indian cinema heritage foundation

"Waqt Ki Har Shay Ghulam" - Ravi

04 Apr, 2020 | Beete Hue Din by Shishir Krishna Sharma
Music Composer Ravi. Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din

Mumbai’s Santacruz (West)’s Mirabaug area is so peaceful that one doesn’t realize that it is a part of a bustling metropolis like Mumbai. It is in this Mirabaug, that the palatial bungalow of composer Ravi, named Vachan is situated. This is where I had first met him during the last week of November 2003. During the meeting Ravi ji recalled that he had named the Bungalow after his first movie as composer, Vachan which had released in 1955.

Popularly known as Ravi, Ravi Shankar Sharma was born on 3rd March 1926 in Old Delhi’s Sitaram Bazar’s Koocha Patiram into a traditional Brahmin family. His mother’s name was Taravati Sharma and his father’s name was Pt. Kanhaiyalal Sharma. His father was doing a job there and his ancestors had come from Haryana to settle in Delhi. Ravi ji was fond of singing from his childhood. He used to memorise Hindi film songs and sing them. Every year, in Khari Baoli’s Koocha Sanjogiram a weeklong musical programme used to be held in which the biggest singers and musicians of the time used to participate. Ravi ji remembered, “I used to go every year to the program to listen to the singers and musicians. Many tunes (bandish) I heard during that time have got embedded into my brain that I utilize till date in my compositions.”

According to Ravi ji, “The first song I sang in the school’s Annual Day was from the movie Pukar. My rendition of Tum bin hamri kaun khabar le govardhan girdhari was appreciated so much that my singing became a permanent fixture for all future programmes in the school!”
Ravi ji neither took any formal training in music and nor had he planned to become a composer. His only wish in life was to make a mark as a good singer. After completing his initial education in the local Municipal school, he took admission into Daryaganj’s A.S.V.J. High School. According to Ravi ji, “The first song I sang in the school’s Annual Day was from the movie Pukar. My rendition of Tum bin hamri kaun khabar le govardhan girdhari was appreciated so much that my singing became a permanent fixture for all future programmes in the school!”

Ravi ji’s father took him to the Satsang taking place in the nearby Kalki Kirtan Mandal and told him that if he wished to sing, he should sing there. Ravi ji remembered, “My bhajan was appreciated a lot. Not only was I showered with praises but I also got more prasad than the others! My enthusiasm was kindled and I started singing every week in the Satsang. Unfortunately, probably the harmonium player, out of jealousy one day deliberately played a wrong note. As a result, my voice got stuck as soon as it hit the higher notes”.
"That day I decided that till I don’t learn to play the harmonium myself, I will not sing publicly. I pestered my father to buy a harmonium, did lots of practice with it and when I sang in the Satsang a month later I felt as if I had conquered the world!”
“I felt quite humiliated by the incident and also got scolded by my father.  That day I decided that till I don’t learn to play the harmonium myself, I will not sing publicly. I pestered my father to buy a harmonium, did lots of practice with it and when I sang in the Satsang a month later I felt as if I had conquered the world!” This incident happened around 1945 when Ravi ji was only 19 years old. Ravi ji also got employed in the Post & Telegraph Department as an electrician at that time.

India became independent. Ravi ji continued with his hobby of singing along with his job. He used to sing on All India Radio. In 1950, he got transferred to Pathankot. He had already got married in 1946 and also become the father of a baby girl. According to Ravi ji, “I could only do my job in a place like Pathankot whereas music was much more important for me. Therefore, I applied for leave at my office. I left my wife Kanti and daughter Veena in Delhi. Taking permission of my father and with a wish to sing in films, I left for Mumbai on 24th April 1950”.
After that he started spending the nights at Goregaon Station’s platform and outside closed shops. The skills learn during his job as electrician in Delhi proved to be useful to him during his struggle in Mumbai. It was not easy to get singing assignments and he started repairing irons, press, fans and other equipment in the electrical shops in Kalbadevi’s Moolji Jetha Market.
On reaching Mumbai, Ravi ji spent a few days at the Hirabaug Dharmshala. After that he started spending the nights at Goregaon Station’s platform and outside closed shops. The skills learn during his job as electrician in Delhi proved to be useful to him during his struggle in Mumbai. It was not easy to get singing assignments and he started repairing irons, press, fans and other equipment in the electrical shops in Kalbadevi’s Moolji Jetha Market. He could not get any solo song but he did get an opportunity to sing in the chorus under composition of Sachin Dev Burman in movie Naujawan in 1951. It was a duet of Rafi and Geeta Dutt - Jhanak jhanak jhan jhan…zara jhoom le.

In 1952, he also sang in the chorus of the superhit song Vande Mataram Vande Mataram in the movie Anand Math. It was composer Hemant Kumar’s Hindi movie debut and he kept Ravi ji as his assistant. Ravi ji assisted Hemant Kumar in movies including Shart (1954), Samrat (1954), Durgesh Nandini (1956), Jagriti (1954), Champakali (1957) and Nagin (1954). Nagin’s famous been tune had been played together by Ravi ji and Kalyan ji (of Kalyanji-Anand ji fame). During 1951, Ravi ji had called his wife and daughter to Mumbai. The family had started residing on rent in a godown in Kandivli.
Ravi ji recalled, “In 1951, at the Muhurat of movie Ada, I met a boy who used to be my neighbor in Delhi. I came to know that he was the nephew of the movie’s producer-director Devendra Goyal. We became good friends. One day he proposed that he can get me an assignment as independent composer in Devendra Goyal’s next low budget film with the caveat that I should give his name as co-composer for the film."
Ravi ji recalled, “In 1951, at the Muhurat of movie Ada, I met a boy who used to be my neighbor in Delhi. I came to know that he was the nephew of the movie’s producer-director Devendra Goyal. We became good friends. One day he proposed that he can get me an assignment as independent composer in Devendra Goyal’s next low budget film with the caveat that I should give his name as co-composer for the film. Although, he had nothing to do with music in any way, I was forced to agree to the condition. This film was 1955’s Vachan whose composer credit was given to the duo of Ravi-Chandra on screen. I wrote the lyrics for two songs Chanda mama door ke pooe pakaaye boor ke and Ik paisa de de o jaane waale babu and also sang a duet with Asha Bhonsle Yun hi chupke chupke bahane bahane.

Ravi ji’s first movie as a composer Vachan proved to be a musical hit. When Devendra Goyal tried to sign him for his next movie Albeli, Ravi ji refused to work with Chandra. When Devendra Goyal came to know the reason for this, he wrote a letter to HMV and got Chandra’s name removed from the records of Vachan. Ravi ji composed solo for the movie Albeli (1955). He went on to compose for almost all future movies including Ek Saal (1957), Narsi Bhagat (1957), Chirag Kahan Roshni Kahan (1959), Pyar Ka Saagar (1961), Door Ki Awaaz (1964), Dus Lakh (1966), Ek Phool Do Maali (1969), Dharkan (1972), Ek Mahal Ho Sapno Ka (1975), and Aadmi Sadak Ka (1977) which were directed by Devendra Goyal.
Ravi ji told me, “One day Guru Dutt called me and told me that he had seen my film Mehndi. Guru said that he had decided there and then that if he were to make a Muslim social, its music will be composed only by you. The time has come for the same. This is how I got signed for Guru Dutt’s Chaudhvin Ka Chand.”
During the 1950s, Ravi ji composed for nearly 21 movies. To mention a few, Mehndi, Ghar Sansar, Dilli Ka Thug (all 1958), Bombay Ka Chor (1962), Ghunghat (1960), Nai Maa (1960) and Tu Nahin Aur Sahi (1960). Parallelly he continued to work as Hemant Kumar’s assistant.  Ravi ji told me, “One day Guru Dutt called me and told me that he had seen my film Mehndi. Guru said that he had decided there and then that if he were to make a Muslim social, its music will be composed only by you. The time has come for the same. This is how I got signed for Guru Dutt’s Chaudhvin Ka Chand.”
This 1960 release Chaudhvin Ka Chand proved to be an important milestone in his career. Due to the success of this movie, he got B.R. Film’s Gumrah (1963) and later he became the permanent composer for this banner.
This 1960 release Chaudhvin Ka Chand proved to be an important milestone in his career. Due to the success of this movie, he got B.R. Film’s Gumrah (1963) and later he became the permanent composer for this banner. He went on to composer for B.R.’s musical hits like Waqt (1965), Hamraaz (1967), Aadmi Aur Insaan (1969), Dhund (1973), Dahleez (1986), Nikaah (1982), Aaj Ki Awaaz (1984), Awam (1987).  Even though he did not have any formal training in music, he was as competent as any other composer in composing classical music based songs. Songs like Darshan do ghanshyam nath mori ankhiyan pyaasi re (Narsi Bhagat), Laage na mora jiya (Ghunghat), Chhun chhun ghunghroo bole (Kajal) and Kaisi murli bajaai ghanshyam (Awam) prove this fact.
Out of the 14 Malayalam films which he composed for, 11 were jubilee hits. Other than three State Awards, his Malayalam films Sukrutham (1992) and Parinayam (1994) fetched National Awards for him.
In 1971 Ravi ji was honoured by Government of India with the Padma Shri. He won the Filmfare awards for movies Gharana (1961) and Khandaan (1965). In 1986, he composed for his first Malayalam film Panchagni. After this film’s super success Ravi ji became busy with Malayalam films. Out of the 14 Malayalam films which he composed for, 11 were jubilee hits. Other than three State Awards, his Malayalam films Sukrutham (1992) and Parinayam (1994) fetched National Awards for him. Since, there was already another composer by the name of Ravi in Malayalam films, he was given the name of Bombay Ravi there.

Ravi ji’s wife passed away in 1986. His family consists of his two daughters Veena and Chhaya, his son Ajay and daughter in law Varsha Usgaonkar, who is a known actress. Ravi ji has composed for nearly 100 films. He also gave music for some TV serials including Kanoon, Basera, Kurukshetra and Mulq. His last Hindi movie Ek Alag Mausam released in 2003. Its producer-director was K.P. Sasi. Ravi ji’s last few years were spent under great stress due to the souring of his relations with his son and daughter-in-law. They had deteriorated to such an extent that Ravi ji was forced to involve the police and had to go to court against them.

Ravi ji passed away on 7th March 2012 in Mumbai.

Translated from original Hindi to English by: Shri Gajendra Khanna

Part of Shishir Krishna Sharma's Beete Hue Din blog series.

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