Sudesh Bhosle, best known as the 'Jumma Chumma' singer, is the voice of Amitabh Bachchan as the current multi-lingual Muthoot Finance ads featuring the actor. But even Amitabh was delightfully surprised when, on one of his birthdays, Sudesh went to greet him and showed on his phone, the portraits he had made not only of the actor but also of everyone from Dev Anand to Shatrughan Sinha. “He never knew that side of me!” Sudesh says, laughing.
In 2007, Shashi Kapoor had been the chief guest at the 150th-anniversary celebration of Mumbai’s iconic J J School of Art. From a distance of some 25-feet in the auditorium, Sudesh spontaneously sketched him. And Shashi, who had heard him imitate Amitabh in the late ‘80s, and cast him as Amitabh’s playback voice for his film 'Ajooba', was also bewitched by this facet of his talent.
“Singing, mimicry, sketching and painting — I have learnt none of them formally,” says Sudesh. “My father, Narendra Ramchandra Bhosle, was well-known in the industry when film banners and hoardings were manually painted. He worked on V Shantaram, Raj Kapoor, Rajshri Productions, and even on 'Mughal-E-Azam'. He would paint the sets for Prithviraj Kapoor’s travelling theatre and work on Marathi films as well.”
Sudesh adds, “I guess I imbibed the genes, for I was very good at drawing and sketching even in school, and my drawing teacher, who would be commissioned for making portraits, would tell me to execute them.”
In those days, the number of theatres would increase frequently on the eve of a big film’s release, and that’s when painting extra banners overnight would become a compulsion.
“My father and elder sister Chandrakala, a J J School of Arts graduate, and many assistants worked through the night. Even my classical musician mother, Suman Bhosle, was very good at painting the credits on the banner. I remember I was 14, my examinations were close, and I went to see them all work at dad’s studio. I asked if I could also contribute, and my father was amazed at my work. The film was 'Premnagar' (1974) starring Rajesh Khanna.”
From then on, for nine years, young Sudesh would be with his father, attending school and later college largely for examinations.
A special feat Sudesh is fond of is when he won a prestigious Rangoli competition with two images — of Hema Malini playing the veena in 'Premnagar', and Vinod Khanna from 'Patthar Aur Payal' on a horse.
“I took their photographs, but someone stole them,” he rues.
His maternal grandmother, Durgabai Shirodkar, was a famous classical singer, and so film music was taboo in their home. But Sudesh would secretly listen to film music and knew almost 300 songs by heart. But music as a career happened only when Sudesh became an integral part of the famous Melody Makers troupe.
Sudesh loves listening to the songs of Mohammed Rafi, Mukesh, Kishore Kumar, Manna Dey and Lata Mangeshkar. “It’s like attaining salvation,” he exclaims.
“And I am thrilled that in the same vaastu, both the arts are flourishing side by side.”