Sitar Maestro Pandit Ravi Shankar’s accomplishments at the international level are certainly more than those of any other musician from India but he did not have a dream run while wielding the baton for Hindi films though some of his compositions were outstanding.
The controversial musician who did his initial apprenticeship under Ustad Allauddin Khan and whose daughter he subsequently married before divorcing her, was the music director for movies such as Anuradha and Godaan but could not somehow compete on the popularity charts with some of the best in Bollywood like Shankar Jaikishen, O.P.Nayyar, S.D.Burman, Naushad and many more.
Movie goers and Hindi film fans do, however, remember Haay Re Vo Din Kyun, Kaise Din Beete, Saanwre Saanwre and Jaane Kaise Sapnon from Anuradha and Pipra Ke Patwa, Jaaye Kahe Jiya Man Dole and some more from Godaan.
Ravi Shankar who had worked for All India Radio and scored the music for Satyajit Ray’s Apu triology as also for Richard Attenborough’s ``Gandhi’’, essentially shot into international fame after his association with the Beatles and violinist Yehudi Menuhin.
George Harrison, of the Beatles, left, sits cross-legged with his musical mentor, Ravi Shankar, in Los Angeles, as Harrison explains to newsmen that Shankar is teaching him to play the sitar.
The Beatles had taken the world by storm and when George Harrison wanted to learn the sitar from the maestro, Ravi Shankar made world headlines. There was no looking back though back home, classicist continued to insist that Ustad Vilayat Khan was the best sitar player from India.
But Ravi Shankar accompanied by Ustad Allah Rakha on the Tabla had the western audiences going berserk and later he also teamed up with well known conductor Zubin Mehta for some incredible performances. There was a time when Ravi Shankar was better known abroad than in India. Ravi Shankar also played along with Allah Rakha’s son Zakir Hussain and the duo mesmerized audiences with their jugal bandi.
Even if Ravi Shankar did not make much waves in Bollywood and failed to win any top time music award, he more than made it up with the honours he received abroad. Grammy successes were among them. The Centre ultimately honoured him with the Bharat Ratna. His contemporary Ustad Vilayat Khan was later chosen for the Padma Vibhushan but declined to accept it on the grounds that how could he be given an award lesser than Pandit Ravi Shankar.
What has to be granted to the legendary musician is that he was till his death perhaps one of the most well known Indians. His legend will live on and the fact that his passing away has evoked so many reactions from all over the world indicates that his position up there was at the summit.