Three days before he was scheduled to depart to the U.S.A with his family consisting of his wife Padma and daughters Ananya and Jiya for Jiya’s musical studies in a college for music there, Suresh Wadkar had a completely frank and open conversation with veteran journalist Jyothi Venkatesh.
On His Debut As A Singer
The talented singer recollected his initial stint with music composer Jaidev. Suresh, who had entered the Sur Singar competition after thoroughly grooming himself in the intricacies of Indian classical music, reiterated that he learnt a lot by assisting Jaidev the maestro. Although he had made his debut with a Ravindra Jain composed song in the film Paheli, way back in 1977, but his big breakthrough came when Jaidev gave him the chance to sing Seene Mein Jalan for the film Gaman directed by Muzaffar Ali.
On His Journey with RK
If you talk to him about Raj Kapoor, his face swells with pride. “I am lucky I got the opportunity to sing for a person who was very well versed in music like Rajji. I sang for three to four RK films including Prem Rog, Heena, Prem Granth and Ram Teri Ganga Maili. Rajji was what I would call a showman who was a Sarvagun-Sampann filmmaker, well versed in all the aspects of music including singing. Rajji was present at each and every recording of his film. However, busy he used to be, he would attend and give his fruitful suggestions without fail to the music directors. I cannot forget how he used to call me to his preview theatre to show me the picturizations of each and every song that I had sung for his films.”
On the Current Music Scene
Suresh says that it is indeed ironic that though he has been singing for the past forty-three years for various music directors, from Jaidev and Laxmikant-Pyarelal to Ilayaraja and A.R. Rahman, he never had to struggle as a playback singer all these years. But now he feels that sometimes he has to struggle to get a chance to record for any music director, because he does not have a single assignment as a playback singer today in any film!
“Look here, I have sung for almost every music director. I just cannot bring myself to go and promote myself as a singer by selling myself to various music composers. I have always believed in living on my own terms and conditions as a singer all through my life, all these years and I do not intend budging from my stand now,” he vehemently states.
When nudged that most veteran musicians and singers seem to be busier judging reality shows than recording songs, pat comes his honest reply, “What is the harm? When money comes, why should anyone say no to it? The biggest advantage of these shows is that singers who used to be only heard earlier are now well-known faces and people can visualize the faces of these singers when they hear their songs now.”
Countering the perception that he does not suit the voice of a typical romantic hero of today, Suresh asks logically, “Do you think music directors like Laxmikant –Pyarelal who ruled the industry at one point of time were mad enough to make me sing the maximum number of songs for heroes like Rishi Kapoor in films like Prem Rog? When most of today’s music directors, with the exception of a few, do not even know what kind of music will be accepted by the audience, how can they decide that my voice will not suit the leading men!”
When asked which actor can his mellifluous voice suit today, Suresh replies logically, “A singer should be like water and be able to gel with the voice of any actor, like water mixes up with any colour. Why do you think the audience has accepted even those singers who playback Sufi numbers for the leading men of today? “
On Why He Doesn’t Promote Himself
Suresh confesses that he does not know what the problem actually is, “My personal PR-ship has been very bad. I have not appointed anyone to ‘baajao my dhol’ in front of any music director at any time till date. Tell me Jyothi, you know me for well over 40 years. Are music directors deaf and dumb that I should come forward to canvass for myself and beg for a chance to sing after having spent as many as 43 years in the film industry?” His exasperation is justified. Clearly here is a powerhouse of talent, with a strong classical foundation who can be tapped for songs that would do justice to his vast vocal range.
On His Recent Work
Suresh has just brought out Maruti Stotra or Hanuman Stotra, a 17th-century Stotra, composed in Marathi by the Saint-poet of Maharashtra, Samarth Ramdas. It is a compilation of verses that describe the many aspects and virtues of Maruti Nandan or Lord Hanuman. The stotra has been composed by his disciple Padmanabh and of course sung by Suresh himself.