpose attached to it except talking about him and his achievements. However it was not practically possible for him to close
down all these. He also mentioned that he always carried a Blackberry with him so that he could attend to all the communication from all his fans wherever he was and also reply immediately depending on the topic. (in fact I received a reply from his blackberry once when I emailed my New Year Greetings to him)
He also requested fans to donate blood and also their organs so that they would be of use in saving a precious life and making life comfortable for many.
Next was the presentation of a memento to our SPB by our Venkat & Ashok. As explained earlier this memento was unique in the sense that it was a wooden carving done with our SPB’s photograph as the reference. Our SPB’s profile is at a level higher than the base of the canvas and looking at it live gives more insight. It also looks great on the photograph (please also take a look in the photos posted by our Covai Ravee). Our SPB was greatly impressed by this.
The launch of the SPBFans Charitable Foundation was the next agenda. This was done by the fans handing over the filled up registration forms to SPB himself who received it on the behalf of the Foundation. This was one more chance for these participants to come into physical touch with our Great while presenting their form to him. I once again felt the delight of clasping his hands with both my hands to savour the touch and the moment while handing over the form (chinna chinna aasai). Around 35 members enrolled themselves in the Foundation on the spot itself. Hope every SPB Fan becomes a member of this foundation so that we all can contribute to the society in some way in the name of our SPB. As detailed earlier this Foundation will be carrying out charitable activities in an organized set up. During this event, our SPB came out with a very noble announcement that “he would also make a monthly contribution of Rs.10,000 from his earnings”. He assured that this amount would reach the concerned every month. This would be over and above the contributions that he has been already making in the name of a foundation (not publisized much) run in memory of his Father. He mentioned that he did not want to be a silent spectator since this foundation was named after his fans. On the lighter side he said that he felt jealous of the fans and hence wanted to make his own contribution and become a member himself. He also requested all not to make contributions just for the sake of it. He advised us that contributions should be made only after taking care of our own basic needs as the income for many would be meagre.
During the close-up note, our compere thanked our SPB for spending his valuable time with us in spite of the busy schedule.
Our SPB mentioned that he was approached for allotting three days for the Telugu 75 years celebration i.e. 26,27 & 28 Jan. But he declined 28 Jan as he wanted to attend this Fan Meet which was already planned. He also informed us that he had a film shooting for the next two days or so at Bangalore and he had a busy schedule ahead. He thanked all especially the fans who had traveled all the way from Tuticorin, Salem, Chennai, Hubli and Mumbai. He particularly mentioned about Vikas Kamble from Mumbai who had come all the way from Mumbai to see him and also his interest in his South Indian language songs even though he did not know these languages. He sang ‘Telusa Manasaa..” and ‘Ilamai Enum Poongaatru…” for his sake.
I have not covered the Question & Answer session here since this requires some homework in order to capture all the Q&A. This will be posted at a later date after obtaining the details from the respective participant so that nothing is missed out. However during the Q&A, our SPB brought out the extreme regard he had for Mohamed Rafi. He said Rafi was the ultimate playback singer of the world and no one can near him. He said that his own singing was basically modeled around Rafi’s singing and basically his songs had atleast 20% of Rafi’s influence in them. During the initial period of his career he used to go overboard trying to bring in more of Rafi into his singing which he had controlled at a later stage, he said. He also mentioned one instance where Kishore Kumar wanted Rafi to sing for him in one of his home productions. He mentioned that he had two chances of meeting Rafi, once at a nearby recording theatre when he went inside and took his blessings only and later at a concert where he was a front bencher as he could not muster the courage to approach the legendary Rafi.
Another event which I like to mention here is as follows :
The final session of the Meet was over and our SPB had packed up and was almost leaving the Hall. At that time Ms Sowmya approached and requested him to make a brief Video talk regarding the progress of the Prodigy club that was inaugarated by our SPB sometime back and the contributions that this club was making in the field of education. With due honour to our Sowmya, he once again traced back his steps to the dias and gave a brief ex-tempo talk about the club and then left. This showed what great regard he had for the sentiments of his fans and the extent to which he was willing to go to satisfy them. This was one of the points mentioned by him that he could not say "no" to anyone when approached and this occasion was a clear example of this attribute of our Great SPB.
Throughout the event, our SPB spoke in Kannada & English and sometimes in Tamil also for the sake of the Multi-lingual gathering.