Vikrant Pande explains why he is a great fan of Pt.Hridaynath Mangeshkar.

The Mangeshkar surname is linked to musical geniuses and the people at large know of Lata and her sister Asha and, to some extent, the other sisters, Meena and Usha. But very few outside Maharashtra recognize the kind of genius their brother Hridaynath is. The only brother amongst the five siblings, Hridaynath was less than five years old when their father Pandit Dinanath Mangeshkar died. “Hridaynath started singing soon after his father’s death and by the time he was in his teens he was a recognised singer and composer whose compositions had spread all over Maharashtra.”

If there is one person who manages to make extremely intricate tunes seem deceptively hummable and immensely likeable, it is Hridaynath Mangeshkar. One realizes the complexity of his tunes when one tries to sing them; yet, they remain easy on the ear and one wants to listen to them again and again. The Hindi film song listeners though, may know only a few of his compositions in movies like Lekin, Mashaal, Maya Memsaab, amongst others.

Creating one gem after another, Hridaynath, with sisters Lata and Asha, gave masterpieces to the Marathi film industry. While his popularity rose with the selective but rich repertoire of Marathi films, his creative output in setting the Dnyaneshwar ovis, in the album Dnyaneshwar Mauli, set the standard for Marathi devotional music.

The combination of Lata, the sister whom he considers his guru (despite having learnt under Ustad Amir Khan) and considers her ‘timeless’, and Hridaynath, has made the two create everlasting magic. It was in the fifties that he gave one of his first compositions, sung by Lata- Surdas’ ‘Nisa din barsat nain hamaare,’ and Meera Bai’s ‘Barse boondiyan saawanki.

It showcased the kind of musical magnificence which was to emerge later. Chala Vahi Des, the album Hridaynath Mangeshkar recorded with his Lata, “was surprisingly a bigger hit in Pakistan than in India”. The siblings come together again for Meera Soor Kabeera, which, as the name states, is a compilation of the songs of three outstanding bhakti poets — Meera, Soordas and Kabir.

“The Mangeshkar sisters are not only very fond of their ‘Bal’ (younger brother) but also hold him in the highest esteem. Lata Mangeshkar has even gone on record to say that he is a very difficult taskmaster to satisfy. Her younger sister, Asha Bhosle, agrees with her.”

“Over the last five decades, Hridaynath has been composing heavenly music with a touch of spirituality that wins every heart. He has tried his hand in every form of song such as ‘bhavgeet,’ non-film Marathi music, tribal songs, koli-geet or songs with the touch of music used by fishermen community, Goan music based songs, folk and rural songs like the one used in ‘Jait re Jait’, patriotic songs, ghazals, abhangas, powada or Marathi ballads, sad ditties, and many such genres.”

Most of Hridaynath compositions went on to become iconic and set standards almost impossible to replicate. Whether it be the fishermen song with the lilting percussion in ‘Meedolkar,’ Shanta Shelke’s poignant poem celebrating death in ‘Jivalaga,’ Dnyaneshwar’s ‘Mogaraphulala’, with Lata’s mellifluous rendering, or Veer Savarkar’s inspiring ‘Jayostute’ which has acquired the cult status of an anthem in Marathi. Hridaynath has an uncanny ability to transport one down melody lane where his sur lingers while the taal dances to a complex rhythm.

He interspersed the songs with choruses which added a certain charm, making it a listener’s delight and a singer’s nightmare. He uses the Indian classical ragas beautifully, whether a simple Yaman in ‘Runuzhunu’, Hamswadhani in ‘Jayostute’, the creative rendering of Bilaskhani Todi in ‘Tarun Aahe Raatr Aazuni’ or Asa Maand in ‘Kevhataripahate’. Try singing some of these and you realize that one needs the calibre of a Lata Mangeshkar or Asha Bhosle to do justice!

As a Marathi music lover, it is impossible not to fall in love with his compositions like ‘Jivalaga,’ for its minimalistic instrumental intervention, ‘Dayaghana’, ‘Mendichyapanawar’, ‘Asabebhan ha aara,’‘Usha kaaalhotahota,’ and countless others. Mangala Khadilkar, a writer, says:

“In the fifties it was believed that a bhavgeet should carry simple tunes that everyone can sing. But Hridayanath broke the rule and composed lucid, extremely expressive and complex tunes that impress every listener.”

“The magnificent feature of this maestro’s music is that he understands good poetry and always selects classic lyrics for his songs like Saint Dnyaneshwar’s abhangas, poems of Shanta Shelke, Suresh Bhat, N.D.Mahanor, Mangesh Padgaonkar, and Grace (it was the pen name of Manik Sitaram Godghate) “have become immortal with Hridaynath’s classy music.”

“He finds out the inner feelings of the lyrics and gives tunes that would higlight the meaning. The maestro loves to experiment constantly. He is comfortable in composing raga-based songs and fluently uses chord system and western beats in his songs. Pandit Dinanath Mangeshkar, Shivaji Maharaj and Veer Sawarkar are his idols.”

Hridaynath, like RD and SD Burman, sang some of his own compositions but he is remembered more for his music than his singing ability. His understanding of the lyrics made him create music which transcends the ordinary, especially when it came to Bhakti songs. It is a delight to watch Hridaynath explain the nuances of Dnyaneshwa rovis as he regales audiences with the true meaning behind a simplistic sounding ‘Runuzhunu runuzhunu re bhramara.’

Hridaynath makes the deceptively simple, yet profound philosophy of Dnyaneshwar come alive through his tunes making them a part of everyone’s lives. Like Tagore, Dnyaneshwarovis, can be considered simple poems, a devotional offering to the Lord, or a deep philosophy of life. It depends on the frame of mind of the listener. When Hridaynath explains the philosophy behind ‘Avachitaparimalu,’ it only bespeaks of the genius he is.

Today, the Hridaynath Award, started on his birthday a few years ago, has become a prestigious one, with people like Lata Mangeshkar, Babasaheb Purandare, Asha Bhosle, Amitabh Bachchan and Sulochana being the recipients.

Pandit Hridaynath, aptly named ‘Hriday-nath’ or the Lord of the heart, is a man with a Midas touch. He work would be almost impossible to match and something which generations in future would enjoy, immersing themselves in the sheer genius of the output.

It is only someone with a talent like Hridaynath who can make the complex look beautiful! We wish we continue to get more gems from this great master!

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