Snehal Bhatkar, a lesser known but talented composer. Although he was active right from the late 40s to the early 90s, his output in Hindi and Marathi films was limited. Let’s remember the melodious body of work he has left behind for us to savour.
I would like to thank Arunkumar Deshmukh for putting together this concise write-up on his life and work.
THE GENTLEMAN MAESTRO: SNEHAL BHATKAR
by Arunkumar Deshmukh
White full shirt, ironed white pyjama, spectacles with big powerful lenses and the trademark white Gandhi Topi… He could easily be mistaken for a ‘Pandharpur Warkari’ (a regular pilgrim to Pandharpur) or a member of a ‘Bhajani Mandali’ or simply a middle class ‘Marathi Manoos’. Such was the appearance of one of Hindi filmdom’s talented, yet not so famous, music maestro VASUDEV GANGARAM BHATKAR or Snehal Bhatkar, as we all know him.
In Hindi film music field there were some talented composers like Ghulam Mohd, Mohd. Shafi, Iqbal Qureshi, Daan singh, C.Arjun, Ramlal, Sardar Malik, Ajit Merchant, Jamal Sen, Dattaram, Ganesh, etc. who could never reach the peaks of their careers. They really deserved success and fame, but luck did not favour them. Big banners never approached them and eventually the losers were the music lovers in India. These composers did not know, perhaps, how to sell their art. May be they never wanted to enslave music to gain name and fame, instead they preferred to settle for genuine service to music!
Snehal Bhatkar was one such composer. The maxim of simple living and high thinking never worked in this Mayanagari, but he had no regrets. Till the very end he was contented with whatever God gave him, and whatever name and success he achieved.
He was born into and grew up in a family that was surrounded by traditional devotional music all around. In the lower middle class, the people had their entertainments in singing Bhajans and doing Keertans in Temples en masse.
Vasudev G. Bhatkar was born on 17-7-1919. He knew at least 100 bhajans by heart by the time he was in his 10th class. He was invited to sing in Ganesh Melas and other celebrations and soon became a well-known name in the locality. Because of his singing and skills in playing Harmonium and other instruments, he got a job with H.M.V. in Bombay. Here he used to give accompaniment on Harmonium to big classical singers. At the same time, taking cognizance of his singing skills, many Marathi bhavgeets and bhajans were recorded by HMV. Some of them are popular in Maharashtra even today.
All this while, Bhatkar was looking for opportunity to compose in films. Sudhir Phadke who too served in HMV and recorded some songs from 1943 to 1945, joined hands with Bhatkar and made a pair-Vasudev-Sudhir. In 1946, they got a film of Baburao Painter – Rukmini Swayamvar – for music direction. The problem was that due to his service in HMV, he could not openly work outside. Hence he only gave his name as Vasudev. After this film, the pair separated and Phadke went to give music to films like Gokul, Aagey Badho, etc. Due to financial constraints Bhatkar was unable to leave his job with HMV.
In 1941, Bhatkar had come to know Kidar Sharma while recording songs for his film Chitralekha, which he was making for Ranjit Studios. Sharma had just come from Calcutta to establish himself in Bombay. He had a knack of identifying talents. He first gave a chance to Bhatkar to sing some songs with Leela Sawant in his film Kaliyan (1944). After Rukmini Swayamvar, Kidar Sharma gave him his first break as an independent composer in his Neelkamal (1947), where Kidar Sharma launched Raj Kapoor and Madhubala in adult roles as the leading pair. Here Bhatkar used the name B. Vasudev. In the subsequent years Bhatkar used different names for different films like V. G Bhatkar in Sant Tukram (1948), Sati Ahalya (1949) and Pagle (1950), and Snehal in Suhaag Raat (1948) and Thes (1949). After doing Thes and Sati Ahalya, Bhatkar resigned from HMV.
Snehal Bhatkar and Kidar Sharma were very good friends. Kidar gave him Neki aur Badi in 1949. Meanwhile, Kidar Sharma met Roshan Lal Nagrath in some musical event. Sharma was terribly impressed with Roshan and wanted to give him a break in his film. At that point of time, Kidar had just started work on ‘Neki aur Badi’. He had a heart to heart talk with Bhatkar and Bhatkar gladly left the film for Roshan. Thus Roshan got his break with Neki aur Badi (1949). Roshan never forgot Bhatkar’s magnanimity in his life and always respected Bhatkar. In return Kidar Sharma gave Hamari Beti (1950) to Bhatkar. As he was a free bird now, Bhatkar started using the name SNEHAL BHATKAR from this film. Snehal was the short form of Snehalata, his daughter.
Snehal Bhatkar did many Marathi films and recorded many bhajans in Marathi, which are ever popular. He did 28 films in Hindi (including one unreleased film in the 50s) and 12 films in Marathi. Out of 27 released Hindi films, 9 were made by Kidar Sharma.
The song which made Mubarak Begum and Bhatkar famous in India was ‘Kabhi Tanhayion Mein, Hamari Yaad Aayegi’ from the film Hamari Yaad Aayegi (1961) (This film was was originally named Jawan Muhabbat). Actually this song was to be done by Lata Mangeshkar. Lata had already recorded two songs for this film. Due to her extremely busy schedule she was unable to do this song, so she suggested the name of Asha Bhosle, but , already upset over Lata’s refusal, Kidar Sharma opted for Mubarak Begum and the rest, as they say, is History. She imbued a unique character to this song with her special voice.
After 1960, the musical scene in India was undergoing drastic changes and there was no space for composers like Bhatkar, who used minimum orchestra and dwelt upon melody. His films came in long intervals. Even Kidar Sharma left him after Fariyad (1964) only to return in Pehla Qadam (1981). Finally Bhatkar did his last Hindi film Sahme Hue Sitare (1994),which featured his son Ramesh Bhatkar, who was already a popular hero in Marathi film, stage and TV. This obscure film did nothing good to Bhatkar.
After retirement Bhatkar devoted his time for children’s welfare and his original love-Bhajan Mandali singing.
Snehal or Vasudev Gangaram Bhatkar, together with cousin Devji Bhatkar and Panchambuwa Pandurang Shivalkar, was the founder member of ‘Vishwambhar Prasadik Bhajan Mandal’ in Dadar. It is still in operation after 50 years, with new set of singers. Bhatkar was very kind hearted. Every year, during Ganapati festival he used to visit his ancestral village ‘Bhate’ in Ratnagiri district and participate in singing bhajans.
Lata, Talat and Mukesh were his favourite singers. Although Talat has not sung many songs for him, his song “Zindagi Kis Mod Pe Laayee Hamein” from Diwali Ki Raat (1956) was very popular. When rehearsals for this song were being done, Bhatkar had used only Tabla and Sitar for the practice session. The producer who chanced upon this rehearsal was so much impressed with this that he insisted recording the song only with minimum instruments. So, this song has only Tabla, Sitar and another instrument for accompaniment.
Though there were many melodious songs composed by Bhatkar like, Khusro’s ‘Lakhi Babul More Kaahe Ko Deenha Bides Re’ sung soulfully by Mukesh in Suhaag Raat (1948); ‘Ro-oge Pachhtaoge’ by Mukesh and Rajkumari in Thes (1949); Lata’s ‘Chanda Tumko Laaj Aa Aayee’ from Bhola Shankar (1951); Suman Kalyanpur’s ‘Haal-e-dil Unko Sunana Tha’- Fariyad (19)64, except Kidar Sharma no other big banner producer opted for Snehal Bhatkar. May be his compositions were not so simple for common man to hum or sing, although they were quality songs.
Despite several melodious songs Bhatkar was never counted amongst the first line composers. Kidar Sharma returned to him in 1980, but by that time Snehal Bhatkar was already on a descending track.
SNEHAL BHATKAR, a talented but sadly not much applauded composer, died peacefully on 29-5-2007 at his Dadar home.
Hindi Films (as a composer):
1. Rukmini Swayamwar (1946) – Bilingual, with Sudhir Phadke as Vasudev-Sudhir
2. Neel Kamal (1947) – as B. Vasudev
3. Sant Tukaram (1948) – as V. G Bhatkar
4. Suhaag Raat (1948) – as Snehal
5. Sati Ahalya (1949) – as V. G Bhatkar
6. Thes (1949) – as Snehal
7. Hamaari Beti (1950)
8. Pagle (1950) – as V. G Bhatkar
9. Bhola Shankar (1951)
10. Nand Kishore (1951)
11. Gunaah (1953)
12. Aaj Ki Baat (1955)
13. Bindiya (1955)
14. Daaku (1955)
15. Diwaali Ki Raat (1956)
16. Jaldeep (1956)
17. Haria (1958)
18. Scout Camp (1959)
19. Ganga Ki Lehren (1950s, Unreleased)
20. Chhabeeli (1960)
21. Guru Bhakti (1960)
22. Hamaari Yaad Aayegi (1961)
23. Deepak (1963)
24. Fariyaad (1964)
25. Pehla Kadam (1981)
26. Khuda Hafiz (1983)
27. Pyaase Nain (1989)
28. Sehme Hue Sitare (1994)
Hindi Films (as a singer):
1. Kaliyan (1944)
2. Lady Doctor (1944)
3. Neelkamal (1947)
4. Sant Tukaram (1948)
5. Rangeela Rajasthan (1949)
6. Sangeeta (1950)
7. Bhola Shankar (1951)
8. Harihar Bhakti (1956)
Marathi Films (as a composer):
1. Rukmini Swayamwar (1946)
2. Maya Machhindra (1951)
3. Nand Kishore (1951)
4. Shri Gurudev Dutt (1952)
5. Sant Bahinabai (1953)
6. Tuka Zhalase Kalas (1964)
7. Ya Malak (1964)
8. Chimukla Pahuna (1967)
9. Annapurna (1968)
10. Maanala Tar Dev (1970)
11. Bahklela Brahmachari (1971)
12. Sant Namdeo (1995)
REFERENCES AND ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
1. Beete Hue Din (http://beetehuedin.blogspot.in/2012/08/shraddhanjali-shri-dattatreya.html)
2. Cineplot (http://cineplot.com/encyclopedia/snehal-bhatkar/)
4. Discussions on hamaraforum.com
5. Wo Bhooli Dastaan by Subhashchandra Jadhav
6. Rahen Na Rahen Hum by Shri Shantaram Mankikar
7. Dhunon Ki Yatra by Pankaj Raag
8. Marathi article on Snehal Bhatkar by Issack Mujawar
9. Listener’s Bulletins
10. Hindi Film Geetkosh
11. Interview of Devji Bhatkar
12. My notes maintained for several decades
13. I am thankful to noted writer and film historian Shri Harish Raghuvanshi ji for promptly answering some of my queries