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Venkatesh Shanmugam pays rich tribute to SP Balasubrahmanyam

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Indian football legend Venkatesh Shanmugam has paid a rich tribute to SP Balasubrahmanyam, saying the famed playback singer had a “profound impact” on his life.

Balasubrahmanyam, popularly known as SPB or Balu in the movie world, died on Friday afternoon in a Chennai hospital where he was being treated for Covid-19 since last month.

“Artists may die but their art lives on forever. SP Balasubrahmanyam is one such icon, whose work has had such a profound impact on my life and, I’m sure, on millions of others,” Venkatesh said, as per an AIFF media release.

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“Every day of my career, earlier as a player and now as a coach, I have not gone to bed before listening to an SBP song, and throughout the journey his compositions have been a source of continuous inspiration. And they shall continue to remain so,” he added.

The 41-year-old recalled his meeting with the Padma Bhushan recipient, which took place three years ago.

“I just said ‘hello’ and told him that I am a football player. He always appreciated sports and athletes a lot — his fondness for Sachin Tendulkar and how he sponsored a teenaged Viswanathan Anand are just a few examples. He smiled warmly and as he shook my hand, he said “that’s very good”. That handshake was a truly surreal moment for me and will always remain a simply unforgettable memory,” said Venkatesh.

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Venkatesh, who is currently the assistant coach of the Indian men’s football team, said Balasubrahmanyam’s songs have been a guiding light for him.

“During the difficult days when I was struck with injury, listening to SBP’s melodies would help me recover and come back stronger.”

“After a disappointing defeat or a bad performance on the field, I would turn to his music to recharge myself and get ready for the next game. Even in joy and victory, his songs would drive me to keep pushing the envelope and give my best. Such is the beauty of his music — they were a motivation at all times, no matter the situation,” he said.

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Balasubrahmanyam recorded over 40,000 songs in 16 languages over a period of five decades, and Venkatesh said it was “impossible to even think” of picking a favourite song of the late singer.

“As an artist, he was second to none but there are so many other qualities of his that I draw a lot of inspiration from. His dedication to his craft and the hard work he put in on a daily basis is just something else,” the former India captain said.

“Another aspect of his personality that stands out is his humility. He achieved so much in his career and yet he never showed off. I have never seen a humble person in my life than him. Apart from his songs, his talks and interviews — where he would give valuable points about life, were so inspirational. He was not just a singer, he was an advisor to the public,” he added.

Venkatesh said that Balasubrahmanyam’s demise leaves a huge void in the lives of all his fans, in India and across the world. “However, his soulful voice and melodies shall live forever for generations to come and continue to be a guiding light. Rest in peace, sir!” –ians/aak/vnc

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