Mellifluous melodies

Mellifluous melodies

“Aakashave Beelali Mele, Naanendhu Ninnavanu…” This is just one of the unforgettable songs that is part of the treasure chest of melodies that millions of Kannada filmgoers still hum. Those who grew up listening to P B Srinivas’s songs floating out of the radios can never forget the magic that his voice was capable of creating.

His mellifluous voice ruled the airwaves for nearly three decades from the early 1950s. And each decade saw numerous hits that Kannada film fans lapped up, whether they were solo numbers or duets with leading female playback singers of the time such as P Susheela and S Janaki. His voice had a soft quality that stopped you in your tracks. And the songs I heard during my growing up years from the 1970s onwards introduced me to the magic of PBS. He was able to bring life into the tiny speakers of the radio.

Interestingly, I first heard Aakashave Beelali Mele in the 1970s, sung by an older childhood friend in the hills and jungles where my father worked. I was spellbound by the tune and the lyrics. The friend’s family owned a simple gramophone machine, the kind that would open up like a small suitcase with a built-in speaker, and this was one of the few single-play records that they owned. He played this song for me — and the memory of the magic that the PBS song evoked that summer day, decades ago, has followed me around to this day.

Not only was his voice gentle and melodious, his pronunciation was faultless, every word so clear. It was as if PBS was feeling the emotion behind every word that he sang.

Moreover, he had a way of conveying what the song was about with just the way he approached it. While listening to Apara Keerthi Galisidantha — you could almost see a whole vista of an empire from atop a mountain, with the Tungabhadra flowing past as the lyrics extolled the virtues of the Vijayanagara Empire and Karnataka. That same feeling of the great expanse of land can also be felt in Uttara Dhruvadhim and Kodagina Kaveri, both songs from the 1971 hit, Sharapanjara.

Or the song Kannada Naadina Veerara Maniya — you can almost visualise someone telling a story to people gathered outdoors on a winter’s evening, perhaps with a fire burning, of warriors trying to capture the Chitradurga Fort in the dark of a night, with Onakke Obavva decimating the enemies single-handedly with nothing more than a large wooden pestle.

His romantic numbers were gems — Ravivarmana Kunchada is one such eternal classic, and lent our imagination new wings as PBS sang it in his inimitable style.

So were Naanu Neenu Ondhaadha Mele, Nee Bandhu Ninthaaga, Endhendhu Ninnanna Marethu, Malenaada Henna and Baare Baare, to name just a few. He was the voice of Vishnuvardhan, Udaya Kumar, Kalyan Kumar, Srinath and numerous other actors — and of course, of Rajkumar, until he began singing his own songs. Even after he began singing his own songs, the 1977 film Babruvahana had Rajkumar play a double role. This set the stage for the memorable classic Yaaru Thiliyaru Ninna, in which Rajkumar and PBS matched each other line for line, leaving music fans enthralled to this day with their clear enunciation and powerful sense of drama.

The songs PBS sang for Rajkumar alone could account for countless hits that were listened to, again and again, by fans of both these iconic but simple stars. When he sang Naavaaduva Nudiye Kannada Nudi, it became an anthem extolling Karnataka’s natural wealth, and would go on to become a fixture at any public function that involved Kannada. Nagu Nagutha Nali Nali became a philosophical attempt at trying to make us smile through life’s vicissitudes, soothing bruised souls and earthly troubles.

The other songs with a thought-provoking undertone that come to mind immediately are Halliyadharenu Shiva, Thookadisi Thookadisi Beeladhiru Thamma and Aadisi Nodu Beelisi Nodu. These songs made you stop and think.

And while the great music directors and lyricists behind the songs had indeed done their jobs well, there is no doubt that they were more than satisfied when they had somebody like PBS singing it for them. Known to be a simple man, he brought that simplicity to his singing, making difficult lyrics easy to understand. And the gentleness that he brought to the songs brought one immediately into a serene state of mind, whether the song was cheerful, deeply philosophical or tragic. PBS may have physically left this world, but his mellifluous music will keep us eternal company. Endhendhu Ninnanu Marethu…

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