An accomplished Marathi singer-composer the late Sudhir Phadke is regarded as an icon of Marathi film industry and the Marathi light music. Though he passed away on July 29, 2002, he still rules the heart of the people through is immortal songs and music. He has 111 films to his credit as a music director and 21 of which are in Hindi. His singing of Geet Ramayana is still recalled by many. Apart from being an excellent singer and musician, he is also known for his lead role in the liberation of Dadra Nagar Haveli from Portages control. A tribute by one of his close companions in the film industry on his birth centenary year, which began on July 25, 2018:
RSS Sarsanghachalak Shri Mohan Bhagwat at the birth centenary celerabtion of Sudhir Phadke in Mumbai on July 25
The birth centenary year of Babuji is going on. His name was Sudhir Phadke, but we all respectfully called him Babuji. I am fortunate to have received his affection for a long time. He was blessed with the excellent talent in singing. I remember an incident when I was a Bal swayamsevak of RSS in Wardha. There used to be a weekly get-together (Ekatrikaran) of our Shakha every Sunday. We all the swayamsevaks gathered at a similar Ekatrikaran where first half hour was devoted to physical activities and the remaining half hour was for the bauddhik (intellectual discourse). At the gathering on Sunday, the then Zila Sanghachalak Shri Appaji Joshi joined us. After the physical activities when we all sat in a circle for the bauddhik, Appaji said: “Today none of you will sing the song; this young boy, Ram Phadke, will sing”. The youth must have been around 20-22 year then, while I was merely around 12. Ram Phadke started singing the song. That was quite a new song for all of us, but its sur was amazing and highly touching. That song was basically composed by the key man of Rashtra Sewa Dal, Sane Guruji. The song was in Marathi and its title was “Bal Sagar Bharat ho ho….”. We had read the song, but never heard in such an impressive sur. That was never sung at our Shakha. The sur and laya of Babuji while singing the song were so impressive that it deeply influenced all of us. Even after completion of the song, its sur and words continued to echo in our mind for a long time.
Bridge between RSS and Rashtra Seva Dal
An interesting incident took place when the song was being sung at the Shakha. We noticed that the youth of Rashtra Seva Dal Shakha, held at the ground of a nearby school, also came to our Sangh Sthan by crossing the road just to listen to the song. Basically, the sur of the song attracted them from the school ground to our Sangh Shakha. They said they frequently sing that song, but have never heard in such an influencing sur and laya. They asked about the swayamsevak who was singing the song. We said we don’t know. His name is Ram Phadke. They asked whether he would teach us the song. Meanwhile, Phadkeji also came. When those youth asked him whether he would teach them the song, he said he cannot leave the Sangh Shakha before the completion of the Shakha. But he would surely teach them if they come after the shakha.
As promised, after the Shakha, Babuji told the Rashtra Sewa Dal youth to reach their shakha only in the school and he would teach them song there only. Babuji went to the school ground and got them sit in his own manner. He told them that he would recite the song thrice and they have to repeat it after every line. The process continued for about an hour. Babuji explained to them in detail how to use the words in the song and which words have to be stressed how much. This is how Babuji acted as a bridge between the Rashtra Seva Dal and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh then.
After that, when I came to his contact he was famous as Sudhir Phadke. His life was worth emulating at every step. He gave music in eight films produced by me also. I had very close relations with him. Although, I used to live in Pune, because I did not have any residence in Mumbai, whenever I was in Mumbai I stayed at a house near his residence. And most of the time my tea, breakfast, etc used to be at his residence only. We maintained such close relations. In those days he was a very reputed personality. I also became a film director. We did many films together. The thing which I closely observed in his life was that whatever he did, he did considering that as if he was doing for the Sangh. If he was in the field of music it should be meaningful and people should get right message through that. He sang all his songs keeping this spirit in mind.
Brief Life Sketch
Born on July 25, 1919 in Kolhapur
Birth name was Ram Phadke, but later changed to Sudhir Phadke
Regarded as an icon of Marathi film industry
Apart from Marathi, sang and composed songs in Hindi films as well.
After beginning career with HMV in 1941, joined Prabhat Film Company as music director in 1946
His son Shridhar Phadke is also a composer and singer
‘Geet Ramayana’ is one of his most popular works
In last days of life, produced a Hindi film on Veer Savarkar through public donations
A committed Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh worker for over 60 years
Passed away on July 29, 2002
Shri Sudhir Phadke during the recording of his legendary work ‘Geet Ramayana’
One of the landmark works that he did in his life was the singing of ‘Geet Ramayana’ composed by noted poet of Maharashtra GD Madgulkar, famous as Valmiki, in Marathi. When that song was aired on the All India Radio, all members of the family used to sit around the radio set and perhaps there was none in Maharashtra in those days who was not with any of the radio set of a neighbour when it was aired. The then Prime Minister Shri Atal Behari Vajpayee had joined the 25th anniversary of that song. I have never come across any such influential personality in the field of music. Despite being very popular he never deviated from the Sangh thinking. Sangh was in his heart and brain round the clock.
Dadra Nagar Haveli Liberation
I remember another incident related to the life of Babuji. There is a place near Mumbai (about 25 km) known as Dadra Nagar Haveli. Even after Independence, it was under the control of Portuguese. Babuji played a key role in its liberation. It is a world record that the area came under the control of India without using any soldier. Babuji reached there with some civilians and cornered the Portuguese telling them to leave the place immediately, as we the Indians do not want them to stay there. And they left without much resistance. This is how Dadra Nagar Haveli was liberated without any violence. This incident astonishes all.
That Moment of Dilemma
I have personal experience also. Babuji was sick and was admitted to the hospital. I used to go there every night. However, none was allowed to enter his room, I used to sit in the waiting room. Only the close family members like his wife, son and daughter-in-law were allowed to go there. After eight days at about 2.30 am on July 29, 2002 the doctor informed that Babuji was no more. Meanwhile, his son also reached there. About 6.00 am the newspaper representatives started reaching the hospital. They were talking to people about Babuji. I was to be felicitated with the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Government of Maharashtra the same day and that function was being held in Pune. I could not decide whether I should go there or not, because the cremation of Babuji was to take place at 4.00 pm. The function could not be postponed at the eleventh hour as so many VIPs had been invited. All preparations were done. I was in a dilemma. When his wife came to know about it, she called me and said the life would continue as it is. The last rites will be performed without any hurdle. Your felicitation with the Lifetime Achievement Puraskar is a matter of prestige for all the Sangh swayamsevaks because the Puraskar was being presented by the Congress Government. She insisted that I must go to Pune to receive the Puraskar. The play that one has to stage in the practical life was deeply realised by me that day. Babuji was in Mumbai, his body was brought to the home and people were coming to pay tribute. But I had to leave at 12.30 pm to reach Pune. I was receiving the Puraskar, but my heart and mind were in Mumbai only with Babuji.
Connection with North-East
Babuji had his own son. Even then he kept a kid from North-East at his home and extended him the care, love and affection of parents. The kid was about eight years old when he reached Babuji. He neither new our language nor we understood his language. Even then Babuji never let him feel that Mumbai was not his home and he was away from his biological parents. Both Babuji and his wife cared for the child with the same affection and taught him. After completing graduation he went back to north-east. Just keeping a kid at home is not important, the important is showering him the care and affection of parents. After passing away of Babuji, he along with his wife came to Mumbai. At that time it was felt that he was another son of Babuji.
He never felt that he was born in a different region and his parents were not there. By doing it, Babuji presented an ideal before the entire society. Following that ideal today many people care for the kids from north-east with the same love and affection. This tradition still continues. I remember him with full respect during his birth centenary year.
(The writer is a film director and multiple Maharashtra State Film Award-winner. As told to Dr Pramod Kumar)