Vasantrao Deshpande – The doyen of Natya Sangeet from Maharashtra

Vasantrao Deshpande (1920 – 1983) was a renowned Hindustani classical vocalist known for his contributions towards musical dramas, also known as Natya Sangeet. He also performed in light/semi-classical music genres such as Khayal, Thumri, Ghazal, Tappa etc. He did playback singing for more than 80 Marathi movies too.

He was a recipient of Sangeet Natak Akademi Award and many other honours. His grandson, Rahul Deshpande is also a renowned vocalist, following the family legacy. He performs in light music genres, apart from reviving many of musical dramas of his grandfather, and also appears on stage and films.

Vasantrao Deshpande is known for diverse styles of singing

Vasantrao was born in Murtizapur, Akola District, Maharastra. His musical talent was first observed by filmmaker Bhalji Pendharkar, who casted him in the role of little Krishna in the Hindi movie Kaliya Mardan (1935), at the age of 8. He was launched as both singer and actor through this film. He learnt music from different gurus belonging to different gharanas, and hence didn’t strictly follow a single school of music. Shankarrao Sapre of Gwalior, a disciple of V. D. Paluskar, was his first guru.

He continued learning under Sureshbabu Mane of Kirana gharana, Asad Ali Khan of Patiala gharana, Aman Ali Khan and Anjanibai Malpekar of Bhendibazaar gharana. He was deeply influenced by Dinanath Mangeshkar also. He was a master in singing many popular and rare ragas, and is a well-known name in Marathi classical music circle.

A Marathi legend in the field of musical dramas

Apart from singing in Hindustani classical and light genres of music, his contributions to Marathi musical dramas are immensely huge. His grandson later revived many of his dramas, and performed in his role too.

He learnt the original versions of Thumri, dadra and ghazal from Lahore. In fact he learnt a little bit Urdu too, for improvising his renditions in ghazal. “Katyaar Kaaljaat Ghusli”, “He Bandha Reshmache”, “Vij Mhanali Dhartila”, “Meghmalhar”, “Tukaram” and “Varyawarchi Varaat” are among his popular musical dramas, which were staged successfully.

Annually his grandson Rahul Deshpande arranges the “Vasantotsav” in the memory of his late grandfather. It’s conducted under the foundation, Dr. Vasantrao Deshpande Pratishthan. “Vasantotsav Youth Award” and ” Vasantotsav Award” are given away every year too.

Vasantrao Deshpande – Some interesting and less-known facts

1. He learnt music from different gharanas and hence has not been associated with any particular school of music.

2. He took PhD in music, for his thesis, ‘The Transformation of Hindustani Classical Music’.

3. He is credited to creating raga Raj Kalyan, a variant of Yaman without pancham.

4. He acted in movies like Kaliya Mardan, Dudh Bhaat, and Ashtavinayak.

5. His disciples include Chandrakant Limaye and Vijay Koparkar.

6. Though he learnt under different gurus, Dinanath Mangeshkar and Vasantrao influenced him most.

7. He was also a tabla and harmonium player.

8. His senior-most disciple Pt. Chandrakant Limaye established the Vasantrao Deshpande Sangeet Sabha (VDSS) in 2000, to carry forward his legacy.


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A freelance writer and blogger by profession since October 2011, interested in writing over a wide range of topics. Hope you enjoy my writings. I belong to one of the beautiful places of the world, Kerala, nicknamed as 'God's own country'.

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