Professor B.R. Deodhar

My Friend Professor B.R. Deodhar: A Versatile Musicologist

This was way back in 1926-27. 1 had just started visiting the Trinity Club of Music. On one occasion I was surprised to see a person at the Club fully clad in Western dress. In those days one did not normally see a singer dressed like an Englishman. So I inquired in an undertone of a person sitting next to me, "Who is he?" He whispered back sarcastically, "Oh! He is Deodhar. A disciple of Pandit Vishnu Digambar. He also calls himself 'Professor!"

In those days Gandharva Mahavidyalaya, those who had been trained in that institution and their style of singing had generally become objects of ridicule. There was a lot of prejudice against Pandit Vishnu Digambar Paluskar himself. On top of this, all his half-baked disciples had also started calling themselves professors'. They were all referred to with contempt and ridicule as 'Professor Log'-'those Professor chaps.'

The man dressed in up-to-date Western clothes soon started singing and that gave me another shock. Whatever may have been told to me about this singer by my neighbour, I found that his singing was free from what was commonly described as Gwalior's Babashahi gayaki or simplistic style. On the contrary, I discovered that his singing was pleasing and contained a spark of originality. I really liked his performance and while returning from the club I deliberately sought his company and said, "You sang well." Apparently such praise was a bit of novelty to him. He looked at me in a friendly manner. I remember this incident as I look back on our close friendship of over half a century. I also remember that his inadequately developed performance on that occasion was a little away from the conventional rutted grooves. As our association and friendship grew I was able to see the various facets of his life, and career; and now I have no hesitation in saying that we have not seen in any other person of recent times an all-round and versatile musicologist of Deodhar's stature.

It happened a year or two after our first meeting. By this time three Deshpandes and one Deodhar had formed an intimate group. Rangrao Deshpande, a law graduate and a singer-actor, used to play various roles in the plays staged by Hirabai Badodekar. A witty person with a sweet and sharp voice, well-versed in Urdu and Persian, Rangrao used to sing stage-songs, ghazals and kavvalis extremely well. The second Deshpande, Shankarrao (father of Suhasini Mulgaonkar) was M.A. and LL.B. and had received systematic training in music from Abdul Karim Khan. The third Deshpande was none other than myself and the fourth member of the group was Deodhar. All the four of us were singers, well-educated, and ambitious. While we were discussing things in general, Deodhar once said, "If I am to suffer from any disease, let it be so novel that it puzzles every physician." Here young Deodhar was indicating an important trait in his character which was to influence his entire later life.
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