Sripathi Panditaradhyula Balasubrahmanyam a.k.a. SPB a.k.a S.P. Balu a.k.a Balu - This is not just a name. It is the voice of so many people in the world in one. It is the voice of the myriad emotions that one goes through in his/her everyday life ranging from frustration to jubilation. It is the voice of the many, many actors that we have seen on screen when they sing. More importantly, it is the voice of and for each one of us when we want to emote something important.
Before writing this piece, I went to the Wikipedia page of SPB to see how his death reflects on the page. Surprisingly, it has already been updated! The whole page is in the past tense. This made me wonder - How much should one love him and his voice so that his page is updated? Alternatively, was someone so sure that it would happen today and updated it that instant? I have no clue as to which one is the case.
When the news started to go viral (I found out using India's official news disseminator - WhatsApp status) I was in denial. Later on, when I checked various news channels to confirm the veracity, I was... numb. I know this is a very weird emotion. I was numb. Possibly because how sucky this whole year has been (personally and professionally) for me and others around me? Possibly after reading and hearing about death around me in pronounced numbers (SSR, Irrfan Khan, Rishi Kapoor, etc) I wasn't surprised? In fact, once I heard that he is under ventilator I had lost all hope.
But does this mean that the voice has died? Baradwaj Rangan, in a tribute video today says otherwise. I second his opinion. He said that thanks to technology, his great voice is preserved forever. It is true that we are not fortunate enough to hear him in any new numbers any more. But, hasn't he already become immortal? Imagine if technology hadn't advanced as much? The thought itself is so harrowing. I can't imagine not listening to "Kadhal Rojave" or "Thanga Thamarai Magale" or "Mannil Intha Kaathalandri" or "Nee Nadanthal Nadai Azhagu" or "Vennilave Vennilave Engirunthai" - I can go on and on. The point is that I listen to him every day.
It is said that he gives life to the songs he sings. This makes so much sense now for one of the songs he had sung for the legendary Ilayaraja. It goes "Intha thegam marainthaalum isaiyaai malarven, kelaai poo maname". The meaning, when translated, goes "Even if the body perishes I will blossom as music, listen oh heart!" Could it be any closer to the truth now? Before I sign off, I would like to request all of his fans only one thing, borrowing lines from the same song, "Pogum paathai thoorame, vaazhum kaalam konjame, jeeva sugam pera, naatha nathiyinil nee, neentha vaa." The meaning of which is "It is a long journey ahead and the time we have is less, come, swim in the river of melody to experience the bliss of this life."
To answer the title, "Is this in an end of an era?" Maybe yes, maybe not. But of one thing I am sure, everybody would be with me. We are all very grateful to you SPB sir! Thank you!