Keshavrao Vitthalrao Bhonsle’s song got him the title of Sangit Surya or the sun of music.
He was born to a poor family in Kolhapur in 1890.
The Sangeet Natak tradition- a tradition of Marathi theatre, came to the fore in the second half of the 19th century. Annasaheb Kirloskar stepped into the shoes of Vishnudas Bhave who used to do popular one man shows in Sangli in the 1840’s. Annasaheb contended against the ruling sentiment that kept the Marathi middle and upper class distanced and deprived of its own theatre form. He could see how Parsee and Urdu drama companies were prospering.
From this tradition other Sangeet Natak companies came to strength.
Keshav Rao Bhosale came to the notice of Janurao Nimbkar who was the owner-director of the Swadesh-hit-chintak company.
In 1902 he played the heroine Sharada in Deval’s Sharada.. then Subhadra in Kirloskar’s Saubhadm.. Both roles were primary ones in Sangeet Natak.
He had Govindram Tembe for his music teacher for these roles. He went on to learn classical music also.
He became a partner in Nimbkar’s company, but they had differences and he finally left,
He then went to Hubli in Dharwad, Karnataka, where he co founded the Lalitkaladarsha Natak Mandali in 1908. The company declared its allegiance to the people, rather than any prince. It soon became a resounding success, also because of the wonderfully realised settings byAnandrao Painter He started doing powerful male roles. He got involved in Swadeshi politics, including staging plays to collect money for Tilak Swadeshi fund.
He is credited with introducing the characterisitic red curtain and bell to Marathi theatre. .