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The varied moods of Suresh Wadkar – Birthday special

Suresh Wadkar impressed composer Jaidev on a singing show in 1976 and was offered the song 'Seene Mein Jalan' for Muzaffar Ali's Gaman (1978). On his 63rd birthday, we revisit six of his Hindi film songs.

Anita Paikat

Suresh Wadkar, born on 7 August 1955, has sung songs for both Hindi and Marathi films. He is also known for his rendition of devotional songs.

Wadkar, trained in classical music, impressed composer Jaidev on a singing show in 1976 and was offered a chance to sing 'Seene Mein Jalan' for Muzaffar Ali's Gaman (1978).

This song brought the young man to the notice of Lata Mangeshkar who then referred Wadkar to top music directors of the time like Laxmikant-Pyarelal, Khayyam and Kalyanji-Anandji.

Unfortunately for Wadkar, despite Mangeshkar's recommendation, he never got a great many opportunities to sing for Hindi films, but the songs he sang showed his talent and versatility.

On his 63rd birthday today, we revisit six of Suresh Wadkar's Hindi film songs.

1. 'Main Hoon Prem Rogi' — Prem Rog (1982)

This social drama on widow remarriage is considered one of actor-director-producer Raj Kapoor's classics. His son, Rishi Kapoor, played a poor and righteous teacher Dev, while Padmini Kolhapure, making her debut in a leading role, played Manorama, the daughter of a zamindar.

The film begins with innocent camaraderie between Manorama and Dev and takes a romantic twist with the 'Main Hoon Prem Rogi' song. While the naive Manorama is still unaware of her real feelings for Dev, he proclaims his love for her on the streets.

Wadkar brings in the perfect balance of celebration, festivities and love in his rendition.

2. 'Aye Zindagi Gale Laga Le' — Sadma (1983)

Sadma, Balu Mahendra's Hindi remake of his own Tamil blockbuster Moondram Pirai (1982), is not remembered only for the marvellous performances of its lead stars Sridevi and Kamal Haasan but also for its melodious songs composed by the great Southern music director Ilaiyaraaja. 'Aye Zindagi Gale Laga Le', sung by Suresh Wadkar, remains one of his best Hindi film songs.

While the song's video shows the building of a relationship between Nehalata, who suffers from retrograde amnesia, and Somprakash, a man who saves her from a brothel, the song itself is about accepting and being happy with what life has to offer.

3. 'Ram Teri Ganga Maili' — Ram Teri Ganga Maili (1985)

Another RK Studios film, Ram Teri Ganga Maili showcased the arrogance and injustice of the rich and the plight of the poor. The film talks of an era when rich landlords could bring in a woman as mistress while at the same time society would treat her with contempt for being one.

This song, too, has two versions, one sung by Lata Mangeshkar and the other by Suresh Wadkar. While Mangeshkar's rendition is the cry of an oppressed woman, Wadkar's version, which plays as the film's closing credits roll, is a critique of society, using the state of the river Ganga as a metaphor for its treatment of women.

4. 'Aur Iss Dil Mein' — Imaandaar (1987)

Though Wadkar does full justice to happy songs, sad ones have remained his forte. 'Aur Iss Dil Mein' from Imaandaar has two versions, one sung by Asha Bhosle and the other by Wadkar. While Bhosle's version is the happier one with the heroine (Farha) trying to seduce the hero (Sanjay Dutt), Wadkar's version has the hero yearning for his love.

The intense 1980s-style melodrama that was Imaandaar was salvaged only by this Kalyanji-Anandji composition.

5. 'Lagi Aaj Saawan Ki Phir Woh Jhadi Hai' — Chandni (1989)

After trying his luck with different types of films through the 1980s, producer-director Yash Chopra returned to his forte, romance, with Chandni. The film proved to be a breather for Yash Raj Films, as it was not a commercial dud like most of the studio's films after Silsila (1981).

Both the film's story and its music contributed to it winning the National award for Best Popular Film Providing Wholesome Entertainment in 1989.

The song 'Lagi Aaj Sawan Ki Phir Woh Jhadi Hai' comes at a crucial juncture in the film. Chandni (Sridevi) and Lalit (Vinod Khanna) are people with histories and this song marks the onset of the time they decide to bury their past and begin life anew.

Suresh Wadkar's rendition reflects the pinning of a lover and also carries the hope that something is in the offing.

6. 'Surmayi Shaam' — Lekin... (1991)

Gulzar's Lekin... was an adaptation of Rabindranath Tagore's short story Kshudhit Pashan (Hungry Stones). The lyrics of the film's songs were also written by Gulzar while they were set to score by Hridaynath Mangeshkar.

Singer Lata Mangeshkar won the National award for Best Female Playback Singer for 1991 for 'Yaara Seeli Seeli', but one song that went unnoticed in the album was Suresh Wadkar's ghazal 'Surmayi Shaam'.

The slow, soothing song is a cry for liberation from the film's central characters — the soul of a woman (Dimple Kapadia) caught in time and a man (Vinod Khanna) reborn to finish what he had left incomplete in his previous birth.