People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 50

December 16, 2012


On Pt. Ravi Shankar


The following is the statement issued by SAHMAT on December 12


SAHMAT pays tribute to Pandit Ravi Shankar, who has passed away in the US. A less remembered part of his long and illustrious history is his beginnings with IPTA in Bombay. Ravi Shankar composed the music for IPTA's film on the Bengal famine Dharti Ke Lal directed by K A Abbas in 1946, as well as Chetan Anand's Neecha Nagar also in 1946. Dharti ke Lal was the debut film of Balraj Sahni and Zohra Segal, the songs were written by Ali Sardar Jaffri. He was an important part of the great moment of the progressive movement in the 1940s when the Communist affiliated IPTA and PWA had a huge impact in shaping modernism in the arts. His music for these two films was composed more than a decade before his music for Satyajit Ray's film Pather Panchali, with which both received lasting acclaim.


Ravi Shankar was a shining example of India's composite culture and was a vocal critic of groups who were seeking to divide and define us on communal lines. He participated in SAHMAT's "Artists against Communalism" programmes in Delhi and Bombay in 1991 and 1992, against the rising communal mobilisation in the lead up to the Babri Masjid demolition. This was his statement on stage: ďAs a sensitive musician, I am deeply pained by what is happening in our country today. This discordant cacophony has to stop. It is the duty of all of us to try our best in our own way to bring back sanity and harmony amongst our people."


It was this concern and engagement with social and political developments which had led him to organise the first big rock concert in Madison Square Garden in New York with Beatle George Harrison in 1971, "The Concert for Bangladesh". A huge success, where legendary rock stars performed with him and his brother-in-law Ali Akbar Khan, it raised huge funds for the relief of victims and refugees fleeing from the civil war raging in East Pakistan, which led to the formation of Bangladesh. This became the model for all the future rock concerts held to raise funds across the world.


It was this spirit of humanity and his remarkable openness to all music and cultures of the world which made him a citizen of the world. SAHMAT salutes the legacy of a truly great modern Indian and sends condolences to the family from all the fraternity of India's artists.