This Master’s Voice
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Suresh Wadkar is a man of few words. He chooses them wisely, measuring and weighing them, indulging in long pregnant pauses, punctuating each response with a metaphor and drawing examples from life. So, gurus are compared to doctors, out-of-tune music and voices to a case of rotten mangoes, the increasing herd mentality to show-off a big car and so on. "If you are sick, you will go to a doctor, not a compounder. If you are making a profession in music, you will need to study it, learn it, get your basics right and for that you will go to the best doctor and the best guru," says Wadkar. In town for the "Three Legends" musical evening to be held today, the playback singer speaks about his reasons for opening the music academy Ajivasan, the online music school Swama (Suresh Wadkar Ajivasan Music Academy) and why he sings very little playback these days. "The schools are my guru dakshana, my tribute to my guru, Acharya Jialal Vasant," says Wadkar.
In these schools he imparts what his guru taught him — humility, riyaaz and respect for music. "My guruji was a fakir from Kashmir who only believed in giving and sharing and that is what I am practising," says Wadkar. From his other mentor, Lata Mangeshkar, he learnt the importance of words, on making them "asardaar" and mastering the art of timing them right.
Wadkar is also making three albums under Mangeshkar's newly launched label, LM Music. And what about playback? "Well, honestly, the offers are limited," says the singer who further explains how and why the rules of playback singing have changed. Once Raj Kapoor's favourite, Wadkar's voice is now missing from the playback scene. "The Kapoor brothers — Raj, Shammi and Shashi — were connoisseurs of music. Raj sahab valued artistes. He was the greatest showman and the best paymaster, and promised me that as long as he lived, Lataji and I would sing for him," says Wadkar. He recalls how he got work in RK Banner through Laxmikant-Pyarelal, after Mukesh's death. Those were the days when a song was made with love, patience and endless rehearsals. Today, Wadkar rues how everything is about money spinners and instant gratification, how music directors are singing and using auto tuners, churning several songs in a day, making assistants work overtime, signing films that don't do justice to their talent, making reality show winners sing excessively, doing shows and burning them out. While he lauds how his teachers drilled discipline and the need for riyaaz in them, he agrees that their generation failed somewhere to pass this on with the same intensity.