Given the importance of songs in Tamil cinema, it is inevitable that it can make or break a film. This was the case especially during the late 70s and 80s where there were no teasers, trailers and the buzz around the launch of ‘singles’. Back then, it used to be common for most Tamil films to have minimum five to six songs. SPB singing for Rajnikanth, in particular, became a ‘ritual’ over these years, and, in fact, he was considered the ‘singing’ voice of the Superstar.
When the soundtrack of Kabali was released, it shocked many because the Superstar album didn’t feature an SPB number. The latter mostly sings the title track in the former’s films. 2014 was when SPB sang last for Rajinikanth in Lingaa. Now, after four years, in the upcoming Rajinikanth film Petta, directed by Karthik Subbaraj, SPB has crooned the introduction song “Marana Mass” in Anirudh Ravichander’s music.
Let’s revisit the most popular songs rendered by SPB for Rajinikanth:
My Name is Billa (Billa)
This was the chartbuster of the 80s. There were very few musical combinations in Kollywood that generated as much excitement as this duo — MS Viswanathan and Kannadasan. The vocals, of course, come from SPB, who is no stranger to fast-paced songs.
Naan Polladhavan (Polladhavan)
This is very similar to “My Name is Billa” in terms of rhythm, beat and execution. Even now you hear this track, it will surprise you with the same energy.
Raagangal 16 (Thillu Mullu)
I am a huge fan of this classical-based number featuring a delightful array of instruments, which lend the song a highly engaging vibrant soundscape. Thillu Mullu was the first film that Superstar appeared on the screen in a clean-shaven look.
Kadavul Padachan (Pokkiri Raja)
SPB produces a superb tipsy rendition that makes you high every time you listen to it.
Kaadhalin Deepam Ondru (Thambikku Endha Ooru)
A delectable melody. You have to give it to music director Ilaiyaraaja, whose terrific background score compliments SPB’s distinct style of singing.
Kandu Pudichen Kandu Pudichen (Guru Sishyan)
Ilaiyaraaja keeps the orchestration authentic, even as SPB nails this powerful rendition evoking a sense of nostalgia.
Rakkamma Kaiyya Thattu (Thalapathi)
This was placed 4th on BBC World’s Top ten popular songs of all-time. For sure, this is not something you might want to listen to alongside the other songs if you want to stay with the retro mood, but certainly a track worth listening on loop.
Vandhenda Paalkaaran (Annamalai)
Vairamuthu’s lyrics lend magic to this song, originally inspired by a Kannada poem on cows that Rajinikanth had suggested. Yet another foot-tapping piece from Deva. It was one of the best soundtracks of the 90s.
Naan Autokaaran (Baashha)
You could listen to this song play in the city autorickshaws even today. It is a simple tune, beautifully composed, that I heard as a child. A Rajinikanth fan can never keep calm but scream “Thalaivaa” while listening to this.
Oruvan Oruvan Mudhalali (Muthu)
No SPB concert is complete without him singing this fantastic song, that was tailor-made for Rajinikanth. The lyrics have a lot to do with Superstar’s persona and the way the audience relate to him. This is your typical mass intro song, again attributed to Rajinikanth’s real-life persona. Like how, he thinks God is the ‘only boss’ and he is just an ‘ordinary servant’. You can’t help but notice how Rajinikanth jumps into a horse-carriage and takes over the reins.
Adhaanda Idhaanda (Arunachalam)
This is not a song, but a carefully-written eulogy, capturing the philosophy of life.
En Peru Padayappa (Padayappa)
Rajinikanth pulls a snake out of a putthu and gives it a kiss. The entry song is anything but ordinary, and has lyrics like, “paasamulla manithanappaa… naan meesa vecha kuzhanthaiyappaa.” Padayappa, they say, is an experience in itself. Oh, it definitely is!
With an unusual metre and an equally effective orchestral arrangement, this song easily counts among the best songs picturised on Rajinikanth.