Hyderabad: Dr M. Balamuralikrishna had often vented his righteous anger at his native state of Andhra Pradesh as an artist, including saying: “Andhras lack music sense and only Tamils have the music tradition, be it vocal or instrumental.” The outspoken artist, a rarity in the world of music, even took on then chief minister N.T. Rama Rao, himself an artiste, for abolishing various academies, including the Sangeeta Natak Academy, in the state and merging them with the Telugu University in 1983.
Immediately after AP announced the decision, Balamuralikrishna vowed not to visit Andhra Pradesh or hold a concert in the state as long as Rama Rao was Chief Minister. The singer stuck to his promise, calling the decision to abolish the academies “foolish and senseless.” Years later, in 1995, N.T. Rama Rao’s wife Lakshmi Parvati and senior IAS official K.V. Ramana Chary brokered peace between the two. The government held a concert at Ravindra Bharathi for Balamuralikrishna, and Rama Rao sat through its entire duration. NTR even later appointed Balamurali-krishna as the pro-chancellor of the Telugu University with Cabinet rank status.
Incidentally, N.T. Rama Rao in the late ’70s remade Narthanasala as Sri Madvirataparvam and requested Balamuralikrishna to sing in the film, and the result was Jeevithame Krishna Sangeetham. It was picturised on NTR, who reprised his role in the earlier film as Narthanasala. The Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam appointed Balamuralikrishna as aasthana vidwan (court poet), and he performed a rare concert — for the first time in the history of TTD — in front of the Maha Dwaram of the temple in 2008 with thousands of devotees attending. Despite a heavy downpour, the concert went on.
In a way, Balamuralikrishna followed the tradition of the great composer Thyagaraja, who was born in Andhra but settled in Tiruvayyuru in Tamil Nadu. The multi-faceted personality Bhanumathi Ramakrishna also settled in Chennai and was appointed principal of the Madras Music College. Balamuralikrishna’s opinion of Telugus did have some backing. There is an old saying in Telugu, that Telugus will only recognise local talent after the artistes are recognised by others....