He learned from several gurus, refusing to tie himself down to a single school of singing. His more famous gurus were Shankarrao Sapre of Nagpur, Sureshbabu Mane, Aman Ali Khan of Bhendibazaar gharana, and Ramkrishnabuwa Vaze. But the most important influence on him was Dinanath Mangeshkar, and Vasantrao was the sole true inheritor of Dinanath's mercurial style of singing.
One of India's most illustrious classical vocalists, he performed classical and semi-classical music. In the raga form which constitutes classical music, the artist displays his creativity on a basic canvas. Dr. Vasantrao Deshpande's rendition of famous ragas like Marwa, Salag Waraali, Nat Bhairav, Kauns (in its various forms), Chhayanat, Basant Mukhari, Patamanjari, Jaijaiwanti, Janasammohini, Bhoop, Shree, Maru Bihag, and Yaman had a quality to them that kept people interested. His performance of offbeat ragas was not too different. The sargam was his forte.
He was equally at ease with the thumri, dadra and ghazal forms. These find their origins in countries like Iran and Afghanistan. He had picked up the original style and nuances of the thumri and ghazal while studying at Lahore. He also learnt quite a bit of Urdu to elevate his ghazal performances. Another area of music where he made his mark was "Marathi Natyasangeet". Some of the plays in which he acted and performed were "Katyaar Kaaljaat Ghusli", "He Bandha Reshmache", "Vij Mhanali Dhartila", "Meghmalhar", "Tukaram" and "Varyawarchi Varaat". Out of these, "Katyaar Kaaljaat Ghusli" became highly popular. Vasantrao became the cynosure of everyone's eye for his challenging role of "Khan Aftaab Hussain Khansaheb". As the play's popularity began to soar, he acquired the alias, "Pandit Vasantkhan Deshpande".
He acted in movies like "Kaaliya Mardan"(he was just eight), "Dudh Bhaat", "Ashtavinayak" and many more. He gave playback to more than 80 Marathi films. Besides pure music, he also put together the history of Marathi music plays, from origin showing their evolution up to the present stage. This is how he presented his brainchild, his tour de force, "Marathi Natyasageetachi Vaatchaal" (the evolution of music in Marathi music plays). In this he would first explain the socio-cultural influences that shaped the musicals as they stood in a particular era and then demonstrate the evolution through its music. The concert was first held in Delhi. It stretched for 3 days, 6 hours each day. The experiment was bound to be a winner with the audience.
Dr. Vasantrao Deshpande was an academic, earning himself a PhD in "The Transformation of Hindustani Classical Music". He was also invited to several educational institutions to deliver lectures on music, quite often with live demonstrations.
Vasantrao has had several commercial releases under his name. Among them, the more famous are his LP of Marwa and a two-cassette interview, conducted by Va Pu Kale, about the history of Marathi Natya Sangeet which showcases the breadth and depth of Vasantrao's knowledge about the art form.
Vasantrao also conceived Raga Raj Kalyan, a Yaman variant with 'Pancham' dropped altogether.
Photo gallery: http://www.vasantraodeshpande.com/gallery.html
Pt Vasantrao Deshpande "Mrignayana Rasik Mohini" Rag Darbari Kanada
Mruganayanaa rasika mohini kaamini
hotiti manjula madhura alaapini rasika mohini
Navayavvana sampanna ramya gathi
vilaasini raska mohini
Ahladaka mukha chandra vibhudha
hoti drustiti premarasa vaahini
Mruganayanaa rasika mohini kaamini
Listen to the great compilation made by Mandar Parkhi of recordings of Dr. Vasantrao Deshpande:
Raga Bihag (vilambit kHayAl)
Raga Nand (druta kHayAl; composition of Kumar Gandharva)