Remembering a Forgotten Singer!

Today I will present a forgotten voice, who was among the most popular voices in late 1940s. She had a short career in Hindi Film industry, but nevertheless her name would always be remembered for her hit songs, including some wonderful solos and her duets with Rafi. Singing was neither her passion nor her hobby. She used to sing as a child because she had good voice. Her uncle and grandmother used to sing. They were not professional singers, but used to encourage her and she had many songs by heart in childhood, just by listening her grandma, singing the songs. She used to hum the songs and subconsciously the tunes and words got etched on her mind. She had formal training in singing for a while, but poor economic conditions proved hurdle to its continuation. Have you guessed her?

Image from ‘Aathvanitli Gani’

I’m talking about Lalita Deulkar, a well known playback singer of the yesteryears. She was born in 1924, in a Saraswat Brahman family. Due to financial crisis, she was allowed to act and sing in movies, which otherwise was not considered a decent profession. Her family was a big one, with seven siblings. After a financial trouble, her father’s income was not sufficient enough to run the home and gradually he ran into debt. The loan amount was a huge one.

One day, poet and actor, Harindranath Chattopadhyay happened to visit the family’s Bengali neighbour. He heard Lalita singing and liked her voice. He encouraged Lalita’s father to engage her in films.
Her father wasn’t ready initially, he was not thinking favourably about it. But finally accepted it due to endless financial problems, the family was facing. She was taken to the Bombay Talkies, where Himanshu Rai promised her father, safety and homely atmosphere in the studio. She was offered a supportive role, that of Devika Rani’s friend, in a film called, Durga. It was released in 1939. Some sources mention ‘Vachan’ as her first film with Bombay talkies, which was released in 1938. She herself has mentioned the former as her first film with Bombay Talkies. So her career in Hindi films started as an actress.
She was also offered a few advertisements, where she acted and sang. It was her first exposure to a microphone, which initially became her close friend.
After Himanshu Rai’s death in 1940, she left the company. Her first film as a playback singer was ‘Angoothi’ in 1943. The composers were, B R Deodhar, Ashok Ghosh & Babubhai Bhojak. She was offered a solo and a duet in the film, and was paid handsomely. Her family was very happy and proud of her achievement. Her efforts were now going to spread happiness in the household. The financial problems were to fade away, someday! She was the only ray of hope, who could have supported her father, clearing the loan.
Some sites mention ‘Aankhon Wale Tu Dekh Ke Chal’, from ‘Parbat Pe Apna Dera’ (1944), a duet with Parashuram, as her first Hindi playback. Again she herself has mentioned Angoothi as her first.

She soon became one of the busy playback singers. In the 40s decade she worked with many composers, from Master Ghulam Haider, S D Burman to C Ramchandra and Sudhir Phadke. Her most popular songs emerged from her association with C Ramchandra, who offered her quite a lot of songs. We also find mention of a record company, ‘Young India’ that was quite popular in 1930-40s. The company had recorded a few of her songs, both Hindi and Marathi. It is said that, the records have survived with the die hard fans, who collect and maintain the vintage era collection. I think, experts can throw more light on this dark area.

Her voice had the typical tone of vintage era and it was eloquent. Her Hindi pronunciation was also good, if we consider her pure Marathi background and that she had not taken much formal training in music. Her voice could express any emotion very easily and very effectively. If she had continued her singing career, we would have got more opportunities to listen to her songs of different genres. She would certainly have maintained her position in the forthcoming years. She has mentioned that during mid 40s, she sang a number of songs. She worked very hard for her family and paying the loan. She could not rest her voice properly, and that caused much strain on her voice. She was fade up with the recordings, but to help support her family, she used to ignore her complaints. She used to suffer throat pain and was really tired of daily recordings. So when she married to Sudhir Phadke, she expressed her wish not to continue her playback singing career. He also didn’t force her, but initially for a few songs, she was called in by him.

She also has mentioned her first meeting with Sudhir Phadke, for a Marathi Opera in 1943. She was one of the singers, but she was introvert, and didn’t much interact with him during the program. Their next project together was a musical for AIR, Mumbai and they had few minor rifts during the making. Lalita was so used to Hindi songs now, that her Marathi pronunciation suffered and that was something Babuji (as Sudhir Phadke was popularly known) didn’t tolerate at all. Still he called her for playback for Marathi films later.
She narrates one incident, where Babuji called her to Pune for a Marathi film song recording and she did not attend it. She was too busy that day and could not catch the bus to Pune. This left Babuji furious and he thought of her as an egoistic lady. But Lalita had a good name as a playback singer and one day he had to call her for playback. The heroine of the film, Sant Janabai, was Hansa Wadkar. And she insisted on Lalita Deulkar’s name for her playback. It must be some time around the last half of the year 1948.

During the recordings, Lalita’s mother, who was accompanying her, got to interact with Babuji’s family. And on one fine day, Babuji’s elder brother asked her about Lalita’s marriage with Babuji. Both of them were short tempered and Lalita was worried about the alliance. But later, when she gave it a deep thought, she realized many positive aspects of Babuji’s personality. And by now, the loan was already cleared and her other family responsibilities were also fulfilled. And for the first time, she really wanted to think about marriage. In all, at last she was favourable and finally agreed to marry Sudhir Phadke.

With Sudhir Phadke

The marriage took place in Pune on 29th May 1949, and it’s a well known fact that, Rafi sang the sacred verses (मंगलाष्टक) in Marathi, during the wedding. When Rafi was a new comer in 1947, she made him comfortable during the recordings and never let him feel her seniority in the field. He always remembered her as a good human being. As a gesture of gratitude, he attended the wedding and sang the sacred verses, which he had rehearsed properly.
Lalita was the one who recommended Asha Bhosle to Sudhir Phadke for a Marathi film and later Asha became his main voice for female playback in Marathi films.

After marriage, she never wanted to continue playback, but did sing a few tracks only for Sudhir Phadke, both in Hindi & Marathi films. But he neither forced her, nor insisted her name for the lead role. He offered her songs, only when the producers asked for her voice. He used to think it improper to suggest her name himself, to the producer. She sang for him for six Hindi films, three of them after their marriage. Those three films have only one song each by Lalita Phadke.
When the epic ‘Geet Ramayan’ was first aired on radio, Lalita sang all the songs of Kausalya. But to leave the playback career, when it was at its peak, was her own decision and her husband respected it. She supported, complemented and helped Sudhir Phadke in his career, though her active participation may not be known to us. She was a devoted wife, a loving and caring mother and a great support to the family.

She breathed last on 25th May 2010, leaving behind their only son, Shridhar. Shridhar Phadke continued the legacy and is a well known and reputed singer and composer in Marathi films and non film songs.

Let’s have a look at her singing career with various composers, in Hindi films.

Vasant Desai – Parbat Pe Apna Dera (1944)
                            Narsinh Avatar (1949)

C Ramchandra – Saajan (1947)
                                Shehnai (1947)
                                Nadiya Ke Paar (1948)
                                Mera Munna (1948)
                                Sanwariya (1949)
                                Roshani (1949)

Shankarrao Vyas – Valmiki (1946)
                                    Bhakta Dhruv (1947)
                                    Ram Baan (1948)

Anil Biswas – Girl’s School (1949)

S D Burman – Eight Days (1946)
                         Vidya (1948)
                         Shabnam (1949)

Sudhir Phadke – Rukmini Swayamvar (1946)
                                 Jai Bhim (1949)
                                 Maya Bazar (1949)
                                 Sant Jananbai (1949)
                                 Malati Madhav (1951)
                                 Pehli Tarikh (1954) – I tried getting the song ‘Hisab Zara Sunte Jana’, But Alas!
                                 Sajni (1956)          

J C Mazumdar – Hawai Qila (1944, ? Unreleased)
One song, Ae Chand Na Chamak Tu, from the movie did attract my attention. Her voice was so expressive, even at that tender age.

It’s time now, to visit the song list. The list has Hindi and Marathi songs, the songs are in No particular order. Let’s remember her on 9th Death anniversary.

1. More Raja Ho Le Chal – Nadiya Ke Paar (1948) with Rafi / C Ramchandra – Moti B A
This was her first song that I came across a few years back. I was very much surprised with the freshness in her voice. Her voice fits typically to the vintage era and the expressions are superb! The lyrics of the song are not at all outstanding, but the song appeals through it’s tune and the playback singer’s voices. I take it as her most popular song. The on screen chemistry between the couple can very well be appreciated in the singers voices as well.

2. Dil Leke Bhaga – Nadiya Ke Paar (1948) / C Ramchandra – Moti B A
This foot tapping number from the same movie, is also worthwhile! It’s catchy tune and singer’s rendition are the major factors for me. Chhatisgarhi language in the song sounds very sweet. Kamini Kaushal wonders how secretely her man stole her heart away! She was completely unaware of it. She further describes her emotional condition and calls him heartless. And Lalita is spot on with her wonderful expressions.

3. Hum Ko Tumhara Hi Aasra – Saajan (1947) with Rafi / C Ramchandra – Moti B A
The absolute vintage classic! It was perhaps Rafi’s first duet with Lalita Deulkar. It is said that, he was very much anxious about it, as she was already a renowned singer and he was a newcomer. But she supported him emotionally, boosted his confidence and made him relaxed. The results were wonderful. Everything in the song is perfect. An ideal masterpiece, I would call it! Rafi sang around eleven duets with Lalita, and many of them under C Ramchandra’s baton.

4. Aaya Aaya Re Sawan – Sawan Aaya Re (1948) with Chorus / Khemchand Prakash – Ramamurthy Chaturvedi
I found the song, a few years back, when I was searching for Khemchand Prakash songs. The opening music itself brings a wave of fresh cool breeze, that continues throughout the song. It’s so delightful! The song isn’t picturised on the main lead, but all the women celebrating the arrival of monsoon, sing the song. The chorus part also appears so energetic. The swaying jhoolas add a different charm to the song.

5. Bachpan Ki Yaad – Shaheed (1948) / Ghulam Haider – Qamar Jalalabadi
The composer has used multiple voices for Kamini Kaushal. The soulful songs went to Geeta Roy and Surinder Kaur, whereas this catchy piano number was offered to Lalita Deulkar. Sheila (Kamini Kaushal) eagerly awaits Ram (Dilip Kumar), her childhood friend. She wants to remind him their childhood and that it has turned into love. The small shrub of yesterday, is now a grown up tree.
Lalita’s voice very aptly projects the eagerness and the shyness of the character.

6. Aaj Mera Dil Kisi Pe Aa Gaya – Vidya (1948) / S D Burman – Raja Mehdi Ali Khan
While Suraiya sang for herself, Lalita Deulkar was Burman da’s choice for the supporting cast (Cuckoo). She sings the song with perfect emotions, as would be expected from a dancer. Her voice is sweet, yet has a raw quality and is full throated. It’s full of expressions. She certainly would have become a singer in demand, if she would have continued singing.

7. Kya Sach Hai Kasam Woh – Bedard (1949) / Mohammad Shafi, B N Bali, Ram Prasad – Abdul Gafar Badar
From happiness to deep anguish. The lady’s man, is deceiving her, and she can’t believe it. It’s as if everything he said, was fake. She is far from accepting the betrayal. The futility portrayed by her voice is heart touching.
Some sites mention Ram Prasad as a sole composer of the song.

8. Hum Kisko Sunaye Haal – Shabnam (1949) / S D Burman – Qamar Jalalabadi
Burman da offered her a song for the main lead, after Vidya, where she sang for a dancer. If she would have continued the career, Burman da would have had yet another option. How effortlessly she sings this light hearted song! Kamini Kaushal declares herself penniless and though till yesterday, she had money. I have no idea about the situation, but she wants to attract Dilip Kumar’s attention to her.

9. Aana Meri Jaan Sunday Ke Sunday – Shehnai (1947) with Chitalkar and Amirbai Karnataki / C Ramchandra – P L Santoshi
Don’t be surprised, the film version of the song had, Lalita Deulkar and Amirbai as co-singers with Chitalkar. The 78 rpm record however has the song by Shamshad and Meena Kapoor with Chitalkar. The song was one of the first western songs of Hindi cinema. It was a huge success, though it wasn’t much accepted by the stalwarts that time.

10. Jiya Chahe Ke Ud Jaye Hum – Roshni (1949) with Chorus / C Ramchandra – P L Santoshi
What a cute song! Though it’s funny and absolutely wonderful, I don’t think, it’s much popular. A lady from village (most probably), visiting a big city for the first time. She is amused with the big roads and mansions. The city men roam around with the necktie that she equates to looking like फाँसी. A complete fun. Excellent rendition, expressions are too good.

11. Chale Na Jaiyo Mohe Chhod Ke – Jai Bheem (1949) / Sudhir Phadke – Amar Verma
And to end the Hindi list, a song she sang for her husband. The lady requests her man to be with her. A cute ‘request’ song. The audio quality is not so good, but we can appreciate the magic in her voice.

Now, Lalita Deulkar’s Marathi film songs….

12. रंगू बाजारला जाते हो, जाऊ द्या – वंशाचा दिवा (१९५०) ललिता फडके आणि वसंतराव देशपांडे / सुधीर फडके – ग दि माडगुळकर
Coming to Marathi songs, my first choice is a chhed chhad number, she sings effortlessly. Her expressions are so beautiful, so spot on!
The lady in the song has all the answers, when a man flirts with her. She really appears a liberated woman. Enjoy the song.

13. चांदण्यात चालू दे मंद नाव नाविका – मायाबाजार अर्थात् वत्सला हरण (१९४९) ललिता फडके / सुधीर फडके – ग दि माडगुळकर
This is from the Marathi film, Maya Bazar which was released in 1949. The film is based on the side story of Balram’s daughter Vatsala and Abhimanyu, from the epic Mahabharat. The couple, Vatsala and Abhimanyu sing the song, enjoying a romantic boat ride in moon light. A very good song, I always enjoy it a lot!

14. तिन्ही सांज होते, तुझी याद येते – चिमण्यांची शाळा (१९६२) ललिता फडके / सुधीर फडके – ग दि माडगुळकर
The lady misses her beloved, she feels that the evening is like a punishment. A good song, I came across, just a few days back. She sings all types of songs, with spot on expressions in all the songs.

15. आज मोरे मन लागो – सुवासिनी (१९६१) पंडित भीमसेन जोशी आणि ललिता फडके / सुधीर फडके – पारंपरिक रचना
It’s a tradition composition in Raag Gujari Todi. It’s one of the lesser talked about songs from the movie, Suvasini. Lalita sings it without getting anxious about Pandit Bhimsen Joshi. A perfect song to end my list.

(Reference : A Marathi book, ‘स्वरगंधर्व सुधीर फडके’ with research and editing by विश्वास नेरूरकर and बिश्वनाथ चॅटर्जी. I got a complete chapter in Lalita ji’s own words, which helped me build this post)

Which song by Lalita Deulkar would you add?

Disclaimer –
Mehfil Mein Meri, claims no credit for any image, screenshots or songs posted on this site. Images on this blog are posted to make the text interesting. The images and screenshots are the copyright of their original owners. The song links are shared from YouTube, only for the convenience of music lovers. The copyright of these songs rests with the respective owners, producers and music companies.

20 Replies to “Remembering a Forgotten Singer!”

  1. Anup,
    This is an excellent post. You are always thorough with your research, and give a comprehensive overview of an artiste’s life and career. You have included her most famous songs. It is interesting to know that in ‘Ana meri jaan Sunday ke Sunday’ she was one of the voices, but in gramophone records she was replaced by Meena Kapoor. I wonder why. C Ramchandra gave her career best songs, and he should have had no reason to do it.

    I liked her Marathi song, ‘Tinhi saanjh hote tujhi yaad yete’


    1. Thanks AKji. Your comment needed approval again, as there is a spelling mistake in the mail id.
      Your generous praise always encourages me a lot!
      I have no idea why she was not there for the ‘Sunday ke Sunday’ song in 78 rpm record. May be she was not available for the recording.
      And yes,
      C Ramchandra offered her career best songs. Still why she was replaced, remains a mystery?
      Her expressions used to be very good, Her Marathi songs are also popular, The one you mention is also among her popular ones!


  2. Interesting post, Anupji! I knew about Lalita Deulkar – but just about her name, that’s all (I wouldn’t have been able to name a single song of hers). This post was a real eye-opener, and very informative. Thank you.


    1. Welcome Madhuji!
      She is much less talked about, though her active years saw her as a busy playback singer. I could not get much info about her on the net. But fortunately I remembered a book, where I had read it once. I got hold of it and there was a chapter in her own words about her early days and career. So I could write the post.
      Mainly her duets with Rafi are among her most popular. C Ramchandra offered her a lot of songs.
      Did you listen to the song from Roshni?
      It’s so full of fun! Do listen and let me know!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I too have just heard Lalita Deulkar’s name. But everything about her life you have told here is informative. Not just that it also is a mirror of those times and people and the gratitude and respect they had for each other. It’s great.

    And the mangalaashtaks: Those must have been the most melodious ever.


    1. After her marriage she didn’t much sing for Hindi films and slowly her name faded away. In her active career, she sang too much songs. She mentions in the book that, she was fade up of the recordings, but financial crisis forced her sing.
      And yes, those days, the artists used to have a lot of respect for their colleagues.
      I agree, if Rafi sings the Mangalashakas, it must be the most melodeous!


  4. खूप दिवसांनी सुरेल गाण्याचा खजिना सापडला. धन्यवाद.


  5. Dear Anup ji,
    Thanks for writing on Lalita ji.
    She was one of the more popular singers in Marathi and Hindi , during her times.
    After a very long time, I heard the song ” Rangu bajarla jate ho, jau dya” from film Vanshacha Diva-50. I remember distinctly having seen this film in Nishant Talkies in Hyderabad, where it was running. For a long time, this song was popular in Marathi.
    There is an excellent article on Lalita Phadke, written by Dr. Suresh Chandavankar ji , of SIRC here….
    You will find her early record details and also some other facts about her first film song etc. Please do read it.
    The book ” Cinema Diary” mentions her marriage date as 29-5-1947, but I too feel it took place in 1949. Please check again.
    Your style of writing is flowing and takes the reader with it easily.
    Here is wishing you all the best.


  6. Two unusual songs:
    One describing the goodness of Khadi:
    KHIDKI. 1948.
    P L Santhoshi; C Ramchandra.
    Lalita Deulkar, Unidentified male voice ( CR?) & chorus.

    Aye ho sanwariya
    Jo jao bazariya
    Toh lao chunariya Khadi ki..
    ( Khadi ki?)
    Haan, Khadi ki.
    Jai bolo Mahatma Gandhi ki.

    Second,a hat ke patriotic song.
    Rammoorthi Chaturvedi, CR.
    Rafi,Geeta Dutt, Lalita Deulkar & chorus.

    Sambhal sambhal ke jaiyo ho Banjare
    Dilli door hai..


    1. Yes Pradeepji,
      The lyrics are unusual! The movie must have released immediately after the independence, so I think the song appears appropriate!
      Here’s the link for Jai Bolo Mahatma Gandhi Ki

      The latter from Saajan, was known to me. But to limit the number of songs, I dropped it. I wanted to stress more on her solos and at the most duets. This is a trio, with Geeta Roy (dutt) and Rafi.
      But thanks for mentioning it, I’m happy to see it in the comments, because, though I wanted to include it, but had to drop it!
      Here’s the link for Sambhal Sambhal Ke Chalana


  7. An excellent post on a second rung female singer. I know the difficulty in collecting authentic records. I congratulate you on your efforts. Listened to all the songs and many of them I have heard in radio days. The film Bedard is shown as a 1951 release and lyrist is Javed Akhtar. Music Dikrectors (3) have been clubbed together.


    1. Thanks Raganji for the appreciation!
      Yes, Isn’t it difficult to get authentic info? I’m glad you listened to all the songs.
      Beadrd is shown as 1951 on some of the sites, but How can the lyricist be Javed Akhtar?


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