In the recent past, I read a couple of delightful reviews on Punjabi musicians on this site. These reviews introduced us to a different culture of music popular in the north western part of the country. While many of us may not have heard about those musicians or may not even have similar tastes, the tremendous popularity of those reviews led me to think that some more flavours ought to be added to this regional dish – by introducing the readers here to the icon of Marathi music– SUDHIR PHADKE.
To non-Maharastrians, this name might not be familiar, but lovers of old Hindi film songs would surely have enjoyed the beautiful Bhupali number – “Jyoti kalash chalke” sung by Lata Mangeshkar for the film “Bhabhi ki chudiyan” . The music director of this melodious tune was none other than Sudhir Phadke.
However, to really appreciate the prowess of this genius, one must be familiar with his work in Marathi music. His judicious use of ragas as well as the simplicity in his tunes made his music extremely popular. Although most of these tunes were composed in the 1950s and 60s, they continue to rise in popularity and are still heard over radio and television. Some of his most popular films with superhit music were “Aamhi jaato amuchchya gaava”, “Pudhcha Paaul”, “Jagaachya paathivar”, “Suvasini”, “Prapanch” and “Mumbaicha jawai” . “Mumbaicha jawai” is the Marathi version of the popular Basu Chatterjee movie Piya ka ghar – but the songs were a class apart. Songs like “Prathama tuzha paahata” or Suman Kalyanpur’s “Kashi karu swagata” as well as Asha Bhosle’s “Kaa re durava, kaa re abola” are absolute masterpieces. In “Jagachya Paathivar”, he along with Asha Bhosle gave us some superb numbers like “Vikata ghetala shyam” and “Tula pahate re”.
In a career spanning nearly four decades, he composed music for over 110 films. Being involved with the freedom struggle himself, Phadke also produced a film on Savarkar.
Phadke, who was fondly called Babuji, did not restrict his repertoire to film music alone. Marathi music, in those days, had a wide range of popularity and aficionados of Marathi music did not distinguish between film songs, devotional songs, folk songs and Bhavgeet while bestowing their prized adulation and acclaim.
Hence, along with other music directors, Sudhir Phadke had a wide collection of still popular devotional songs and bhavgeet as well. ( Bhav geet is a form of music where lovely poems, mostly romantic in nature, are set to melodious tunes – something akin to ghazals in Urdu. The base of the tunes may be classical, but the tone is never heavy, it is always either light or semi-classical ). Babuji used many great singers of that time including Lata and Asha, but his tuning was perfect with Asha who under his tutelage gave us some scintillating and sensitive numbers (no, this is not a similar pairing as the Asha-OP Nayyar of Hindi films, this was much more sober and had a wider range of tastes).
While Sudhir Phadke was undoubtedly a master musician, he was also an extremely popular singer as well. Infact some would argue that his popularity as a singer surpassed that as a music director. So much so, that his peers (i.e. other music directors of his time) like Ram Phatak and Yashwant Dev used his voice in some of their most popular songs. (Wow, competition those days was surely not cut-throat!!! Pun unintended.)
Phadke’s voice breathed life of our reviewers recommend us into some of Marathi music most popular songs which are heard and enjoyed even today. His voice had a certain emotion which blended into the meaning of every syllable that was uttered and effortlessly convey the expression that the tune was striving to evoke. His bhakti songs, while heavily laced with a philosophical bent, were conveyed with an outpouring of devotion – just hear his masterpieces:
~ Maana manav va parmeshwar
~ Vimoh tyaagun karmphalaancha (a citation of the Gita)
~ Tu veda kumbhar
~ Uddhava, ajab tujhe sarkaar
~ Sant vaahate krishnamaayi
~ Tuzhe roop chitti raaho, mukhi tuzhe naam
~ Dehaachi tizori, bhakti saathveva
~ Dev Devarhyaat naahi, dev naahi devalayi
~ Kuthe shodhishi Rameshwar, kuthe shodhishi Kashi
His other philosophical songs were extremely thought provoking such as the beautiful “Akaashi jhep ghe re paakhar, sodi sonyaacha pinjara” and “Ashi paakhare yeti aanik smruti thevuni jaati”
But he was a master at romantic songs as well with lovelies such as:
~ Aaj rani purvichi tee preet tu maagu nako
~ Dislees tu, phulale rutu
~ Sakhi mand zhaalya taaraka
~ Toch chandrama nabhaat, teech chaitrya yamini
But the zenith of his career would arguably be the stage performance of “Geet Ramayan” based on G.D. Madgulkar’s verses, which became extremely popular in the 1960s.
The peak period of Sudhir Phadke’s career span coincided with the golden period of Marathi music in the 1950s-60s. However from the 1970s onwards, Marathi music began to lose its popularity to Hindi films on the one hand and cheap, gimmickry, double meaning folk songs on the other. Stalwarts like Sudhir Phadke and his ilk were slowly edged out of the mainstream only to remain in the fond memories of his admirers.
This doyen of Marathi music left this world in July 2002 at the age of 83, leaving behind countless musical treasures for thousands of his loved fans.