Wonder if S P Balasubrahmanyam is right now remembering this breezy number he sang for Ilayaraaja back in 1989 for the iconic Kamal Haasan film Appu Raja. The lyrics of the hit song went like this. But Ilayaraja, the doyen of music from south India, does not want Balasubrahmanyan, popularly referred to as SPB, to jhoom lo jhoom lo to any of his compositions on stage. At the start of his USA tour as part of SPB50 to commemorate half a century of playback singing, SPB has been sent a legal notice by Ilayaraja.It says that SPB or any of the other accompanying artists on the tour including veteran playback singer KS Chitra cannot sing any of Ilayaraja numbers without his permission. And if they did so, they would be breaking the copyright law and would have to pay huge financial penalty and face legal action.

SPB to break the news

SPB took to Facebook to break the news, expressing surprise that he had kickstarted the SPB50 concert tour in August last year in Toronto and had subsequently performed in Russia, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Singapore, Dubai and in Indian cities as well. “I did not get any feelers from Shri Raja’s office at that time. I don’t know why now when we started our US tour. I am ignorant of the law. If it is a law, so be it and I obey it,” wrote SPB. What this means is that SPB and Chitra and the rest will not croon any of the hit numbers they have sung in their long, illustrious career for the maestro.

“In these circumstances, our troupe cannot perform Isaijnani’s (musical genius) compositions from today. But the show should happen. While it is nobody’s case that the music director’s effort should not go unrewarded, the fact that Raja’s notice undermines the contribution of the playback singer to making the song a superhit. While legally, the composer’s ownership over the song is that much more, ethically, the right of the voice behind the song over it cannot be wished away after having written out his cheque. It is a tricky situation that has no clear answers in black and white.

If that were to be the case, none of the reality shows on different television channels can perform any Ilayaraja number without seeking permission or perhaps paying royalty. After all, they too are commercial exploitation of the song. Which only means the chances of gen-next getting to hear and enjoy the gems composed by arguably one of the finest music composers in India will only come down.