The death on of popular veteran Marathi lyricist, poet and music composer Yashwant Dev on 30 October 2018 at the age of 91, due to chikungunya and pneumonia, shook the Marathi film industry and fans alike. Born on 1 November 1926, one of the finest Marathi music composers, Dev, trained by his father, quickly marked his presence with his songs and catchy lyrics. He also contributed a major share in Marathi literature, film world and plays, apart from the singles, albums, folk songs, etc. He scored music for more than 40 Marathi plays, films and radio plays as well. In stage shows, Dev would extol the virtues of classical Marathi poetry, imbued with lyrical romanticism.
He enriched the bhaav geet, a semi-classical composition of heady mix of rich poetry and mellifluous music, and rendered it in a brood- ing, low-simmer style to great heights, and used it effectively. His body of work includes compositions of irreplaceable popular gems like Ya janmavar, ya jagnyavar shatda prem karave, Nako jau komejun majhya pritichya fula, Jeeva-natli ghadi ashich rahu de, Bhatuklichya khelamadhli raja ani rani, Yeshil yeshil yeshil rani, asen mi nasen mi, Tuze geet gaanyasaathi sur rahu de, Pauoos kadheecha padato, Nako nako re pawasa, and Tujhyaachsaathi kitida.
Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhosle, Usha Mangeshkar and Arun Date, among others, made Dev’s songs popular in the 1960s. His soul-stirring Marathi songs, featured in Aapli Aawad, AIR’s popular programme based on listeners’ choice, regaled countless Maharashtrian connoisseurs on Mondays and Fridays. Along with Zakir Hussein, Bhupen Hazarika and Raj Kamal, he composed music for the Hindi film Saaz, inspired by the lives of the Mangeshkar singer-sisters, directed by Sai Paranjpye, and got writer-poet Javed Akhtar his first National Award for Best Lyrics. Comparing the sisters, he had said that “each one was unique, and never tried to do what the other was doing”.
He spent his early years in Pen and Nagpur before settling in Dadar, Mumbai. A physics graduate from Mumbai, he joined All India Radio as a sitar player. His job also involved checking if poems or songs were music worthy. “That is where I started to learn (music) seriously, as I had to give reasons for rejecting songs and poems. Often, I would present a better alternative, and silence the complainant,” he used to chuckle. He acquired the Sangeet Visharad degree from Gandharva Mahavidyalaya in 1968. After a brief stint with His Master’s Voice as sitarist, he launched his music career with All India Radio in Dharwad and Nagpur, and then as a senior grade producer of light music in Mumbai, from 1958 to 1984. A popular lyricist at AIR, he was also associated with the University of Mumbai and S.N.D.T. University, as a music professor and guide.
He considered Anil Biswas, the legendary composer of the 1950s, as his icon. Later, a programme called Bhavsaragam on A.I.R made him main- stream all over Maharashtra. Honoured with awards like Gan-samradni Lata Mangeshkar Award and Gadima Puraskar, the Maharashtra Government award for Best Music Director of the play Amra- pali (1974), and the Ram Kadam Kalagaurav Award 2015, Dev also published books on devotional music of Shirdi Sai Baba, light music and Marathi bhaav-geets.
Dev peacefully accepted the changing times. To him, “Existence has a timetable and things happen only according to it.” He further used to add, “Today, you see everyone rushing with a cell phone glued to their ears. Each one has so many tasks that everything is completed almost breathlessly. That same dhad dhad (chaos) is reflected in music and liked by the people as they identify with it. That is neither good for music nor the psychological health of a person.”
Married initially to the famous ventriloquist Ramdas Padhye’s sister,Vijayalakshmi, after her death, he married in 1983, the widow of late Babban Prabhu, Karuna, a noted radio announcer.