Dec. 12: Satyajit Ray’s Pather Panchali, Sir Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi, Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Anuradha, Tapan Sinha’s Kabuliwala, Gulzar’s Meera, Mrinal Sen’s Genesis… for films as different as their makers, the only common string was the music of Pandit Ravi Shankar.
The maestro of classical music would often step out of his comfort zone and “score music for friends and films he liked”.
His involvement with the Indian Peoples’ Theatre Association (IPTA) drove Ravi Shankar to his first two film scores — the directorial debuts of Chetan Anand (Neecha Nagar) and Khwaja Ahmed Abbas (Dharti Ke Lal), both in 1946. But it was a directorial debut nine years later that would become the high point of Panditji’s filmography — Satyajit Ray’s Pather Panchali.
“Baba was a great admirer of Uday Shankar and it was through the Shankar family that he first got introduced to Ravi Shankar,” recalls son Sandip Ray. “I believe Ravi Shankar had looked through the rushes of Pather Panchali and was very impressed after which they started working together and became friends. They developed a kind of mutual admiration.”
Till this day, much like the film, the Pather Panchali background score is celebrated worldwide and has earned praise from Hollywood masters like Martin Scorsese.