Simply Perfect Baritone (SPB) passed away earlier this month and The Man from Madras Musings, who is one of his countless admirers, mourned his departure along with everyone else. The man leaves a void in the heart, largely because of his singing prowess and also because of the way he came across – an ever smiling, jovial soul. The timing of his passing could not have been worse – a pandemic raging which prevents most from paying their tributes in person. To us, as people, faced with a sea of troubles, SPB’s death is one more sling or arrow of outrageous fortune (that by the way, in case you are impressed, is not MMM’s own but a paraphrasing of the Bard of Avon).
It is but natural that a man who sang over 40,000 songs, set in several Indian languages, should have touched many. And a demand is now gaining momentum among these fans that their idol ought to be conferred the highest award the country can bestow – Indian Gem. Not surprisingly, there is opposition to this from artistes themselves.
You see, ever since Melodiously Sublime Singer was conferred this award ever so many years ago, musicians have generally begun to fancy their chances. And when the award was granted to a few others in the art, the buzz became all the more. MMM personally knows of at least three artistes, now all playing the harp up in the heavens, who during their lifetime tried their level best to be so honoured, only to be bitterly disappointed with officialdom proving unresponsive.
Melodiously Sublime Singer was in what Chennai would describe as another level – moving millions with her music, moving with grace among the titled and ennobled, having Lords temporal and spiritual fawning on her, and above all, giving considerable amounts in charity. None of those other aspirants had those qualities in the same quantity as she had. Now coming to Simply Perfect Baritone, while he may not fit all those criteria, did have plenty of attributes to be recognized as a national gem. His music was pan Indian and he had fans across the nation. After all, if the Lark (of) Mumbai could get it, why not our man? MMM wishes the move all Godspeed.
But what he is unable to understand is the pettiness among the artistes themselves in opposing such a move. MMM was quite shocked to receive an email purportedly written by a fairly well-known personality in the field of arts, questioning the validity of the move. The person, knowing full well the avalanche of scorn such a missive directly opposing the conferment of the award may provoke, worded the communication very cleverly. O who better than the late Simply Perfect Baritone for such a wonderful honour gushed the letter. It then went on to question the value of posthumously awarding people, when “alas, they are not around to enjoy it.”
Would it not be much better therefore to recognize people who are still around in the flesh and blood? And then, in order to quell any doubts people may have that this message was an exercise in self-promotion, the person concerned went on to state that he did not have himself in mind but was thinking more of X, Y & Z, all of whom in his view deserve such an award and are, “dying” to receive it so to speak.
But MMM, having spent quite a few years among artistes and their wiles was not fooled. A close look at the intended recipients of the mail revealed quite a few in the highest echelons of power. This coupled with the fact that the artiste had prefixed his name with a full panoply of titles, revealed that the whole letter was nothing but a sordid exercise in garnering publicity for himself and testing the waters for his chances of the award.