March 14, 1998
'The undisputed king of Marathi cinema'
Syed Firdaus Ashraf
He was the undisputed king of Marathi cinema. It is sad that today there is no one to take his place. I feel Marathi cinema became world famous because of Dada Kondke. His name was recorded in the Guiness Book of World Records after he gave a series of nine consecutive hits in Marathi films," says Marathi singer Jaywant Kulkarni.
Dada Kondke and Swapna in Aage Ki Soch. Click for bigger pic!
"Though people criticised him for putting in lines with double meanings, he used to say, "My films are for the masses. And if they enjoy seeing those kind of films. I do not mind in making those films," says singer Usha Mangeshkar.
Mangeshkar, who has sung in almost all of Kondke's movies, says, " He always used to give importance to music. In fact, he used to tell me, it is only to my sur the heroine can take the dancing steps."
Recalling that it was from beginnings in the Marathi tamasha that Dada Kondke went on to became a film actor, she said, "Since he was from a drama background, he brought that drama into films. That appealed to the Marathi crowd. That is why he was such a big hit.
"We all told him once in jest to shift to Hindi film. He took it seriously and went on to direct Hindi films like Andheri Raat Mein, Diya Tere Haat Mein. And there too his work was appreciated," says Mangeshkar.
"He told me once, 'My film is for the mill worker and the poor farmer. They need entertainment in life after their work. My films are only for these people and not for the elite'," says Kulkarni.
Kondke told him that the elite would not see a film twice, even if it is a very good film. But a worker or a poor farmer wouldn't mind seeing his film even thrice since he has no other source of entertainment. And that, says Kulkarni, was perhaps why he had so many hits.
Dada Kondke. Click for bigger pic!
Recalls Kulkarni, "When I first met him, I remember, it was during some recording. I cracked a joke and he laughed. He said, 'I make people laugh, and you made me laugh.' We became good friends and I started singing in his films. In fact, our pair was called the Raj Kapoor and Mukesh pair of the Marathi industry.
"He told me once that he could not play the role of Shivaji or any other serious hero. 'I know my limits. So, I must do a film knowing my limitations,' " Kulkarni describes Kondke as saying.
Though Kondke never made a single sombre film in his career, his last, and yet incomplete, film was to be a serious one.
Dada Kondke, who started off in marriage bands, was also an active member of the Rashtriya Seva Dal and a great believer in the socialist philosophy, having among his friends veteran socialist and Marathi actor Nilu Phule.
"I remember, he told me that he would like to make only one serious film like Do Aankhen Bara Haath at the fag end of his life. But unfortunately, we could never see him in a serious role," says Kulkarni.
The comic spirit
Dada Kondke dead