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“Mausam Aaya Hai Rangeen”– Sulochna (Kadam) Chavhan

16 Apr, 2020 | Beete Hue Din by Shishir Krishna Sharma
Sulochna (Kadam) Chavhan. Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din

The year 1947 proved to be one of immense transformation not only for India but also for the film industry. After the partition, many film personalities left for Pakistan and many left Pakistan to come to India. This erraticism created a fertile land for new talent and this surge of talent changed the face of cinema as we knew it then. And this change could be particularly seen within the music aspect of movies. Not only Rafi, Kishore, Talat, Lata, Asha, Geeta, but also the new generation of singers truly got a chance to prove their mettle only after Independence. In 1947, one of these singers was Sulochna Kadam who forayed into the arena of playback with her film Krishna-Sudama (1947).
 
Fortunately, Sulochnaji is hale and hearty and very much among us and resides in South Mumbai's Girgaon area. During an evening meeting at her residence on 30 December 2014, she spoke at length with Beete Hue Din.
 
Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din
 
Originally from Raigadh district, Sulochna Kadam 's father worked at a factory in South Mumbai's Faras Road and her mother was a homemaker.  The youngest of 2 brothers and 2 sisters, Sulochnaji was born in Girgaon-Mumbai's Fanaswadi on 13 March 1933. Sulochnaji says, “I studied till the fourth grade in a Marathi medium school. I was least interested in studies. I used to go to the school with a slate in hand and I would pray every day that the school building collapses. However, I was very fond of singing. There was a Gramophone at home on which I would listen to records repeatedly and would sing those songs along with it. All those were Marathi records. I never received traditional training in music, whatever I learned was by repeated listening.” 
 
Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din

During the Ganesh Festival, cultural programs would be held for small children in Marathi dominated areas which were called Mela. Other than Sulochnaji and her elder sister Shakuntala, two other sisters viz Vatsala Deshmukh and Vijaya Deshmukh would participate in these programs without fail. Sulochnaji tells us, “The Deshmukh sisters lived nearby in the Bhuleshwar area. Their father was acquainted with my elder brother. He urged Bhaisahab to mentor his daughters. On Bhaisahab's mandate, they started coming to rehearsals of Mela and shortly thereafter started participating in it. After they grew up, Vatsala Deshmukh became a known actress in Marathi films and  Vijaya Deshmukh did films like Do Ankhein Barah Haath (1957), Navrang (1959), Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baaje (1955) and Sehra (1963) under the alias of Sandhya and then went on to marry V. Shantaram.”  

The programs of Mela used to be written by Shri Datar.  He had written the Marathi version of the song Mere chhote se mann me chhoti si duniya re which was sung by (Baby) Madhubala in the film Basant (1942) and its lyrics were Kiti vana to phulaliya surekh kali ka ya.  The audiences used to love this Marathi song sung by Sulochnaji in Mela. Sulochnaji says, “one day our makeup man Dandekarji took me to meet composer Shyambabu Pathak at his residence in Madhavbaug.  At that time Pathakji's film Krishna-Sudama (1947)  was on the floor. Pathakji sang a few lines for me and asked me to repeat them, which I did. Pathakji liked my singing a lot. And thus, my playback career started with the film Krishna-Sudama (1947).”

 
Sunehre Din (1949).
Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din

The first song to be recorded in Sulochnaji's voice was Mai to so rahi thi bansi kaahe ko bajaai. She also sang another song in the film Krishna-Sudama (1947) which was Hai nashe me choor pyali haath me. Both of these were solo songs. The film Krishna-Sudama released in the year 1947. After this, Shyambabu Pathak made Sulochnaji sing two more songs in his film Kismetwaali which was also made in 1947. According to Sulochnaji as she received recognition through these songs, many other composers started approaching her for singing. 

In the last 4 years of the 1940 decade, Sulochnaji sang almost 50 songs under the direction of composers like Nandram Onkarji, Rashid Atre, Gyandutt, Ajit Merchant, C.Ramchandra, Mushtaq Hussain & Chaitumal, Premnath, P.Ramakant, M.A.Rauf, S.K.Pal, Ramnath Wadhwa, Avinash Vyas, K. Narayan Rao for many films viz Jungle Me Mangal (1947), Paro (1947), Chanda Ki Chandni (1948), Dukhiyari (1948), Laal Dupatta (1948), Nao (1948), Refugee (1948), Bachke Rehna (1949), Bombay (1949), Sunehre Din (1949), Alakh Niranjan (1950), Babuji, Basera (1950), Bheeshm Pratiggya (1950), Dushmani (1950), Hanste Rehna (1950), Har Har Mahadev (1950) and Hanske Jiyo. She also portrayed the role of Harishchandra Rao's sister in Producer-Director and actor Harishchandra Rao's film Refugee. This film was made in the year 1948.

 
Dholak (1951). Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din

Simultaneously Sulochnaji also got opportunities to sing for All India Radio and so she regularly started singing for Jalandhar, Indore, Jaipur and Kashmir stations. On the other hand, she had also started acting in plays. Sulochnaji tells us, “around the time of Eid, the play Laila Majnu was to be performed at Bombay Theater Hall. Through Dandekarji, makeup man of Mela; I was called to depict the childhood of Majnu (Qais). People liked my performance a lot. Then, I played Anjuman in Chand Bibi under the direction of Sageer Bhai. These plays were instrumental in greatly improving my Urdu. I also played the lead role in the Gujarati play 40 Karod.”

Many private albums of Sulochnaji's Geet-Ghazals were also released. She also started performing in stage shows. She says, “I took part in a program held in Jaipur where each singer had to sing a bhajan, a song, and a ghazal.  As soon as I got down from the stage, I saw that Akhtari Bai (Begum Akhtar) was standing right in front of me. She reached out to me in an embrace. With wonder she asked me, beti, where did you learn Urdu from?, and when I disclosed that whatever I had learned was only by listening, she was completely taken aback.”
 
Mamta (1952). 
Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din

The tremendous musical success of film Dholak, made in the year 1951, gave Sulochnaji a new level of recognition. She has sung 2 solos and 2 duets for the film Dholak under the music direction of Shyam Sundar.  Her duet sung along with Satish Batra, Mausam aaya hai rangeen, baji hai kahin sureeli been and her solo, Chori chori aag si dil me laga ke chal diye were much liked at that time. 

During the 1950 decade, Sulochnaji sang almost 75 songs for films like Ishwar Bhakti (1951), Actor (1951), Kaale Baadal (1951), Damaad (1951), For Ladies Only (Titli) (1951), Mukhda (1951), Saagar (1951), Zamaane Ki Hawa (1952), Mamta (1952), Aag Ka Dariya (1953), Farmaish (1953) and Bhagyawaan (1953) and songs for these films were sung under the direction of composers like Sonik, Shyam Sundar, Aziz Hindi, Vasant Desai, Chitragupt, Avinash Vyas, Premnath, Vinod, S.N.Tripathi, S.K.Pal, Ninu Majumdar, Gulshan Sufi, Madhavlal Master, Husnlal Bhagatram and Jamal Sen.

 
Bheeshm Pratiggya (1950). Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din

Sulochnaji tells us, “In 1952 I sang a Lavni (Marathi folk) for composer Vasant Desai for Acharya Atre's Marathi film Heech Majhi Laxmi. Producer-Director, Cameraman and Film Editor Shyamrao Chavhan was making a film on Tamasha titled Kalgi Tura. Shyamrao Chavhan was very close to Producer-Director Bhalji Pendharkar and had done many films with him. In fact, Shyamrao Chavhan was the one to cast Raj Kapoor for Bhalji Pendharkar's film Valmiki (1946). After hearing my Lavni, Shyamrao Chavhan called me to sing for Kalgi Tura whose composer was Datta Korgaonkar. And then, in 1953 I married Shyamrao Chavhan. After marriage, I focused entirely on my household and was cut off from singing for almost 3 years.”

 
with her husband Shyamrao Chavhan. Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din

After these 3 years passed, Sulochnaji started playback once again. And very soon she became recognized as the topmost Lavni singer in entire Maharashtra. In this second phase of her playback career, Sulochnaji sang Lavni for films under the direction of some of the best known Marathi composers like Vasant Panwar, Ram Kadam, Bal Palsule, Vitthal Shinde, Shriniwas Khale, Nandu Honap, and Vilas Joglekar. She was bestowed with the Lavni Samragyi award by Maharashtra Government in 1966-67. Other awards that she received include Maharashtra governments Lata Mangeshkar Award – 2011 and Sangeet Natak Academy Award by the President of India in the year 2013. 

 
special playback award for
Marathi movie Malhari Martand (1965) 

According to Sulochnaji, the Marathi film Angai made in 1968 was her last film wherein she sang a Lavni under the music direction of Ram Kadam. After moving away from films, Sulochnaji busied herself with charity shows of Lavni. Through charity shows conducted all over Maharashtra, she collected money to help create various schools, temples, hospitals, orphanages, cremation grounds and to help the downtrodden. This is why her name is taken with the utmost respect through every corner of Maharashtra even today. 
 
with Son, Daughter-in-law and Grandson. Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din

Sulochnaji's husband passed away in 2007. Her elder son Jay was a well-known percussionist of the Marathi stage. Jay passed away in 2008. Her younger son, Vijay Chavhan, is a famous dholki player and has worked with composers like Laxmikant-PyarelalBappi Lahiri, Vanraj Bhatia, Anu Malik, Anand Milind, and Louis Banks. Along with hit songs like Bada dukh deena (Ramlakhan, 1989), Ek do teen (Tejaab, 1988), Mai tera tota (Paap Ki Duniya, 1988) he has also played Dholki with Ravindra Jain for songs of film Henna (1991). For the last 20 years, he has also been accompanying the famous tabla player Ustad Zakir Hussain all over the world for his concerts. 

Sulochna (Kadam) Chavhan Ji stays at Girgaon-Fanaswadi with her son Vijay, his wife and their son Ajay and will soon be touching the golden age of 82 years this March.

[part of Shishir Krishna Sharma's Beete Hue Din blog series]

 

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