The flute is an indispensable part of Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia’s identity. Now, an upcoming documentary, Basuri Guru, which is being made by his son Rajiv, captures the maestro’s love for the instrument and his journey to world-wide fame. In this interview he tells us what he thinks about the film, and shares memories from his days in Bollywood.
Tell us something about the documentary.
It’s a good piece of work. Though my entire journey cannot be captured in such a short span, Rajiv has incorporated a lot of details about my life. The best part is that the film does not glorify me at all.
How did you start playing the flute?
Even in those days, one needed to shell out a lot of money to buy a sitar or a harmonium. But the flute used to be the cheapest instrument in the market, so I used to
conveniently buy one at every fair I visited. But more importantly, I think I could understand the soul of the instrument.
Why are flautists seen with a number of flutes in varying sizes during performances?
The different sizes are for various scales. Many a times, flutes crack during concerts. That’s why it’s safe to keep extra instruments handy.
What keeps you energetic even at this age?
I get the energy to play, from my listeners and my students. Despite my age, I am strong enough to play and will continue to do so.
Why did you choose to enter Bollywood?
It was my dream to meet Lata ji and Dilip Kumar saab. So when I got offers, I started composing for films with Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma. I worked for Silsila (1981), Faasla (1974), Chandni (1989), Darr (1994) and Parampara (1993), among others. Before Hindi films, I also worked in many regional films in Malayalam and Oriya.
Have you liked working with the Hindi film industry?
I’ve had an amazing time composing for films. I’ve got to work with great people. Lataji has been one of my best companions. I remember director Ramanand Sagar even asked me to direct Rajendra Kumar for a scene in which he had to hold the flute, in the film Geet (1970). People have always respected me here.
What do you think about the present music scene in India?
Though the culture and the way composers think has changed, things will certainly be the same again.
Your favourite compositions among the ones you’ve played for films?
‘Raina beeti jaaye’ (Hero, 1983), ‘Suno sajna papihe ne’ (Aaye Din Bahar Ke, 1966 and ‘Tere mere hothon pe’ (Chandni, 1989) are some of my favourites.