Bal Gandharva was one of the greatest Marathi singers and stage actors. Bal Gandharva was the first Marathi actor to portray a female character in a play as during that time women were not allowed to act on stage. His role was loved by audience and he got appreciation from everyone. Bal Gandharva did many Marathi plays like ‘Manapman’, ‘Swayamwar’, ‘Ekach Pyala’ and so on.
Early Life & Background
Bal Gandharva was born as Narayan Shripad Rajhans on 26th June 1888 in an ordinary family. He was born at the Nagthane village in Palus taluka of Sangli district in Maharashtra.
Narayan Rajhans started off with singing bhajans(devotional songs). Once Shahu Maharaj noticed him and introduced him to Kirloskar Mandali, the group which used to promote Marathi musical shows in that era.
First Assignment/ First Major Break
Narayan Rajhan got a name Bal Gandharva from none other than the great Indian freedom fighter Lokmanya Tilak. Lokmanya Tilak once attended Narayan’s stage show in Pune, after the show Lokmanya got so impressed with Narayan’s singing talent & acting that he met Narayan at the backstage and honored him with the name of Bal Gandharva.
Journey in the Industry
Bal Gandharva was a theatre actor and singer. In 1905, Bal Gandharva began his career with Kirloskar Natak Mandali which was run by Mujumdar and Nanasaheb Joglekar.
Bal Gandharva along with his friends Ganesh Govind Bodas and Govindrao Tembe left the company in 1913 after Nanasaheb’s death as there was discontent about Mujumdar’s dictatorial and manipulative style.
Bal Gandharva then started his own sangeet mandal named as Gandharva Sangeet Mandali. After few years, he dissolved the company to make 6 films with Prabhat Film Company but the partnership was dissolved just after the one film, in which he portrayed a male role of Sant Eknath. After that in 1937, he started his drama company and soon formed an infamous association with Gohar Karnataki in April 1938.
Gandharva has acted in many plays, some of which were written by the famous writers like Annasaheb Kirloskar, Govind Ballal Deval, Shripad Krushna Kolhatkar, Krushnaji Prabhakar, Ram Ganesh Gadkari, Vasant Shantaram Desai.
Bal Gandharva has acted in 25 classic Marathi plays. He was one of the people who have contributed in making Sangeet Natak and Natya Sangeet popular among common masses. Audience used to appreciate his singing style and acting. Many known people like Bhaskarbuwa Bakhale, Govindrao Tembe have scored music to his plays. In 1901, after the death of Bhaurao Kolhatkar Marathi stage was going through lots of difficulties, but Bal Gandharva save the company with the help of his colleagues which includes Keshavrao Bhosale and Deenanath Mangeshkar.
After the death of Bal Gandharva, some publishers like National Book Trust and Roopak Books, published the book on the journey of Bal Gandharva. Name of the books are ‘Bal Gandharva: The nonpareil thespian’ and ‘Bal Gandharva and the Marathi Theatre’.
Even a theatre auditorium was named after Bal Gandharva in his honor in Pune.
In May 2011, Chandrakant Productions released the movie which was based on Balgandharva’s life-journey.
Bal Gandharva married twice. His first wife died in 1940. Later, Bal Gandharva married Gohar Karnataki who was an actress in his drama company in 1951, but unfortunately she died in 1964. Bal Gandharva died at the age of 79 on 15th July, 1967 in Pune.
Names of Dramas
Bal Gandharva has performed in 25 classic Marathi plays.
President’s Award (Sanget Natak Akademi Award) in 1955 Bal Gandharva
The Padma Bhushan Award in 1964