Ravi: An unsung Composer
He composed music for over a 100 films, producing a plethora of super-hits and also received the highest accolades of the country. Yet, Ravi Shankar Sharma, is rarely venerated today, writes Sharad Dutt.
An interesting anecdote was narrated to me by a renowned composer in the course of making a documentary on him: "Once, I was engrossed in composing a tune when my watchman came and told me that a group of beggars at the gate want to meet me. I told him to give them some money and be done with. He went back and came again after a short while. I asked him, 'Now what is the matter?' He said, 'Saab, they want to meet you and refuse to take the money.' I called them inside and wanted to know what I could do for them. They told me, 'Malik, please compose a few more songs for us. Your songs are our rozi-roti (bread & butter).' I had a good laugh. Beggars are very fond of my songs like, O jaane wale babu ek paisa de de and Garibon ki suno wo tumhari sunega, tum ek paisa doge wo dus lakh dega."
Indeed, the composer of these songs was Ravi Shankar Sharma, born on March 3, 1926, in a middle-class family of Delhi. There was no conducive music atmosphere at home, but Ravi was fond of singing since his childhood. He would sing bhajans on Wednesdays at religious gatherings in his neighbourhood. Impressed by his singing, his father bought him a harmonium which further spruced up his singing. But, Ravi couldn't pass his matriculation examination. To support his family, he joined Indian Post and Telegraph department in Delhi. As chance would have it, Ravi met the legendary Mohammed Rafi who happened to be in Delhi. Rafi gave him some valuable tips and exhorted him to pursue his innate desire of becoming a playback singer. Strongly impacted by his words, Ravi sought long leave from his office and left for Bombay. This is when his struggle began and after tremendous effort he joined the music department of Filmistan as a tabla player and also started singing in the chorus.
Hemant Kumar made his debut in Hindi films with Filmistan's Anandmath in 1952. Ravi gave his voice in the nationalist song, Vande Matram, as a chorus singer. Hemant, too, was impressed by Ravi and offered him to join him as his assistant. Ravi assisted Hemant in Samrat, Shart, Jagriti, Champakali and the super hit Jubilee film Nagin. He revealed to me that two of his independent compositions became super-hits. Hemant was thrilled with the golden jubilee success of Nagin and was leaving for Kashmir with his family for a vacation. Before his departure, he called Ravi and said, "You wouldn't be working with me when I come back from Kashmir." He was nonplussed and asked him, "Guruji, have I done something wrong?"
Hemant smiled and told me him, "Ravi, you have enormous talent and are so competent that you can work independently."
Soon Ravi's friend Devendra Goel gave him an opportunity as an independent music director in his debut film Vachan in 1955, starring Geeta Bali, Balraj Sahni and Rajendra Kumar. Ravi gave a super-hit score and Vachan celebrated a silver jubilee. Ravi had composed an all-time great lullaby, Chanda mama door ke (Asha), a romantic duet, Jab liya haath mein haath nibhana saath (Rafi-Asha), and an unforgettable begging song, O jaane waale babu ek paisa de de.
Devendra Goel had full faith in his composer-friend. He and Ravi did nine films together. The musical score of these films was much appreciated. And the devotional song of Narsi Bhagat, Darshan do Ghanshyam (Hemant Kumar-Manna Dey-Sudha Malhotra) based on Raga Kedar became a nationwide hit. Mythological films are perennially popular among the Indian audiences and Ravi composed for Prabhu ki Maya (1955), Ayodhyapati (1956), and Naag Panchmi (1972).
Like Devendra Goel, AA Nadiadwala and SD Narang signed Ravi for their films. Nadiadwala had produced Ayodhyapati. Ravi composed memorable numbers in Nadiadwala's Dulhan: Kaise jaun mein piya, Jiya sharmaye nazar jhuki jaaye (Asha) and More gore gore gaal (Rafi-Shamshad). Ravi's last film (twelfth with Devendra Goel) was Aadmi Sadak Ka. It had a very popular wedding song, Aaj mere yaar ki shaadi hai (Rafi), which became a staple for wedding processions. Ravi did his only film with the iconic Guru Dutt when he scored for Chaudvin Ka Chand. According to music connoisseurs, this was Ravi's best score. All the songs were super-hits. Ravi missed his Filmfare Award but Shakeel Badauni got the best lyricist award for the title track Chaudvin Ka Chand ho.
The South Indian producers welcomed Ravi when he was producing consecutive hits in Bombay. SS Vasan of Gemini Films signed him for Ghunghat. Ravi gave a hit score with these numbers: Mori chham chham baaje payaliya, Laage na mora jia, Mori pat rakho girdhari (Lata); and the Asha-Mahendra Kapoor duet, Do nain mile do phool khile were some of the hit songs of the film. After the success of Ghunghat Ravi did six films with Gemini: Gharana, Grahasti, Aurat, Paisa Ya Pyaar and Samaj ko Badal Dalo. Music of all these films was quite lauded.
Another film that Ravi did for the South Indian film industry was Nazrana, a Raj Kapoor-Vyjayantimala starrer with beautiful scores. Its two Diwali numbers (glad and sad), Mele hain chiragon ke rangeen diwali hai (Lata), Ek woh bhi diwali thi (Mukesh), Baazi kissi ne pyaar ki, Ek pyasa tujhe maikhana diye jata hai (Rafi), became another milestone in his career. The film Rakhi had an evergreen ceremonial song, Rakhi dhagon ka tyohar (Rafi). In Bharosa, Ravi gave hits like, Ye jhuke jhuke naina and Is bhari duniya mein (Rafi), Lata's timeless number and racy duet with Mahendra Kapoor, Aaj ki mulaqaat bas itni.
Ravi received his first Filmfare Award for Khandan, a production from the South. Ravi's magic was at its best, as in Raga Darbari-based Tumhi mere mandir (Lata), Neele gagan par udte badal (Rafi-Asha), a devotional song, Badi der bhai Nandlala and Kal chaman tha (Rafi) were extremely popular.
Ravi joined BR Chopra's camp with Gumrah and did nine films for them, giving mesmerising numbers. Waqt was BR Chopra's first multi-starrer in colour. Ravi's music was enchanting and he gave a variety of hit numbers: duets, Maine ek khawab sa dekha hai, Din hain bahar ke (Asha-Mahendra Kapoor), Chehre pe khushi chha jaati hai,and many more. In Ramanand Sagar's golden jubilee hit Aankhen, Ravi gave some more hit numbers: Milti hai zindagi mein, Gairon pe karam (Lata), Us mulk ki sarhad ko koi choo nahin sakta (Rafi), and a super-hit comedy number, Tujhko rakhe Ram tujhko Allah rakhe (Manna Dey-Asha).Sahir and Ravi created the same magic in Humraz. Its numbers rendered by Mahendra Kapoor, Neele gagan ke taley, Na moonh chhupa ke jiyo, Kissi patthar ki murat se, Tum agar saath dene ka wada karo, fetched him a Filmfare Award for playback singing for Neele gagan ke taley. Ravi did full justice to Sahir's poetry in films Dhundh and Aadmi Aur Insan. Ravi was at his creative best in BR Chopra's golden jubilee Nikah. Its numbers, Dil ke arman aansuon mein beh gaye in Raga Darbari (Salma Agha), a duet, Dil ki ye arzoo thi (Salma Agha-Mahendra Kapoor) became super hit numbers. But Dehleej, Awam, Aaj Ki Awaz and Tawaif couldn't create ripples with their music. Other films of Ravi worth a mention are China Town, a trendy hit film with chartbusters like Baar baar dekho, a rock n roll number (Rafi), duets, Dekho ji ek bala jogi (Rafi-Minoo Purushottam), Hum se na puccho hum kahan chale (Rafi-Asha), Bada katil hai mera yaar, and solo numbers, Yamma yamma do parwane ek sama (Asha), and Kya teri mehfil hain sanam (Rafi), and its title song, China town, China Town (Asha) became extremely popular.
Ye Raaste Hain Pyaar Ke was based on the Nanawati murder case with hit numbers, Aaj ye meri, and the title song, Ye raaste hain pyaar ke (Asha), and an exotic number, Ye khamoshiyan ye tanhaiyan (Rafi-Asha), a Mercia style number, Koi mujh se pucche, and a peppy number, Tum jis par nazar dalo (Rafi) gripped the listeners. Sahir and Ravi together in Aaj Aur Kal enthralled the music lovers by its numbers, Ye wadiyan ye fizayein (Rafi), Mujhe gale se laga lo (Asha-Rafi), Itni hansee itni jawan raat (Rafi), and Maut kitni bhi sang dil ho (Asha) stormed the music charts. One of Ravi's own favourites was Rafi's number, Sau baar janam leinge in Ustadon Ke Ustad.
Ravi composed for 109 films. His last film in Bollywood was Wo Subah Kabhi To Aayegi (1991). By now, he was not getting much work in Bombay but was still popular in the South. He gave hit music in Malayalam films, Parniyam and Sukhrootham. Winner of a National Award for Nakshathargal and two Filmfare Awards for a South Indian film Sargam besides Khandan, along with several state awards, and the Padma Shri, Ravi passed away at the age of 86 on March 7, 2012, as an unsung composer in Bombay.