Padma Shri award winner Suresh Wadkar is a film playback singer who specializes in the genre of Indian classical music. He is known for rendering songs for films such as Masoom (1983), Sadma (1983), Ram Teri Ganga Maili (1985), Chandni (1989), Parinda (1989), Dil (1990), Patthar Ke Phool (1991), Lamhe (1991), Parampara (1992), Aaina (1993), Rangeela (1995), Maachis (1996), Satya (1998), Vivah (2006), 7 Khoon Maaf (2011), and Haider (2014). Rendering playback for several Marathi films as well, he has also sung for Bhojpuri and Konkani films and has also released albums in Odia, as well as sung bhajans. He is one of the rare, smooth, classically trained voices that are not easily found in the popular music scene of today. Some of his finest songs include Seene mein jalan from Gaman (1978), Saanj dhale gagan tale from Utsav (1984), Surmai shaam is tarah from Lekin (1991), Meri kismat mein tu nahi from Prem Rog (1982), Lagi aaj saawan ki from Chandni (1989), Aur is dil mein kya rakha hai from Imaandar (1987), Megha re megha from Pyaasa Sawan (1981), Husn pahaadon ka from Ram Teri Ganga Maili, Huzur is kadar from Masoom, and Chappa chappa charkha chale from Maachis.
Born Suresh Ishwar Wadkar on 7 August, 1955, in Karvir, Kolhapur, he started his musical training under the classical musician Jialal Vasant when he was just 8. Impressing his music teacher with his skill, he began doing stage shows at a young age. He was later encouraged by Vasant to work towards earning the Prabhakar certificate offered by the Prayag Sangit Samiti. Considered the equivalent of a BEd degree, it qualified the awardee to teach professionally. Successfully acquiring the Prabhakar certificate, Wadkar joined Arya Vidya Mandir school in Mumbai as a music teacher.
He went on to enter and win the Sur-Singar competition in 1976. He was awarded the Madan Mohan Best Male Singer Award. The contest was judged by composers from the film industry, including Jaidev, who went on to offer Wadkar the song Seene mein jalan in the film Gaman (1978). He had made his debut in playback singing the popular song Briste pare tapur tupur in Rajshri Productions’ family drama film Paheli (1977), with music scored by Ravindra Jain.
Wadkar’s voice found favor with the queen of playback, Lata Mangeshkar, who went on to recommend him to music personalities such as Laxmikant–Pyarelal, Khayyam, and Kalyanji-Anandji. He rendered a duet Chal chameli bagh mein with Mangeshkar in the Laxmikant-Pyarelal-composed film Krodhi (1981). Going on to sing for Hum Paanch (1980), and the song Megha re megha re for Pyaasa Sawan (1981), he became widely popular with Raj Kapoor’s Prem Rog (1982).
Assigned several songs for Kapoor’s R K Films’ banner, Wadkar rendered songs for Rishi Kapoor in Heena (1991), Prem Granth (1996), Bol Radha Bol (1992), and also sang for Rajiv Kapoor in Ram Teri Ganga Maili. Among his most famous songs is Tum se milke from Parinda (1989).
Wadkar also carved a successful career in Marathi films, working with leading music directors like Pandit Hridaynath Mangeshkar, Sudhir Phadke, Shrinivas Khale, Shridhar Phadke, Vasant Desai, Ashok Patki, and Anil-Arun. He also rendered playback for Tamil films such as Kanden Kadhalai (2009). Singing Channeache rati among other songs for Rajendra Talak's Konkani album Daryachya Deger with Asha Bhosle, he has also rendered several devotional songs in various Indian languages.
While he went on to produce the film Tanman.com, he has also appeared as a judge on the television singing show Sa Re Ga Ma Pa L'il Champs and at the 2005 Sanjeet Awards.
Among the awards Wadkar has won are the 2004 Lata Mangeshkar Puraskar instituted by the Madhya Pradesh government, the 2007 Maharashtra Pride Award given by the government of Maharashtra to citizens of note, the National Film Award for Best Male Playback Singer for the song Hey Bhaskara kshitijavari ya from the Marathi film Mee Sindhutai Sapkal (2010), topped by the Padma Shri in 2020 for his work in the field of arts.
Wadkar provides methodical training to students in music at his music school in Mumbai, (www.ajivasan.com) as well as in New Jersey/ New York City (www.sureshwadkarmusic.com). He has also started an online music school, SWAMA (Suresh Wadkar Ajivasan Music Academy), under Ace Open University.
Married to classical singer Padma, the couple has two daughters, Ananya and Jiya. In 2007 his daughter Ananya made her debut in playback singing with the song Mera jahan from the film Taare Zameen Par. In 2016, his daughter Jiya made her singing debut with the music album Sapnon Ka Gaon.