“Sau Bar Janam Lenge Hum:” Ravi is Dead, Long Live Ravi!


If a man roams in the streets of Bombay (Mumbai) in the day-time frantically searching a job and sleeps in the platforms of Malad railway station of the metropolis during the night, it does not make any news as there are thousands like him.


It, however, turns very newsy if he moves to a posh-double-storied bungalow in Santacruz: dream city’s elite hub. Just imagine, the man who had a budget of only one rupee and an “attanni” (50 paise or half-a rupee) to spend a day, started earning a monthly salary of nearly Rs. 400 in 1952. Such an income then could be possible only by rubbing the Aladdin’s Chiraag.   

You need not storm your brain to know the identity of this man whom the filmwallahs in Bombay’s celluloid world often termed as vagabond. Just hum “Chaudhvin Ka Chand Ho……Yah Aftab Ho, Jo Bhi Ho Tum Khuda Ki Kasam, La zabab Ho. Yes! You now know his identity. He was Ravi, the composer of soft filmy songs whose musical magic would linger forever.

On 3rd March 2012, Bollywood’s 'King of Soft Melodies' celebrated his 86th birthday with a handful of filmy friends and relatives at the ground floor of his Santacruz bungalow. Four days later, he died.

Ravi celebrated his birthday on the first floor of his own bungalow where he often rehearsed with such Bollywood legends like Shakeel Badayuni, Mukesh, Shanker Jaikishan, Asha Bhonsle, Mahendra Kapoor and others. But he could not do so to celebrate his last birthday. He celebrated it on the ground floor.

Facing Life’s Rude Music in the Streets of Mumbai

Born in Delhi on 3rd March, 1926, Ravi (Shankar Sharma) came to Mumbai in 1948 to become a playback singer. Having no money, no patron in the film-world, no references and no shelter, Ravi virtually started living like a vagabond in this city of dreams.

He spent days, weeks and months searching for a break in the musical world as a singer, but nothing happened. His father used to send him only Rs.40 per month. After 18-months of arriving in Mumbai, he could manage a roof of tin over his head, a very small room in a warehouse at Mumbai’s Kalbadevi. Having no electricity, his life was miserable as the warehouse was meant for storing chilies and cement. Naturally, dust, heat and pungent smell of chilies made his life a living hell.

After months of grueling struggles, Ravi suddenly stumbled upon Hemant Kumar and Husnalal Bhagatram: two Bollywood titans of that time. Hemant Kumar asked him to work as his assistant. There was no looking back after that!

A Journey from Post Office to Box Office

Journey of Ravi, from being a clerk in post office to the composer of box-office hit songs was a long one. He had a good singing voice and everyone in his office in Delhi praised it.

He was not sure if he could be a singer. The only thing he was sure of was that his musical career had no future in Delhi and his job at the Post and Telegraph department did not hold the key to his success as a creative person.

Soon after the Independence of India, Ravi was transferred to Pathankot. Next year, he came to Delhi. In Delhi, Ravi recorded his voice and heard it for the first time. He liked it and finally decided to move to Bombay to become a singer taking 20 days leave from the Post Office.

In Mumbai, Ravi met a large number of music directors for playback singing, but they all refused. Meanwhile, his 20-days leave expired and he extended it thrice. Finally, he had to resign his job only to see that his hardship lingering with no rays of hope.

The Snake Charmer’s Flute Played the Charm

The film Nagin made Ravi! After he created the sound of a snake charmer's flute, everybody at Filmistan Studios in Mumbai were spellbound. Hemant Kumar liked the snake charmer’s flute so much so that he started paying him Rs. 450 per month.

Finally, he got his first break as a composer in the movie Vachan. The next big break came when producer Karimbhai Nadiadwala signed him to compose music for his three-films. His door to fame was laid open when Guru Dutt asked to compose for Chaudhvin Ka Chand. Soon after, B R Chopra signed him for Gumraah.

Padmabhushan Ravi is dead, Long live Ravi!

                          Facts: Journey of A Musician

  1. Ravi gave music in more than 110 films.
  2. Came to Mumbai (then Bombay) to be a singer, but ended up as a music composer
  3. He was hired by Hemant Kumar to sing backing vocals in Vande Mataram for the film Anand Math
  4. He made the career for playback singer Mahendra Kapoor
  5. He received Filmfare nominations for Chaudhvin Ka Chand , Do Badan , Humraaz , Ankhen , and Nikaah . He also bagged Filmfare awards for Gharana and Khandaan.
  6. Waqt, Neel Kamal and Gumraah made him a legend of the world of Bollywood music
  7. He is very popular for his marriage songs like Aaj mere yaar ki shaadi hai, Babul ki duyaen leti ja and Doli chadh ke dulhan sasural chali
  8. He also gave music in 17 Malayalam and two Gujarati films


Image credit: Wikipedia

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