Pu La had once said that the three most loved personalities in Maharashtra are Shivaji Maharaj, Lokmanya Tilak and Balgandharva. I will add Pu La to that list.
Many of his great classics are available in audio/video formats, and two generations of Marathi Speakers got introduced to him and fell in love with him because of the audio/video media. My first introduction to Pu La was listening to ‘Mhais’, when I was 7-8 years old…many years before I got to the ‘Vyakti Ani Valli’ book.
Recently, I came across a recording set of some of his speeches from 1970s and 80s. Till date, these are the best Pu La recordings I have listened to! The reason why I say this is that, these speeches give a great insight into Pu La as a person. Glimpses of his thoughts are available throughout his famous works, but his speeches convey his ideas, his beliefs, his passion, in a much sharper and clearer fashion.
His respect and intense love of music and arts, his views on blind faith and religion, his love for all languages (not just Marathi), his genuine appreciation of new talent, his irreverent views on politics, his mentoring, his flexibility in moving on with new times and technologies, his views on philanthropy…it is a long list.
I will highly recommend all Pu La fans to listen to these speeches. Some of them are available in a CD Collection (‘Bahu Rupi Pu La Deshpande’)..available in book stores and online. This set includes 7-8 speeches: Brihan Maharashtra Mandal New Jersey 1987 Keynote, Felicitating the Cast & Crew of the Play ‘Vastraharan’ on the occasion of their 175th performance, His talk at the publication of the translation of some of his works in Kannada, and some others.
I was also able find one of his speeches on YouTube (see link above). It is an amazing speech that he delivered at the 74th birthday of renowned music teacher Prof B.R. Deodhar. (Note, Prof Deodhar studied under Pandit Vishnu Digambar Paluskar, and his disciples included Kumar Gandharva).
Let me leave you with one of Pu La’s great quotes:
“आयुष्यात मला भावलेलं एक गुज सांगतो. उपजिविकेसाठी आवश्यक असणाऱ्या विषयाचं शिक्षण जरुर घ्या. पोटापाण्याचा उद्योग जिद्दीनं करा, पण एवढ्यावरच थांबू नका. साहित्य, चित्र, संगीत, नाट्य, शिल्प, खेळ ह्यांतल्या एखाद्या तरी कलेशी मैत्री जमवा. पोटापाण्याचा उद्योग तुम्हाला जगवील, पण कलेशी जमलेली मैत्री तुम्ही का जगायचं हे सांगून जाईल. – पु. ल. ”
The ‘Bal Gandharva’ movie opened this week. I was eagerly waiting for its release, and managed to catch this afternoon’s show. I normally don’t blog about cinema; unless I am really impressed (or extremely disappointed) with a specific movie. ‘Bal Gandharva’ clearly falls in the former category…hence this brief blog post.
This movie provides a great snapshot into the life of the legendary Marathi Theater artist and singer Narayan Shripad Rajhans (popularly known as ‘Bal Gandharva’).
[Do read this great speech by Pu La Deshpande (from 1988) describing the greatness of Bal Gandharva. I will quote a few of lines: “महाराष्ट्राने तीन व्यक्तींवर जिवापाड प्रेम केलेलं आहे. ही महाराष्ट्राची सांस्कृतिक दैवतं आहेत असं म्हटलं तरी चालेल. पहिले म्हणजे छत्रपती शिवाजी महाराज, दुसरे लोकमान्य बाळ गंगाधर टिळक आणि तिसरे बालगंधर्व.”
Roughly translates as: “Maharashtra has given undying love to three great individuals. These three can be referred to as the cultural/historical gods of Maharashtra. First one is Shivaji Maharaj, second Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak and third Bal Gandharva.”]
Coming back to the movie, Subodh Bhave in the lead role of Bal Gandharva is terrific. The screen-play, the sets, the direction are all excellent. At times, the movie has a slight documentary like feel and the viewer is transported to Maharashtra in the early part of the 20th century – an era that represented the golden age of Marathi Theater. The movie is thoroughly entertaining and engrossing. Music is an integral part of the movie and Anand Bhate has does an amazing job of singing the original Bal Gandharva classics.
‘Bal Gandharva’ presents many of the key events and periods in the life of Bal Gandharva, in a balanced manner, often leaving the interpretation to the viewer. His early years with the Kirloskar Natak Company…His amazing potrayal of female roles… Setting up his own Gandharva Natak Mandali… Struggles with his personal family life… His constant desire to leave no stone unturned to create a grand production for the audience, at any cost… His utter mismanagement of finances and resulting huge debts… The waning years of his career when theater audiences started defecting to the new medium of cinema… and through all this, his total perseverance and steadfast devotion to his primary love – Theater.
From a historical perspective, this movie shows many important characters and events. Lokmanya Tilak listening to a young Narayan (aged 10) and referring him as ‘Bal Gandharva’ for the first time, Anant Kanhere shooting Collector Jackson at a theater in Nashik, Ram Ganesh Gadkari at his death bed, Shahu Maharaj of Kolhapur, Maharaja of Baroda, a young V Shantaram convincing Bal Gandharva to switch to this new medium called ‘Cinema’,…and many more. I personally like historical movies and Bal Gandharva scores really well in this area as well.
Do watch ‘Bal Gandharva’ if you are a fan of theater, history or music. The movie has English sub-titles.
I will close with this line (by Ga Di Madgulkar?): “”असा बालगंधर्व आता न होणे!”
Can you imagine Television programs for about 4 hours a day, with only one channel to choose from? Well that was a reality not that long back. I am talking about the late 1970s and early 1980s. This blogpost is an attempt to simply list the programs, serials, characters and advertisements from those Black & White TV days. Hoping that readers will contribute further to this list, as well as share their thoughts around these programs.
Television made its debut in Mumbai in the early 1970s. The production and broadcasting organization was known as ‘Mumbai Doordarshan’ (Doordarshan = Remote/Distant View). The reach of this programming was soon extended to Pune, via the Sinhagad fort transmission tower.
Throughout the 70s, the programming was limited to a few evening hours. There were no ‘commercially’ produced shows. Essentially, majority of the programming was developed by the Mumbai Doordarshan Studios in Worli. There were some real good international programs as well. Cricket matches were one exception when programming was available all day. Infact my earliest memory of watching TV is the 1974 India England tour, when Tony Greg was the England captain.
Here is a list of TV programs that come to mind…
Marathi programming was quite prominent in those days, prior to the ‘National Programming’ invasion from Delhi around the time of the 1982 Asiad Games.
‘Gajra’ – This was a weekly program focussing on a variety of small skits that were very well made. The program was light and funny, and was one of the stars of the week.
‘Chimanrao Ani Gundyabhau’ – This was probably one of the first (if not the first) Marathi serials on Mumbai Doordarshan. And it was a classic. Even today, it is probably the gold standard for Marathi comedy serials. The serial was based on the ever popular book series by C.V. Joshi. Dilip Prabhavalkar was simply amazing as Chimanrao, with Bal Karve playing the interesting character of Gundyabhau.
‘Saptahiki’ – This program summarized the upcoming weekly programming. It was like a weekly ‘TV guide’.
‘Amchi Mati Amchi Mansa’ – This program was targetted for the farmers. It provided a lot of valuable information as well as some entertainment.
‘Kilbil’ – No! I am not talking about the Quentin Tarrantino movie 🙂 . This was a speciality children’s programming.
‘Batmya’ – For many years, the Marathi news were set at 7:30pm. Famous news personalities included the likes of Bhakti Barve.
‘Saturday Marathi Movie’.
After Marathi, Gujarati programming was also given a good deal of priority. Note, I only understood a little bit of Gujarati, but my father and grandparents had spent many years living in Ahmedabad and were fluent in the language. Hence these programs were watched with good interest at our home.
‘Aao Mare Sathi’ – This program was analogous to the Marathi ‘Gajra’.
‘Santakukdi’ – This program was similar to Marathi ‘Kilbil’ and was targetted towards the children.
‘Chayageet’ – This was one of the most watched programs. As the name suggests, this program presented a nice medley of Hindi film songs.
‘Phool Khile hai Gulshan Gulshan’ – Interesting program focussed on ‘Bollywood’. The anchor, Tabassum was extremely good at interviewing the celebrity guests.
‘Sunday Hindi Movie’ – This program was probably the most anticipated program of the week. In the days before the VCR, this was the only opportunity to watch a Hindi movie outside a movie theater.
‘Samachar’ – The Hindi news were scheduled everyday at 9pm.
‘Magic Lamp’ – This program was targeted towards the children.
‘Sports Roundup’ – This was a weekly program that was anchored really well by Frendrun Devitre
‘What’s the Good Word?’ – One of my favorites. This quiz-type show was a classic. Sabira Merchant anchored it in her distinctive style.
‘News’ – The English News were set for 10pm everyday.
These shows were terrific. They were usually sourced from UK and US.
I love Lucy
Fire Ball XL5
Tele-Match (This was another one of my big favorites)
Even back then, the ads were quite interesting!
Thumps Up – Happy days are here again
L.D. Obron Suiting
Babubhai Jagjeevandas (BJ)
Mahabaleshwar Fountain Hotel
Vicco Turmeric Cream
Palmolive (starring Sunil Gavaskar)
As I mentioned this list is just a beginning, and I am hoping that readers will contribute more! I also wanted to point the readers to a great blog-post that I enjoyed reading tremendously – ‘Doordharshan, Mumbai and I’ from the blog ‘Straying Around’ by Abodh. This post describes the Mumbai Doordarshan programming in the mid-80s, after the advent of color.
Oh did I mention the TV hardware in the 1970s?! We had a 19 inch one channel Black & White TV, manufactured by ‘EC’. And in those days, they were expensive! I think in 1975, this model cost around Rs. 2800.