Remembering Sudhir Phadke
His knowledge of classical music coupled with his style of bhav geet compositions, made each of his compositions unique with unparalleled melody for 50 years
It was the beginning of the new millennium, I received a beautiful coffee table book on singer and composer, Sudhir Phadke. The book was compiled by our dear friend Vishwash Nerurkar, who has done Yeoman's service to the vintage and popular film music. He has bought out a dozen books on the life and music of great composers. The book on Sudhir Phadke has a collection of authentic information and rare photographs of the composer. The only disappointment was that unlike his earlier books, it was in Marathi.
Sudhir Phadke was an accomplished Marathi singer-composer from Maharashtra. He was regarded as an icon of the Marathi film industry and Marathi Sugam Sangeet (light music) for five decades. Apart from Marathi, Phadke sang and composed songs in several Hindi films as well.
Sudhir was very much revered by people and fondly addressed as Babujee. To begin with, Sudhir started teaching music. But these were his most difficult days. He always remained in a financial crisis. His only source of income was cash received through awards and performances. His compositions became very popular. Seeing his popularity His Master's Voice (HMV) offered him a job in their music department. In HMV, he met another struggler, Vasudev Bhatkat (popularly known as Snehal Bhatkar), who gave music in several films of Veteran Kidar Sharma. Soon they became friends and shared a close bond.
Sudhir Phadke remained with HMV from 1943 to 1945. He got his first break in Pradeep Pictures' Rukmini Swayamwar (1946). The film was directed by Baburao Painter starring Ratan Mala, Chander Kant and Durga Khote. His compositions Mein taron Ki oad chunria set in Raga Telang was hailed by music lovers. Sudhir shared the credit in the film with Vasudev Bhatkar. The same year he got a break as an independent composer in Prabhat film company's film Gokul (1946). Sudhir was brought in place of Husnlal Bhagatram who had already recorded two songs for the film. Sudhir's revolutionary song in the film was: Hum todeinge bandhan azad hoge (Mohan Tara/Chorus).
He was signed by Prabhat again in Aage Badho starring Dev Anand and the singing rage of 1940's, Khursheed. Phadke used brilliant interludes of sitar and violin in duet Sawan ki ghata dheere dheere aana which was sung by Khursheed and Manna Dey. Another solo Ghazal in Khurshed's voice was Taqdeer mein likha hai meri thokarein khana.
In the film Apradhi (1949), starring Munnwar Sultana and Ram Singh, Sudhir made a few catchy tunes in Sitara of Kanpur's voice: Pyar karne walon ke liye hai duniya, Mera dil churane wale and Dil ro raha hai aur hum ga rahein hai. But the song which attracted the music lovers most was Jaan pechan na saheb salam na. G.M Durrani also sang a popular number, Zindaagi ka maza shadi mein hai.
In between, Sudhir gave music in few mythological films – Sita Swayamwar (1948), Sant Janabai, Jai Bheem and Ram Pratigya (1949) and Maya Bazaar (1950). In Jai Bheem, he gave a typical Marathi style of music. Its prominent numbers were: Mand mand pawan chale (Saraswati Rane) and a fast-paced number in Lalita Dewolkar's voice, Hum dono pancchhi ude Ja rahi hein ek disha ki ore. Sudhir also sang a duet in his voice with Lalita – Chali na jaiyo mohe chhod kar. Sudhir Phadke married his co-singer in Jai Bheem, Lalita Dewolkar, in 1949. By then, she already had many hit songs in several Hindi films.
Sudhir Phadke was a trained classical singer in Indian classical music and was a singer of repute. His compositions were mostly Raga based. He also gave chance to many other classical singers in his films. His film Maya Bazaar (1949) had Durga Khote and Shahu Modak in the lead. Classical singer Manik Verma sang one of her all-time great: Birha sataye bairi. There was also another slow-paced seductive duet: Aaj ki raat nirlai in Laita Phadke and Balak Ram's voices.
Two films of Sudhir Phadke deserves a special mention. First let us discuss his music in Sant Janabai starring Hansa Wadkar, Shakuntala and Ganesh Abhayankar. He composed 22 songs in the film. Manna Dey also sang his devotional number, Prabhat vandana karai jao hey hara, in the film.
The film is remembered for Hansa Wadkar's acting. Its music boasted a soulful bhajan in Rafi's voice: Bhaj man kamal nayan kamlesh. But, Padhke too sang several songs in Sant Janabai – Sapne mein sampada jo paee, Suniye Pandharinath ji, Been baja kar Narad Haare and Nayano mein man mein samaye.
Malti Madhav (1951) was another hit film of Phadke based on Bhavbhuti's Sanskrit classic. Durga Khote and Anant Thakur were in the lead. Pt Narendra Sharma wrote the lyrics. Lata joined Phadke for the first time. She sang the iconic song: Maan saunp diya anjane mein. It was one of the classic gems of Lata. Phadke used the sitar and tabla effectively. Other numbers of Lata with Phadke were Jai Jaiwanti based Bandh preeti phool door. Lata sang this iconic number in the Calcutta Music Festival (1952) in front of an audience that boasted the presence of Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan. The other two memorable numbers of Lata in the film were: Mein yuavan van ki kali and Koyee bana aaj appna. Phadke also sang a duet with Lata – Maan mein angaare hain.
Phadke also gave captivate music in Murliwala (1951). He used the Hawaiian guitar in Chanda chamka neel gagan mein ( Lata). He composed a number in Braj Raas style, Rass Rachao Sakhi, and Maiyya mori ray in Purabi Rang. Asha Bhosle sang for the first time with Phadke in a duet: Jaisi karni waisi bharni.
After the departure of Master Krishan Rao, Phadke became the permanent composer of the Prabhat Film Company. He gave music in Prabhat's last film Gaja Gauri (1958). Directed by Raja Thakur, the movie starred Sulochna, Ratan Mala and Shahu Modak. Phadke's pleasing tunes were: Hey badh bhagan sone chirayya and Lal jasoda ke tum pyare (Suman Kalyanpur). Manna Dey also sang a devotional number – Jai arya devta, hey surya devta. Sudhir Phadke also gave music in Peheli Taarikh (1954). Kishore Kumar sang his iconic number, Khush hai zamna aaj pehli tarikh hai, in this film.
Phadke also gave unforgettable music in Meena Kumari's Bhabhi Ki Chudiyan. Pandit Narendra Sharma wrote the lyrics. Lata sang her golden nugget: Jyoti Kalash Chhalke, in Raag Bhupali. In the opening music, Phadke used brilliant pieces of sitar and flute. According to connoisseurs, Bhabi Ki Chudiyan was the best musical hit of Sudhir Phadke. It is an irony that he disappeared from the Hindi film scene after this musical hit.
Sudhir Phadke will be membered for his outstanding contribution, Geet Ramayan, written by the great Marthi writer and poet, GD Madgulkar. Geet Ramayan was broadcasted from All India Radio for one year. It was also staged across the country. His performance as Lord Rama drew huge crowds. He also participated in the Goa Liberation Movement. Sudhir Phadke gave music in 111 films in Marathi and 21 Hindi films. For his contributions to the world of music, he was awarded the Sangeet Natak Akademy award in 1991 and also received the prestigious National Film Award in 1993.
After a fall under some unavoidable circumstances, Sudhir Phadke suffered a brain hemorrhage. He was rushed to the Hinduja Hospital
on July 29, 2002. He breathed his last on the same day. His body was kept in Savarkar Memorial Hall for a day. He was cremated at the Shivji Park Crematorium on July 30, 2002. Another great man was lost who had done a world of good to the ever-impressive classical music industry.