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|Narayan Shripad Rajhans|
Bal Gandharva in his roles of female characters in Marathi plays, 1924
|Birth name||Narayan Shripad Rajhans|
|Also known as||Bal Gandharva|
26 June 1888|
Nagthane Palus, Satara District, Now Sangli district, Maharashtra, India
|Died||15 July 1967
|Genres||Musicals (Sangeet Natak)|
|Occupation(s)||Singer and stage actor|
Narayan Shripad Rajhans, better known as Bal Gandharva (1888–1967), was one of the greatest Marathi singers and stage actors. He was famous for his roles of female characters in Marathi plays, since women were not allowed to act on stage during his time.
Bal Gandharva got his name after a performance in Pune as an aspiring singer. Lokmanya Tilak, the great freedom fighter and the grand old man of the Indian independence movement was in the audience, and after the performance, reportedly patted Rajhans on the back and said that Narayan was a "Bal Gandharva" which means "Young Gandharva".
Narayan Shripad Rajhans was born to Shripad Rajhans and his wife Annapurna at the Nagthane village in Palus taluka of Sangli district in Maharashtra, India. Bal Gandharva's first wife , Lakshmibai Narayanrao Rajhans, died in 1940. Bal Gandharva married Gohar Karnataki in 1951. Gohar was an actress in his drama company. Gohar died in 1964.
Born in an ordinary family, Narayan Rajhans started off with singing bhajans, until Shahu Maharaj noticed him. Shahu Maharaj helped him to get treatment on hearing problems at Miraj. Shahu Maharaj introduced him to Kirloskar Mandali, the group which used to promote Marathi musical shows in that era.
Bal Gandharva began his career with Annasaheb Kirloskar's theatre company called Kirloskar Natak Mandali in 1905. The company was run by Mujumdar and Nanasaheb Joglekar. After Joglekar's death in 1911, there was discontent about Mujumdar's dictatorial and manipulative style. Bal Gandharva, Ganesh Govind ('Ganpatrao') Bodas and Govindrao Tembe left the company in 1913 to form Gandharva Sangeet Mandali. Bal Gandharva became the sole owner of the debt ridden company in 1921. The debt was paid off in seven years' time. But the company accumulated debt again over next 6–7 years. Bal Gandharva dissolved the company to make six films with Prabhat Film Company but the partnership was dissolved after just one film Dharmatma (1935) in which he was portrayed in a male role, that of Sant Eknath.
Bal Gandharva revived his drama company in 1937, and soon formed an infamous association with Gohar Karnataki known as Gauhar Bai who joined the company in April 1938. With Narayanrao increasingly ill at ease in female roles owing to his advancing years, the company was looking for an actress to play female roles. His brother Bapurao Rajhans left the company to protest against Gohar's entry in Gandharva Sangeet Mandali and Bal Gandharva's life when it became clear that Gohar would have a major say in the company's stewardship.
Bal Gandharva acted in 25 classic Marathi plays and was one of those who were responsible for making Sangeet Natak (musicals) and Natya Sangeet (the music in those musicals) popular among common masses. He was a disciple of Bhaskarbuwa Bakhale. Bakhale scored music for his drama Swayamwar. Govindrao Tembe scored music for Manapman. Among the younger lot, Bal Gandharva's composer of choice was Master Krishnarao (Krishna Phulambrikar).
The songs rendered by him are, to date, considered as classics and his singing style is greatly appreciated by Marathi critics and audiences. Marathi stage was facing difficult times after the death of Bhaurao Kolhatkar in 1901. Bal Gandharva revived it. His famous contemporaries include Keshavrao Bhosle (known as "Sangeet-Surya") and Deenanath Mangeshkar.
Bal Gandharva died in 1967.
- Bal Gandharva Ranga Mandir, a theatre auditorium in the city of Pune was named in his honour. It was built by Pune Corporation in 1968 with initiative of the famous Marathi author and a Balgandharva fan, Pu. La. Deshpande. It was inaugurated by Acharya Pralhad Keshav Atre. The foundation of this play theatre was started with very own hands of Balgandharva, while he was alive.
- The movie Balgandharva portrays the life-journey of Balgandharva was released by Chandrakant Productions in May 2011.
His famous roles include :
- Bhamini in Manapman(1911)
- Rukmini in Swayamwar(1916)
- Sindhu in Ekach Pyala(1920)
- Sharada in Sangeet Sharada(1909)
- Vasantsena in Mruchchakatika
- In 1955 Bal Gandharva received the coveted "President's Award", now known as the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award, the highest musical honour in India from the then President of India.
- In 1964 Bal Gandharva received The Padma Bhushan Award,the third highest civilian award in the Republic of India.
- Bal Gandharva: the nonpareil thespian Author- Mohan Nadkarni, Publisher-National Book Trust, 2002, Length – 77 pages
- Balgandharva and the Marathi theatre Author- Dnyaneshwar Nadkarni, Publisher- Roopak Books, 1988, Length- 159 pages
- Asa Balgandharva  Author- Abhiram Bhadkamkar,Publisher- Rajhans Prakashan,2011,Length- 416 pages
- Balgandharva is awkwardly paced, unevenly executed DNA 6 May 2011