Sarod maestro Ustad Amjad Ali Khan has been an important part of the Indian classical music fraternity for the last five decades. Recently, he was conferred the Rajiv Gandhi National Sadbhavna Award for doing his bit to promote communal harmony, peace and goodwill. “I feel honoured. I have been given a lot of love and warmth from the (Nehru) family right from Pandit Nehru’s time. For an artiste, an award is a great source of encouragement and it also increases the responsibility to take forward our timeless culture, beliefs and traditions to greater heights,” says Khan, who also shares a close bond with one of Bollywood’s most influential families.
Talking about his connection with Amitabh Bachchan, he says, “Amitji is a symbol of art and culture today. What he has done for his craft is epic. I admire him immensely and salute his ability to reinvent and rediscover himself so effortlessly.” Interestingly, he reveals that “Abhishek Bachchan also learnt how to play the sarod with my sons, Amaan and Ayaan Ali Khan. He was 10 and he is still very passionate about it. I have great love, admiration and fondness for the Bachchan family,” he says.
Did acting in Bollywood films or composing music for them ever attract you?
Every Indian grows up listening to Bollywood music; we are all a part of it. I am open to composing music for films. The closest I came to acting was for Sai Paranjpye’s Sparsh (1980), which starred Shabana Azmi and Nasseruddin Shah. There was a sequence in the film where they were shown attending my concert.
You have received an award for promoting peace and communal harmony, but what do you feel about the political chaos in India in the name of religion and caste?
Today, terrorism and destructive activities are at their peak. Education, unfortunately, could not create compassion and kindness in human beings. A group of people are committed and dedicated to destroying the world. Human beings have become a symbol of arrogance, hatred and destruction.
Your sons are doing well in music. We’ve heard that Ayaan was offered a film role recently. Are they considering a career in Bollywood too?
I never wanted to create two more Amjad Ali Khans. I gave both Amaan and Ayaan the freedom to develop their musical minds and tastes in the most natural way. I will be very happy to see them in diverse creative projects.
What is your opinion of present-day Bollywood music?
I am really happy to see some great work happening.
Tell us something about your upcoming projects.
I am currently touring the US with Amaan and Ayaan. I look forward to our concerts at the United Nations in New York, San Fransisco Jazz Festival and Chicago Word Music Festival. I am also performing my Sarod Concerto Samaagam with Orchestre d’Auvergne and Orchestre National d'Île de France in Europe.