And like a big wave that approaches towards the shore, gaining momentum as it does, SPB draws his breath and sings...

SPB and Radikaa in Keladi KanmaniInstagram/Radikaa Sarathkumar
Flix Tribute Friday, September 25, 2020 - 19:17

The song ‘Mannil indha kaadhal indri’, composed by Ilaiyaraaja for the 1990 romantic drama Keladi Kanmani became an immediate sensation when it released. It was director Vasanth’s debut film and starred SP Balasubrahmanyam along with Radikaa. Ilaiyaraaja’s brother and SPB’s good friend Gangai Amaran wrote the lines. And the amazing SPB delivered a portion of it in what appeared to be a single breath.

Speaking to TNM about the song which was nothing short of a super hit when it released, the director of Keladi Kanmani, Vasanth, says, “There’s no one like him for bhavam (emotion/expression). There is no one who’s as humble as him. In my first film, which was one of his busiest times, he agreed to be a part of the film and delivered his best performance. His loss is indeed unbearable.”

In his prolific career, SPB sang close to 40,000 songs in many Indian languages but there’s a special place in the hearts of his fans for this song, one that immediately transports us to a breezy day at the beach, as the waves lap the shore relentlessly.

And like a big wave that approaches the shore, gaining momentum as it does, SPB in this unforgettable song draws his breath and sings, “Vennilavum ponni nadhiyum / kanniyin thunayindri / enna sugam ingu padaikkum / penmayil sugamandri Santhanamum sanga thamizhum / pongidum vasanthamum / sindhi varum pongum amudham / thangidum kumudhamum Kanni magal arugil irunthaal suvaikkum / kanni thunai izhanthal muzhuthum kasakkum Vizhiyinil mozhiyinil nadaiyinil udaiyinil athisaya sugam tharum anangival pirappithu thaan!”

Actor Radikaa appeared along with SPB in the film which was on a single father who finds new love but is forced to give up because of his daughter’s objections.

Speaking to TNM, Radikaa recalls her time with SPB on the sets: “I never thought I’d act with him. So when the script came up, I sort of did it. I still remember him making fun of it. ‘Did you really agree to act with me?’ he’d ask.”

“He’d be like a child on the sets and he’d ask us for feedback. His love for learning more is what made him who he is,” she adds.

In the ‘Mannil indha kaadhal indri’ song, the single father is trying to impress the woman he loves and sings the song as a challenge.

“I may not know to sing that well, but I do know to some extent,” he begins humbly and then jests, “Not just sing, I’ll sing it without drawing a breath.”

SPB’s endearing performance in the film as a conflicted father won him love from the audience and critics alike.

“We never thought it would become such a cult hit,” says Radikaa, speaking about the song. “I kept asking him, thinking that he must be lying [about singing it in a single breath] and would request him to sing it to me again. He was so sportive and sang the song for us on the sets.”

As we now know, all the songs in this film, except 'Mannil', were composed in a record timing of just 30 minutes by Maestro Ilaiyaraaja. This was shared by director Vasanth in his interviews as well. The director also revealed that he had suggested the idea of the ‘breathless’ song to the singer first and later, Ilaiyaraaja too found the concept interesting. Following this, Ilaiyaraaja composed the song in Keeravani ragam.

For many of us, SPB’s death is personal even if we’ve never met him. After all, it's hard to come to terms with the passing away of a beloved when there’s still so much of them lingering around you. SPB’s passing will continue to evoke such a feeling. The soulful voice with which he for so long entertained us, the numerous songs that are impossible to forget, will continue to remind us of SPB.

The lines “Indha degham maraindhalum / isaiyaai malarven...” (Should this body disappear / I will bloom as music) from his song 'Sangeetha Maegam' echoes in our mind in SPB’s god-sent voice as we bid tearful goodbye to a true legend.

Listen to the evergreen song from Keladi Kanmani here:

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