Bollywood megastar Amitabh Bachchan, who has been associated with Pandit Ravi Shankar and his family for quite a long time, recently got a call from the house of the sitar maestro as he had expressed his desire to have a word with the actor. Ravi Shankar has been keeping unwell for a while now and was going for a surgery, said his wife to Big B.
Amitabh Bachchan wrote on his blog about the episode and recalled the times he had spent attending Ravi Shankar’s concerts in Kolkata and also his association with Uday Shankar, Ananda Shankar and other members of their family. Here are the excerpts:
Strangely, and for the first time, I had a call from the house of the great sitar maestro Pandit Ravi Shankar. His wife Sukanya ji wanted to talk to me to get me to talk to Ravi Shankar ji, because he had expressed a desire to speak with me. He has been unwell she informed me and was going in for a surgery on Thursday.They are in California, USA.
This has been a most unusual occurrence. We all know Pt Ravi Shankar, who doesn’t, but I must admit that even though we have met on a few occasions, his association with my Father, our association with his elder brother the great dance exponent Uday Shankar, my own association with his son and daughter in law, and with Uday Shankar ji’s actress daughter … this has been the first time ever, when such a request was made to me.
Many years ago, Ravi Shankar ji and his wife Sukanya ji were house guests at my brother’s house in London. There have been several occasions when we have attended his recitals, where he has performed with the great sarod maestro Ustad Ali Akbar Khan and the tabla guru Allah Rakha – a trio of incomparable genius. Those occasions had through time and age covered an entire era of my life and career ; their performances at one of the most important classical Indian music soirees in Kolkata, then Calcutta, at the Ballygunj Music Festival, are legendary. Legendary too are the escapades of some of my music loving colleagues and I, when I was working as an executive in Kolkata, keeping awake all night to listen to some of the greatest artists of Indian Classical music perform at this festival. We were never of any substancial means to buy the exorbitant tickets to enter the open air events. But we waited behind closed barriers, listening to the sound coming out of those old fashioned loud speakers, and then as time passed by, quietly sneaking in, begging the authorities and seeking the ticket stubs of those that were leaving the venue, posing as genuine ticket holders that had gone ‘to spend a penny’, and gradually moving up in the stands to get as close as possible to the stage, waiting for the performers to strike the right raga, the early morning one, before dispersing. Invariably it used to be Vilayat Hussain Saheb, another genius on the sitar, that came on at that hour !!
What great times we have lived through ! Such exceptional talent … all in one blood stream !!
But tonight to get a call from this great master, this legend and icon of Indian music, must go down as one of my most privileged moments. He just wished to speak to me. He is unwell and shall be undergoing a surgery on Thursday. He said he and his wife loved my work … whew !! … and then he blessed me !
I pray that all goes well with him and his treatment.