Many can sing. But it falls to a few to become the voice of generations. Bollywood might have been first rendered breathless by Shankar Mahadevan’s idea. But at least a decade before him, it was SP Balasubrahmanyam who sang a song in a single breath.
The song was Mannil Indha Kaathalandri. The movie was Keladi Kanmani (1990). SPB also played the lead role in the film opposite Radhikaa Sarathkumar, and it was one of his stellar performances as an actor too. The film portrayed a mature romance between SPB and Radhikaa and the song was the protagonist's declaration of love for Radhikaa. SPB is said to have sung both the stanzas of the song without stopping for a single breath.
The music was composed by Ilayaraja and the lyrics for this particular song were penned by Ilayaraja’s younger brother Gangai Amaran. The film was directed by director Vasanth as his directorial debut. When Vasasnth approached SPB for casting him, SPB was at the busiest point in his career. He apparently asked Vasanth to look for another hero. His logic was that while he (SPB) had his career as a singer to fall back on (in the event the film failed because of casting a portly singer as a hero), and direction was Vasasnth’s passion and sole career trajectory. He wanted to save Vasanth from failure! However, Vasanth was smitten by SPB’s acting in Manathil Uruthi Vendum (1987) and was adamant. His perseverance finally paid off, and SPB agreed to the film. The film was a commercial and critical success and one of the key reasons was that Mannil Indha Kaathalandri song.
While you mourn SP Balasubrahmanyam today, take four minutes out to listen to this song.