ARUN Date, the tall, bespectacled gentleman who always wore the hint of a smile on his rotund face, was a well-known leading Marathi playback and singer of Bhavgeet (lyrical poetry). Known for his
soulful voice and soft tone, he yet seemed to ascend the heavens when he hit the high notes in his full-throated style.
He entered the field of music slightly late, inspired by his father, Ramubhaiyya Date, a renowned classical music connoisseur and singer from Indore, after having worked as textile engineer with the Birla group for 28 years. His brother, Ravi Date, incidentally, is a well-known tabla player. After learning music vocals from Kumar Gandharva and K. Mahaveer, from 1955, he began singing with All India Radio. But it was Shukratara Mandawara, a duet with Sudha Malhotra that released in 1962, which became his signature song. It later grew into a successful concert series spanning 2,500 shows. It was also adjudged as ‘song of the month’ by Mumbai Radio Station in 1962.
Arun Date’s iconic songs won the hearts of music connoisseurs and included Hya Janmavar Hya Jaganyavar, Bhatukalicha Khelamadhale, Asen Mi Nasen Mi, Yeshil Yeshil Rani, Shatada Prem Karave, Shapat Tula Aahe, Shriram Jairam, Dolyat Sanjveli, Bhet Tujhi Majhi Smarate, Akherche Yetil Majhya, Dilya Ghetlya Vachananchi, Dole Kashasathi, Dis Nakalat Zaee, Zhali Fule Kalyanchi, and of course, his memorable duet with Lata Mangeshkar, Sandhikali Hya Asha.
The first recipient of the State Government’s Gajananrao Vatave Puraskar, in 2010, as also the first recipient of the Mahendra Kapoor Award in 2001-02, he also won the 11th Ram Kadam Award in 2016.
Affectionately called Aru Bhaiyya, a man with a big heart, affable nature, caring attitude, simple with no vanity, he treated everyone in his team with respect and gave wholehearted praise. During tours, he would always make sure that each team member was comfortably accommodated, and only then would he see to his own lodging arrangement.
He even had a habit of throwing small parties after the success of a live show. Apart from old age-related complications, he had issues with memory and often forgot the lyrics, but yet insisted on performing. He interacted with the audience during live shows, sharing his past experiences and anecdotes about songs. What’s more, as long as music director Shrinivas Khale lived, Arun would visit him annually and hand over a part of his earnings from his stage shows, as he felt most of his popular songs were composed by the former.
Every show was houseful and each of his songs used to cast a spell on the audience, be it Bhet Tujhi Majhi Smarate, Bhatuklichya Khelamadhali or the evergreen Shukratara Mandawara. Even if he decided to skip any of his popular songs just to bring in variety, the audience would insist that he sing each of them.
Sadly, every life has its dark periods too. Though a gem of a person otherwise and a good singer, his 48-year-old younger son Sangeet passed away in 2016 after being found living on the streets in Pune, shunned by his family for his dishonest, reckless lifestyle, and addiction to liquor.
Though ailing for some years, it was shocking for everyone when Arun Date passed away on 6 May 2018, just two days after turning 84. He had been very happy when the family played his songs on his birthday.
Date contributed to the Marathi music industry for more than 50 years. With his demise, there is a vacuum, a shining star lost to the music industry. He holds a special position in the minds of the Marathi people. His contribution with his soft and tender voice immortalising the Marathi bhavgeet, is immense. A very talented singer who continued to remain underrated, despite giving so many gems in Marathi, his is an irrevocable loss to the Marathi music world.