Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Pt Ravi Shankar and Cinema



Pandit Ravi Shankar is a Bengali Indian sitar player and composer. He is a disciple of Baba Allauddin Khan, the founder of the Maihar gharana of Hindustani classical music.

Ravi Shankar is a leading Indian instrumentalist of the modern era. He has been a longtime musical collaborator of tabla-players Ustad Allah Rakha, Kishan Maharaj and intermittently also of sarod-player Ustad Ali Akbar Khan. His collaborations with violinist Yehudi Menuhin, film maker Satyajit Ray, and The Beatles (in particular, George Harrison) added to his international reputation.

He has received many awards throughout his career, including three Grammy Awards and an Academy Award nomination. In 1999, Ravi Shankar was awarded the Bharat Ratna award, India's highest civilian honor
- wikipedia

Pt. Ravi Shankar is one of the living saints of music in India. His musical accomplishment and range are far and wide. But for a cinephile like me, it was through Ray’s Apu Trilogy that I was introduced to his music. Even now, when I close my eyes, I can still hear the soulful flute that Ray cleverly used as an important transition in Aprajito to let audience realize that Apu and his mother had reached their village. Pt Ravi Shankar did know the limitation of exploring his own aestheticism in cinema. And moved away from composing music for films. And Ray like the auteur he was, took the job himself.

Here is a short but an interesting interview published in the Times of India. There are few interesting anecdotes that he talks about. For eg: The influence of the movie Awara in China. One can see a reference to the film in Jia Zhangke’s masterpiece Platform which deals with an important period of transition in Chinese history. The movie is soon releasing on DVD in India. So please go ahead and purchase this wonderful film.


Q/A with Rana Dasgupta.

Satyajit Ray and you changed the concept of film music?

It’s much more the credit of Ray than me. I am extremely lucky that he utilized me for the Apu Trilogy and Parash Pathar. Satyajit Ray had full confidence in my abilities and gave me ample scope to compose the background scores of his classical music as much was rigid in his need for music and gave me exactly that much of freedom which the moments in his script required for composition.

What was your experience in Neecha Nagar?

Chetan Anand was an imaginative and sensitive director, whose maiden film; Neecha Nagar introduced me to the world of films. He made a brilliant use of my sitar counters to project the anti-imperialist mood of his film. He never interfered in my scoring and was very clear as to what he required from me. In some ways, his working style was similar to that of Ray. Had Chetan stuck to his Neecha Nagar style of film making, he would have achieved the same height of Ray.

You were the first film music director from India to be recognized internationally?

I will not say so of myself. The creations of Shankar-Jaikishan in Awara and Shree 420- ‘ Awara hoon’ and ‘ Mera joota hai Japani-were on the lips of every Russian and Chinese. ‘Awara hoon’ was a favorite number of even comrades Mao Tse Tung.

Did it annoy you that Richard Attenborough replaced your music in Gandhi with the London Philharmonic Orchestra?

I will not forget that episode. I was thrilled to be the music composer of Gandhi and put in my best efforts for the classic. But what without even informing me, Attenborough removed my music compositions and mused the London Philharmonic Orchestra instead. I did not expect a director of his class to indulge in such an activity. Now, I feel, he must have a different vision for his creations to which the Philharmonic Orchestra was more suited than my creations.

In spite of your littting melodies in Anuradha and Goddan why do feel that classical composers have restrictions in composing for films?

Composing for films in very different than performing on stage or creating an album of pure classical or fusion music. Film music is to large extent bound by the script and choice of the director. My melodies in Anuradha and Godaan were popular but not to the extent of the tunes of SD Burman or Madan Mohan. They were ideal composers for films. I understood my limitation in this arena very well.

- Source: Q/A with Rana Dasgupta in Times of India news daily.
- pic soure- wikipedia, Pt Ravi Shankar and George Harrison

Update.

- An interview with Pt. Ravi Shankar
- Pt. Ravi Shankar music tribute to Ray
- An interview with Jia Zhangke in Film Comment.
- Issue-2 coming soon.
- Do check website for updates on cinephile meeting.

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