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Pandit D. V. Paluskar

I first saw Pandit D. V. Palukar as a little boy in the Shree Ram Mandir at Panchavati, Nasik in the year 1925. He was then about 5 or 6 years old and had come with his father, Sangeet Bhaskar Vishnu Digambar Paluskar. Vishnu Digambar was singing the bhajan Raghupati Raghav Rajaram. The atmosphere all around was intensely devotional. Looking at the boy who was staring at his father with rapt attention, I wondered whether the lad had inherited any of his father's gifts, and whether he would carry on the tradition of Vishnu Digambar. In due course he did become a very brilliant and accomplished singer in his own right; a worthy successor to his most illustrious father. At the time of his father's death, D.V. was only 10 years old. He had studied music under the guidance of Pandit Vinayakrao Patwardhan and Pandit Narayanrao Vyas but he did not adopt or copy the peculiar gayaki of the Gandhrava Mahavidhyalaya. Instead he evolved and developed his own style. He had a clear and melodious voice, admirably suited to the type of music he favoured. His alap clearly outlined the raga he sang; then followed the bandish embellished by beautiful taans in an effortless enchanting style. Both Pandit Vinayakrao Patwardhan and Pandit Narayan Vyas probably connived at his spirit of independence because he was the son of their guru. This was a blessing in disguise as it encouraged the young D.V. to develop his own independent style.

D.V. Paluskar was very, very modest. He was known to his intimates as 'Bapurao'. He was fully aware of his talents but never boastful about them. He never spoke ill of anyone, was of a quiet disposition and completely free from any vice. He arrived for recordings punctually and fully prepared. Recording sessions with him were therefore most enjoyable and not in the least bothersome. He had complete mastery over his art and sang with perfection, ease and confidence, while we captured his magic artistry on our discs.

He cut his first disc in 1944. Like Pandit Narayanrao Vyas, Bapurao mastered the technique of presenting an attractive and complete picture of any raga in just 3 minutes and 15 seconds, for recording. For his first recording he chose to sing four khayals in the ragas Bahar, Tilak Kamod, Kedar and Bilaskhani Todi. He also rendered his father's favourite bhajan Raghupati Raghav Rajaram along with another one by Sant Surdas. I got him for recording again in 1947 when he recorded ragas Gaud Malhar, Ramkali, Hans Kinkini and Marwa. This time also he recorded two bhajans - Chalo mana Ganga Jamuna tir and Lachiman dhire chalo. At my request he recorded two Marathi songs also but unfortunately they failed to click commercially. On account of his melodious voice, chaste style and attractive renderings, all the recordings of his classical music became immensely popular and still continue to sell in large numbers.

In 1952 Bapurao introduced me to a fair and handsome teenage boy who was his close relative and who played well on the violin. Bapurao requested me to take him on our music staff. Fortunately we needed a hand just then, so I got him the job. In our studio, recordings were made in different languages and styles. Ghazals and qawalis in Urdu, bhavgeets in Marathi, garba and ras in Gujarati, and Hindustani classical music - all these were often recorded in our studios. It was therefore the job of this youngster to provide accompaniment to all these types of music. This helped him extend his knowledge and constant practice brought polish to his play. I suggested to him that he should also learn and practise writing music. Within a short period he assiduosly mastered this too. It helped him very much later in life. Soon after he was offered a better job in the Films Division and I readily relieved him. The new job had better prospects - both financial and artistic. This young boy is now a man - the famous violinist D.K. Datar, popular all over India for his chaste and entertaining violin recitals. A scene in jugalbandi form between Tansen and Baiju is enacted in the film Baiju Bawra. My friend Naushad Ali who wrote the music for this picture had requested me to suggest classical singers for this duet. I suggested the names of Bapurao Paluskar and Ustad Amir Khan. Bapurao had to be cajoled into accepting the assignment. He was afraid that by singing in films he would spoil his style. I however reasoned with him that he would have absolute freedom to expound and present the composition in his own style without any interference. Thus assured, he sang in the jugalbandi form with Ustad Amir Khan. The two great artists matched in every respect and therefore this jugalbandi performance proved to be the most interesting and the highlight of the film.

The discs used for recording purposes in those days had a serious drawback. After the recording they could not be played back even once. The tape recorders introduced later were improvements on this, as a recorded tape could be played back any number of times and unwanted parts could be erased. There was another advantage in the technique of tape recording. Previously all singers from the film companies had to come to our studio to record their film songs again. But with the invention of tape recording, we could transfer the songs to the tape from the soundtrack of the films.The duration of one side of an ordinary 78 rpm record is only 3(1/4) minutes whereas the songs in films were sometimes longer, upto 4 or 5 minutes. A music director therefore would edit and cut such songs to the required length. This gave me an idea. Most classical musicians complained that it was very difficult for them to give a perfectly satisfactory performance in just 3(1/4) minutes. I therefore felt that if allowed to perform unrestrained for 15 to 20 minutes, they could be taped and later an edited version of the performance could be used on a disc. The artists would be happy and give their best, and the listeners would enjoy the cream of their artistry. I therefore decided to conduct this interesting but very difficult experiment.

The experiment was undoubtedly a very complicated one. The operation required most skilful split second splicing and extremely careful editing to make a 3(1/4) minute piece out of a 15 to 20 minute performance. It was of the utmost importance that the edited version contained all the ingredients of a skilled and imaginative performance. The editing had to be done so perfectly as to defy detection. The consistency of the entire gayaki had to be preserved, the taans had to follow each other in their natural sequence and the layakari had to be scrupulously maintained in the perfect rhythmic cycle. All this had to be accomplished without upsetting the overall structure of the raga and the gayaki. For the experiment my chioce fell on Bapurao Paluskar. When approached he enthusiastically agreed to cooperate. During the Ganapati festival of 1955 he had a number of singing assignments, the last one being at Vile Parle. He promised to come immediately after the last engagement and accordingly he came but he was very tires after the exertions of the successful programme. He wanted to postpone the experiment to a later date, but I told hin that it did not matter very much if his voice was not in good shape because the recording was intended to be for experimental purposes alone and not for issue. It was about 2.30 pm when we went to the studio and made arrangements for the session. He was to leave for Pune at 5.00 pm by the Deccan Queen. I persuaded him to record a 20 minute long exposition of a raga which could cover the full length of our tape. Thereupon he sang and recorded Raga Shri. After the recording I rushed him off to the station in my car and waved him off. That was the last I saw of him. Hardly 3 weeks later he was suddenly taken ill with a mysterious illness and died on 26th October 1955. It was the Dassera day and the news gave the entire music world a stunning shock. The recording made by me three weeks earlier proved to be his last. >From this 20 minute experimental tape of Raga Shri, I had to reconstruct a homogenous performance of the raga to fit ona 78 rpm record. I achieved this intricate task after listening to the tape repeatedly for over 18 hours.

I dissected the tape into details of artistic presentation and while joining and reassembling the selected passages I had to be very alert and meticulous to ensure that the result sounded like one complete unbroken performance. Taana and boltaans had to come in their proper order, and the unformity of laya and correctness of rhythmic accompaniment had to be maintained throughout. Mr. Madgaonkar, our recording engineer, performed the surgical operation of cutting and joining the pieces under my direction, and the entire operation was carried out successfully. When I played this 6(1/2) recording to the late Pandit S.N. Ratanjankar (who was then considered to be the greatest authority on Indian classical music) he never even suspected that it was in fact an abridged edition of a 20 minute performance. He congratulated me and our recording engineer and expressed his desire that we should record his performance in the same way. Accordingly we recorded Raga Yamani Bilawal sung by him, with V.G. Jog accompanying on the violin. Both edited versions - Bapurao Paluskar's and Ratanjankar's - when put in the market kept selling for years without a single person discovering that they were edited. This disc actually consisted of more than 10 pieces of Bapurao's performance joined together.

After the advent of the LP records this method was not necesarry as an artist now had a much longer recording time than on the original 78 rpm records. Ususally after a record was issued the original was sent to our factory in Dumdum. I had kept a copy of the tape of the Raga Shri since this experiment had been my own. Bapurao died before LP records were introduced. I therefore thought of issuing the 20 minute performance of Raga Shri on an LP. The recording was just long enough for one side of an LP disc. As the maestro was no more I chose 6 pieces from his earlier 78 rpm recordings for the other side. However this proposal of mine was rejected by the technical department in our factory on the ground that the recording of Raga Shri was technically faulty. Since the recording was only meant as an experiment, I had ignored the fact that Bapurao's voice sounded husky and tired. The performance was quite up to the standard in other respects. A tough controversy ensued between me and the technical department over this.

I pleaded for the release of this record, pointing out the circumstances under which the recording was done. The popularity of the artist who was no more was still very great, as the sales of his other recordings indicated. Therefore the issue of this record, though technically imperfect, was justifiable. After a two-year battle of words my viewpoint was accepted and the LP disc is, even today, on our prestige repertoire.

When I bade goodbye to Bapurao at V.T. station, he had promised to come back for recording within a month, but alas, that was not to be. Cruel destiny snatched him away suddenly and prematurely, when he was only 34 and at the height of his career. >From the archives of the All India Radio in Delhi, years later, I was able to obtain just enough tapes of his radio broadcasts for one more LP. This contains Ragas Kamod and Bageshri. The two LPs and the few earlier recordings are the only legacies this inimitable maestro has left behind as specimens of his scholarship and proficiency as a classical singer.


Posted on RMIC by Rajan Parrikar as part of Great Masters Series.
by G.N. Joshi (extracted from "Down Melody Lane" (1984))

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