Dr.Vasantrao Deshpande was India's most illustrious classical vocalists.The scale of his versatility challenged all bounds of imagination. He handled all forms of music with awe-inspiring ease. In the "raag" form which constitutes classical music, the artist displays his creativity on a basic canvas. Dr. Vasantrao Deshpande's rendition of famous ragas like Marwa, Salag Waraali, Natbhairav, Kauns( in its various forms), Chayanat, Basant Mukhari, Patamanjiri, Jaijaiwanti, Janasammohini, Bhoop, Shree, Marubihag, Yaman etc. had a magical quality to them that kept people glued to their seats. His performance of offbeat ragas was not too different. The 'Sargam" was his forte. No other artist could impart so much variety and colour to the Sargam as he did. His delivery of "Taans" gave one the impression of a thousand lighnings crackling and dazzling in the sky, just before a heavy downpour.
Dr. Vasantrao Deshpande was equally at ease with the Thumri, Dadra an Ghazal forms. These find their origins in countries like Iran and Afghnanistan. Dr. Vasantrao Deshpande had picked up the original style and nuances of the thumri and ghazal while studying at Lahore. He also learnt quite a bit of Urdu to elevate his ghazal performances. Another area of music where he made his mark was " Marathi Natyasangeet". Some of the plays in which he acted and performed were "Katyaar Kaaljaat Ghusli", "He Bandha Reshmache", "Vij Mhanali Dhartila", "Meghmalhar", "Tukaram" and "Varyawarchi Varaat". Out of these, "Katyaar Kaaljaat Ghusli" became highly popular. Dr. Vasantraro Deshpande became the cynosure of everyone's eye for his challenging role of "Khan Aftaab Hussain Khansaheb". As the play's popularity began to soar, he acquired the alias, "Pandit Vasantkhan Deshpande".
Light, semi-classical and film music would hardly remain an exception to such a multi-talented person. He acted in movies like "Kaaliya Mardan"(he was just eight), "Dudh Bhaat", "Ashtavinayak" and many more. He gave playback to more than 80 Marathi films. Besides pure music, he also put together the history of Marathi music plays, from origin showing their evolution upto the present stage. This is how he presented his brainchild, his tour de force, " Marathi Natyasageetachi Vaatchaal". ( The evolution of music in Marathi music plays). In this he would first explain the socio-cultural influences that shaped the musicals as they stood in a particular era and then demonstrate the evolution through its music. The concert was first held in Delhi. It stretched for 3 days, 6 hours each day. The experiment was bound to be a winner with the audience.
Dr. Vasantrao Deshpande was an academician in his own right. He earned himself a PhD in "The Transformation of Hindustani Classical Music". He was also invited to several educational institutions to deliver lectures on music, quite often with live demonstrations. Dr. Vasantrao Deshpande was truly a genius.
As A Performer...
Dr.Vasantrao Deshpande had received the training under different gharanas (schools or styles of music): Patiyala, Bhendi Bazar, Kairana; yet he id not receive the stamp of any particular gharana.
He was a thinker and he blended these styles to develop a style of his own. He did not believe in imitation. Considering the timbre of his voice, pitch, range and expressive capacity, he forged his own characteristic style.
He usually began his exposition of a raag in the Jod-Aalap or 'Nom-Tom' style and created a kind of foundation for his musical statements. This created an aesthetic tension in the listener's minds and then he landed beautifully on the first beat of the khayal- the 'sum'. His development of the khayal was always full of such tensions and releases, which pleased the audience.
His concert was consists of Khayal, Thumari, Dadra Natya Geet, Gazal etc. A perfect amalgam of traditional classical as well as light music.
He had an equal command of both common and uncommon Ragas and a large repertoire of compositions. He presented them judiciously, considering the type of audience before him.
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