Veteran singer Suresh Wadkar, who has been a playback singer for the last 47 years, in an exclusive conversation with Outlook says that it has been a long wait and he is happy to get this award during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s tenure. The 67-year-old popular and critically-acclaimed singer was a little emotional as well for receiving this award this late in his life. His journey in Bollywood wasn’t difficult when he started off, but he feels that it is a big struggle now to get work. Excerpts:
On Winning the Padma Shri…
It’s a huge respect. I just wish that I got this award a little early. If you get these awards on time, it becomes all the more valuable. The wait has been a bit too long, but again it was worth the wait. It may be late, but people at least now felt me to be worthy of this award. For the last 47 years I have been working as a playback singer in the industry. I have sung for many big films and people have already appreciated it. So, you feel that if it takes so much time to win one award, then how much time will it take to win other awards. At the age of 67, I am getting my first award, so you feel a little emotional and I feel like asking those who select the awardees, did they not like my songs? Why did they never think of me as a deserving person to get the award? Even if they would have mentioned my drawbacks, then I would have made some effort to improve.
Your journey in Bollywood…
It wasn’t difficult when my journey in Bollywood started, but I feel I am struggling now. I am still singing for films, and making my own albums. Work is going on, but to be on the mainstream, it looks like you will only have to sing for films. But this wasn’t the situation in the 90s.
I have no such regret or complaints against the industry. But you always feel, even after doing some real good work, that it takes so much time to get any work in the industry.
On Bollywood music…
Bollywood music has lost its charm. There is too much change in film songs. There are no good lyrics. The film songs of yesteryears used to touch our souls, but that is not the scene now. There are too many item songs in each film. Aap khali nachne waalon ke liye gana banyange toh kaisa hoga (how can you make songs only for those who want to dance). Not everybody may have the taste for such loud songs with mindless lyrics. During the early years, there used to be a balance. Now there is no variety in songs. There can be many situations in songs. Now, the typical situation is some 200 youngsters dancing and the hero and heroine are dancing in front. Today also, a forty-year-old song is remembered and kids prove themselves in a talent hunt competition by singing those old songs. The audience has not changed. Their taste has also not changed. They take whatever we give. But it is our duty to maintain our culture. Now the old songs are only revamped and repackaged. My song, “Ai zindagi gale laga ja’ is also made into a re-mix.
You have been recommended many times by Lata Mangeshkar, so that you get the award. What do you have to say about that?
Since the last 15 years she has been writing to the government that I should be awarded Padma Shri. I am so thankful to Prime Minister Modi that it was during his tenure that I finally got the award!