I switched on my bedside radio to listen to AIR Mysore and prepared for my Sunday after-lunch siesta. The siesta could not take off. Reason: a song tribute to P.B.Srinivas was being aired and in between, it was announced 'from now on, they are only in voice'. It was an off-schedule item, revealing the death of my favourite singer.
He finished his work and returned to his car and told me that P.B.Srinivas lives in the same street... "See, that house!" It was right opposite! "Gopi, come, let us try our luck!", I said. Gopi said "I had taken his autograph last time I was here and he was in he midst of his shaving programme, yet he obliged." Realizing that dream of meeting an icon was so close!
It was around half an hour to noon that day. There I was, feeling great, looking at the ordinary board nailed to one of the pillars at the gate reading "P.B.Srinivas, Playback Singer". The wide, simple iron gate lay latched. Some open space separated the gate and the house, presenting the typical 1960s look and asking for paint, defying to reflect the immense stature of the dweller. His old Fiat car with the old registration number lay parked outside the shed which was slightly beyond. We entered the premise with a grand hope of meeting the great legend, whose voice and melodies in thousands had enthralled millions especially in the 1950-70 decades. He was a playback singer and person par excellence and had the wonderful reputation as a noble human being.
The yard space around the house had no garden. In the open veranda lay a pile of newspapers and magazines on a small table while some lay haphazardly on the 'diwan', presenting an appearance that he was around. His reclining chair and pillows were 'telling' that he had just got up from there. The location of his house [CIT Nagar] appeared a calm one, suitable for some 'voracious reading'. The main door was closed, but windows were open. We called a few times 'Sir, sir...' and paused to hear if somebody heard the calls. But since things were silent, we peeped in through the window beside the door and doubted the presence of anyone at home. I saw a 'zero watt' bulb hung on the row of numerous framed and garlanded images of Gods and Goddesses, being kept on. There were some simple furniture in the old-fashioned living room into which the main door would open. Again, we called 'Sir, sir..' louder this time. I also did the 'tap, tap' with the knuckles on the door. But more silence answered from inside.
Picture from Deccan Herald [15th April, 2013] is to the right. See, that is his house and he is walking towards that gate. The open veranda and the reclining chair is visible. That is where I was standing in hope!
My friend Gopi's favourite joint is Woodlands Hotel where also PBS was spending many evening hours [esp.] with friends over cups of filter coffee. He was also fond of Masala Dosas. Once when Gopi took me [on another visit to Chennai] to Woodlands, he showed PBS leaving in his old car, at a short distance. So I had a glimpse of the person, the second time. The first time was in an orchestra in Mysore around 1980.
His fondness for displaying huge pens in the shirt pocket was his 'signature', so was also wearing caps. In recent years it appears he had grown fondness for the Mysore Peta.
His unique 'unimitatable' voice was gentle and its melody, soft and soothing. Never a harsh note. Man is mortal but achievements, immortal. Seldom are greatness and simplicity intertwine. They did, with PBS. He used to often lament in interviews that melody was absent in the songs made after the 1980s and nobody defies his view and many other playback singers of the earlier times were of the same opinion.
With his passing I have to be content with the fond privilege of at least visiting his house. Had luck favoured us with the physical presence of the great man, this post would have taken a different shape!
One of my several favourite songs - "Deena Naa Bandiruve":
Another of my and also his own favourites - "Baagilanu Teredu"
The playback voice of PBS was the perfect match for Dr.Rajkumar's on the screen. Dr. Raj himself famously quoted: "Nanna Shareerada Shareera is PBS'" [meaning, my body's voice is PBS']. PBS was made to sing all of his songs in numerous Kannada movies until he himself was forced to start singing when PBS could not arrive for the recording. Thereafter, PBS' fame waned as fans of Dr.Raj wanted him to sing his own songs as his first song was such a hit. Both legends have gone back to Mother Earth.