Vasantrao Deshpande was famous for his Hindustani classical singing as well as his unique presentation of Natya Sangeet.
In 1920, Vasantrao was born in Sawlapur (District Amravati, Maharashtra). When he was merely eight years old, a renowned Marathi film producer and director Bhalji Pendharkar recognized his musical aptitude and introduced him in the role of ‘Krishna’ in Hindi movie ‘Kaliyamardan’.
He had his musical training from several gurus. He initiated his musical training in Nagpur under Shankarrao Sapre, a Vishnu Digambar Paluskar pupil. Thereafter also he received guidance of Sureshbabu Mane of Kirana gharana, Asad Ali Khan of Patiala gharana, Aman Ali Khan and Anjani Bai Malpekar of Bhendibazaar gharana, and Ramkrishnabuwa Vaze. Though, he had his musical grooming under all these gurus, yet Dinanath Mangeshkar left the most significant influence on him. Thus, Vasantrao was the one and only accurate successor of Dinanath’s singing. Therefore, considering such a background of abovementioned expert gurus, Vasantrao always rejected to be under the influence of a particular school of singing.
Vasantrao Deshpande also was a philosopher and so considering the resonance-throw-range and communicative capacity of his voice, he developed his own style. He never thought about imitation. He had a great skill in both classical and semi-classical signing. With singing, he also had an expert talent as the tabla and harmonium player. The sargam was his specialty. His raga performance had such a depth of quality that always kept people enchanted. Raga Raj Kalyan, which is the variant of Yaman with no ‘Pancham’ was his invention.
Similarly, thumri, dadra and ghazal forms was also his arena of expertise. When he was studying at Lahore, he had mastered the original technique of the thumri and ghazal. There only, he learnt Urdu that later promoted him in his ghazal recitals.
‘Marathi Natyasangeet’ was the an added music quarter, wherein he left his stupendous influence. ‘Katyaar Kaaljaat Ghusli’, ‘He Bandha Reshmache’, ‘Vij Mhanali Dhartila’, ‘Meghmalhar’, ‘Tukaram’ and ‘Varyawarchi Varaat’ are one of the few plays to name for his acting performance. With his playback to more than 80 Marathi films, he also acted in movies like ‘Kaaliya Mardan’, ‘Dudh Bhaat’, ‘Ashtavinayak’ etc.
More to the point, he presented his masterpiece, “Marathi Natyasageetachi Vaatchaal” (the evolution of music in Marathi music plays), which was the history of Marathi music plays.
Vasantrao Deshpande also had a PhD in ‘The Transformation of Hindustani Classical Music’ and delivered lectures on music, with live demonstrations was in several educational institutions.
Vasantrao had many profit-making releases, which display the depth of Vasantrao’s knowledge about music.
The Dr. Vasantrao Deshpande Pratishthan, Pune, arranges a three-day music festival in his memory, titled ‘Vasantotsav’ in Pune in January each year. During the festival, two awards, the ‘Vasantotsav Youth Award’ for talented young artists and ‘Vasantotsav Award’ for senior artists are given.
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