Yashwant Deo, 85, watches the city’s hectic pace from the balcony of his first-floor flat on Dadar’s Veer Savarkar Road with a peaceful acceptance of changing times.
It is with the same calm that the Marathi composer accepted the Lata Mangeshkar Award. He will receive the award from the state cultural department on September 28.
“Of course I am happy, but I don’t worry about debates like it should have come earlier,” said Deo. “Existence has a timetable and things happen only according to it,” he said, adding that his wife’s death in June, just before the award was announced, was predestined.
Deo learned music from his father, spending his early years in Pen and Nagpur before settling in Dadar. A physics graduate, he joined All India Radio as a sitar player where 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 chuckled.
Deo got married again in 1983 to Karuna, a noted radio announcer, and took sanyas a year later. “People criticised and ridiculed me but my wife stood by me,” said the Osho Rajnish follower.
Deo is known for his compositions in Bhav Geet, a semi-classical form where poems are composed to music. He has composed music for more than 40 Marathi plays and films, including Saaz, which was loosely based on the lives of sisters Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhosale.
When asked to compare the sisters, he said that each was unique.
“Ashabai has handled a wider range of songs than Latabai. But they never tried to do what the other is doing.”
“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.”
Deo is currently working on a song for a Marathi film. “When the producers approached me, I said, instead of me approving the film, you decide if your people will still accept me.” The film will be released next year.