Prominent dancer Shovana Narayan looks back at the impact of Pandit Ravi Shankar on popularising Indian culture abroad in an interaction with IBNLive readers.
Q. Is there a possibility of the Panditji's performance being declared as a national treasure so that entire nation enjoys it and commercial exploitation of his work is prevented? Asked by: sundar1950in
A. Panditji's work is by itself not only National treasure but also international treasure. What he and his artistry stood for namely his understanding, feeling, living of every swara, raga, nuance, mood which exuded spirituality cannot ever be duplicated or exploited.
Q. Widely traveled across the Globe which country really appreciated his performance on the sitar?Asked by: sundar1950in
A. Panditji's performances were appreciated all over the world. He touched all hearts, irrespective of gender or country.
Q. Panditji went for treatment to USA. Is there an inefficiency or insufficiency of good doctors in India? Asked by: sundar1950in
A. Panditji's homes were all over - USA, UK and India and he divided his time between them. He was usually in India during the winter months. Hence, the question does not hold.
Q. What is your fondest memory of Pandit Ravi Shankar? Asked by: HS
A. Personal meetings have always been cherished by all. In my case, I will always cherish my last meeting with him at his residence in Chanakyapuri when he discussed with me about the dance ballet Kadambari: The Poet's Muse that I was presenting. We went into details about Calcutta of yore and he wanted to know about my early life in Calcutta, my birthplace. We discussed Sarla Devi Chaudhary, niece of Rabindranath Tagore in whose house I was born and of my first guru the great dancer actress of yesteryears, Sadhona Bose who was also grand-daughter of social reformer Keshub Chandra Sen. He told me so much about his recollections of Sadhona ji. I recounted my first meeting with him which was in the early sixties at Sapru House, Delhi at a performance of his. He laughed when I told him how awe-struck I was and how in the few moments that I spent with him, the interest that he showed was my first shower of blessings that I received from him. We both laughed heartily when I reminded him of how he had echoed the sentiments of eminent philosopher Prof Ramchandra Gandhi in one of our dance sessions while discussing the popular photograph of the famous Indian sage Ramakrishna Paramhansa. This was relating the 'ala-padma hasta' that both he and Ramu Gandhi said can also be utilised to show the throw of a cricket ball! I am glad that I have a photograph of our last meeting together.
Q. Who, in your opinion,other great sitar players,closest to him? Asked by: Kamal Agg
A. Our country has produced several stalwarts in the classical performing arts. Each one was a name to reckon with and each one enriched the arts scene with their own distinctive contributions. Some of the stalwarts who are no more with us were Ustad Vilayat Khan, Nikhil Banerjee to name a few.
Q. How will history remember him? Asked by: Sasi
A. History will remember him not only as a great artist and human being but also as the bridger of the gap between the East and West. It was he who brought about greater level of understanding of each others cultures. In fact, he unconsciously, lived and practiced cultural diplomacy, that is being increasingly recognised today as a very potent soft power. In fact he can be said to be the first global ambassador and also the creator of a 'brand image' of India.
Q. Has there been a greater "phenomenon" in India classical music than Pandit Ravi Shankar. If yes who would you choose? Asked by: Isha
A. Every age and era throws up icons who are products of their times. Thus comparisons are meaningless. If the 16th century saw great legendary musicians like Swami Haridas, Tansen, Baiju Bawra, then the era prior to that of Panditji, we had Ustad Allauddin Khan, Guru of Pt Ravi Shankar.
Q. Taking India globally through the listening pleasure was a great contribution. Did he get enough support from our culture and external Affairs Ministry? Asked by: sundar1950in
A. Panditji was beyond all support. He did not need support. In fact, he was needed by all.
Q. How much of international recognition of Indian music has Panditji been responsible for? I remember that Ustad Ali Akbar Khan used to propagate the Sarod a lot internationally. Have these created a different outlook (positive) for Indian Music in other countries? Asked by: Narayan
A. As I just said a short while ago, while Ustad Ali Akbar Khan was responsible for introducing sarod to the West but it was Pt Ravi Shankar who undoubtedly expanded the horizons of East West understanding, the basic philosophy of Cultural diplomacy and made sitar and Panditji synonymous. Both Ali Akbar ji and Panditji have contributed immensely to creating awareness of India's rich cultural heritage and legacy.
Q. Music on traditional manner on the strings - a divine experience - why is it that masses at lower economic levels were not exposed to these hearing feast. Asked by: sundar1950in
A. The involvement and complete surrender of the soul before divine music of our classical performing arts of all members of the audience, young and old, rich or poor, elite or general mass, have been evident at several Festivals and Conferences.
Q. How far do you think Sri Ravishankarji was able to influence the Westerners. Asked by: sudheendra_sr
A. Pt Ravi Shankar's contribution to bringing about an awareness and understanding of Indian classical music and its spirituality and divinity to the West, was phenomenal.
Q. Panditji was a grate figure no doubt but having witnessed live performances of many I would not grade him as the best sitarist of the modern times. Nikhilji and Vilayatji were technically superiors. How do you react? Asked by: Professor Ashok Jahnavi Prasad
A. In the world of art, each artiste has his or her own hallmarks. No one can make a name and carve out niche for themselves without that 'something' great in their art and performance. Hence it is meaningless to make comparisons for each artiste had his greatness and forte.
Q. Do you think that Pt Ravi Shankar should be held responsible for thwarting the genius of his first wife Annapurna Devi? Asked by: dev
A. No one can 'thwart' any person's genius or greatness. Both Pandit ji and Annapurna ji were/are great artistes in their own right. It is up to each one what kind of path one chooses for himself/herself.