Ravi Shankar: Between Two Worlds


Ravi Shankar: Between Two Worlds

Documentary. Filmed over two years in India and the USA, this film brings together archive footage spanning seven decades of Ravi Shankar's performing life.


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Transcript


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APPLAUSE

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My very dear friends,

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this is something that didn't happen to me before.

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This is the first time that I am 80, and I'm very embarrassed at the same time.

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I don't know whether to be happy or unhappy.

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But this spiritual journey through music

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is the only thing that I feel important in my life.

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My earliest memory is going to the ghats in the evenings,

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and spending hours there, you know.

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Someone is to be with me to see that I don't go and jump in the Ganges or get lost!

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The heart is such magic with the shehnai playing,

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and all the temples,

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and they're enacting the Ramayana or some other mythological story.

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Everything is going on there - children are being born.

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In the distance, you have the Burning Ghat.

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You have the whole world there.

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As much as I remember of my mother,

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it's not a very happy memory that I have.

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I felt she was so lonely

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and she used to work very hard

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to give education to my three elder brothers who were going to college and school.

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Taking care of me all by herself.

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And, automatically, I felt...

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I won't say anger,

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but sort of...a hostile feeling towards my father

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because he was never there. Either he was in Calcutta practising law or he was in London.

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The first time I saw him,

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I was eight in Benares.

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And he came hardly for two weeks -

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much less, maybe -

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and stayed in a hotel.

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He looked so different.

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He was very fair in colour and dressed immaculate Western dress.

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To me, he seemed like a sahib.

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He was coming back to India, actually.

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He got a very good offer. He might have taken it and we were hoping he would.

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But somehow, on the way, in London, he died.

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My mother - she was my greatest friend, really.

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At that time period of... until about ten or so.

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She would tell me all the stories.

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Not only fairy tales, but also historical stories.

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She was in Rajasthan for many years.

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She told me about all the wonderful kings, brave kings who fought against invasions.

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Then she would tell me about the stars and the moon...

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with whatever knowledge she had. It wasn't very scientific maybe,

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but she knew all the names of the different ones.

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Being born in a Brahman family

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and being raised in Benares,

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which has so much of a religious aura,

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I was - without trying to know or be - a very religious person,

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I was brought up in the atmosphere.

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And especially...gods like Siva or Krishna...

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I mean, to us...

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especially Krishna...

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they're like persons who are still there.

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We talk about Krishna, write songs about him, sing about him...

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He is there in every art form - dance or music...

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stories...

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and if you go to Mathura,

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you will have that feeling that he is somewhere there talking, that you know...Krishna was here.

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And that's what it has been with me - this very nearness feeling to Krishna.

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Anything I saw, like silent films, and later on, talkies, and theatre,

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whatever, you know...

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I used to enact it in front of a mirror.

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Sometimes be the hero and the villain, or the villain...or heroine also...

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When I started performing, I was already a dancer as well as a musician.

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Dance has always fascinated me.

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My school days in Benares came to an end when I was nine.

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And my brother, Uday -

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we called him Dada -

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took me into his dance troupe.

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What happened - he had a partner who was French.

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Her name was Simone Barbier

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She was a pianist. Beautiful pianist.

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He was in love with her. He taught her dancing. She left piano.

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A name was given - Simkie.

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"Bizarres instruments!"

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We can imagine 1932...

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Wow!

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Simkie...

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He was such a wonderful dancer,

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and he was just...not sexy, but he was beautiful!

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That's me!

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THEY CHEER

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It was too much for me from Benares to Bombay -

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Bombay was something which I couldn't believe. I would get fever all the time with the excitement.

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And from there, on the boat...

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SS Ganges. I still remember the boat.

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And...

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coming to Brindisi, and from there by train to Venice.

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The San Marco's Place with all the pigeons.

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And then the train journey.

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And it was very cold and I had never experienced such cold weather.

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Everything was so exciting.

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And finally, Paris -

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art centre of the world.

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Segovia lived a few houses away from us. He used to come sometimes. I used to sit on his lap.

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And he loved Indian music.

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He played for us one or two days.

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So I was so fortunate in hearing the best of classical music,

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whether Jascha Heifetz or Kreisler, or going to Toscanini's conducting,

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or Paderewski's piano.

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Chaliapin singing basso with chandeliers shaking almost.

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So that one side,

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then all the French accordion music...

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Georges Milton, at that time, was very famous...

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HE SINGS IN FRENCH

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Then I had a lot of discs.

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The song I remember so well...

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# I love you so much Why don't you feel it?

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# I love you so much

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# Why don't you feel it?

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# I love you so much

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# My eyes reveal it

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# It's a wonder you don't feel it

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# It's a wonder you don't feel it

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# I love you so much... #

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It goes on like that. And I used to love that - I'd play it again and again and again!

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BIG BAND MUSIC

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Going to America with the group in those days...

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there were a lot of people who were rather doubtful whether we would have success,

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but because of Dada's charisma and the well-presented show in the American way of publicity...

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and the best theatre in Broadway.

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What a success! For five, six years, we were on top of the world.

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It came..."God On The Stage!"

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The Sunday Times... The New York Times...

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superstar in those days.

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We never had a superstar like that. Not just in your own city or own country, but world over.

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When we went to Hollywood...

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he was mad for the cinema stars.

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Jean Harlow...! He went straight and got their autographs.

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-Jean Harlow...

-Jean Harlow. I was in love with her!

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Marie Dressler used to be the old actress.

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She wanted to adopt me!

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She was so much in love with me... I was 13½, going 14.

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Marie Dressler wanted to...

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We were at her home, big party - Clark Gable, Joan Crawford, Greta Garbo - they were all there.

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And when she proposed that,

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my brother... I saw them discussing something and my brother was there saying no.

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And he called the other brother. They all said no.

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And I was so angry...! I was crying. I said, "I want to be adopted by her!

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"I want to stay in Hollywood!

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"I want to become a film star!"

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And they wouldn't let me. What a sad thing!

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SCAT MUSIC

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SITAR MUSIC

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I loved dancing and I think I would have been a good dancer.

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I was 15, 16 when I composed a piece myself,

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completely choreographed it - a solo dance.

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I used a lot of footwork

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which in those days was very much associated with erotic type of words

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and dancing girls, you know.

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But Baba - that is my guru...

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He was always giving me a little...

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"This is not the way...

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"This is not the life to learn seriously.

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"You are like a butterfly.

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"You do this, you do that, you run around girls...

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"I mean, you are not serious in anything.

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"And you have so much talent,

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"and I will teach you... I would LOVE to teach you...

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"but only if you leave everything and come to me. I'll teach you."

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This went directly in my head and stayed there.

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It was haunting me. And I was having much more fun all around.

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I was going through such turmoil in my mind,

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and gradually, I decided that, "No, I'll have to work and learn from him."

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The way... I was attracted to him as...

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I mean, I had only seen Pablo Casals or Kreisler at that stage...

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I never had any idea of Indian musicians. He was the first one.

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He was, to me, like a Himalaya.

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Taking a guru was the biggest decision of my life.

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It demanded absolute surrender -

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years of fanatic dedication and discipline.

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I stayed with Baba more than seven years.

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He was a tyrant, absolutely,

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and I was always frightened of him.

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Now I thank God for bringing me to Baba.

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What he gave me is all my life.

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'The grand old man of Indian music,

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'Allaudin remains the uncrowned king of my heart,

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'a versatile musician

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'playing practically ALL instruments.

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'Under the stern discipline of the master,

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'his children and his pupils became the famous musicians they are today.'

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Those years in Maihar with Baba were so wonderful,

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along with his son Ali Akbar

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and his daughter Annapurna whom I married in 1941,

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and we had a son Shubho.

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It was difficult for me, you can imagine,

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after years of good living in five-star hotels

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and all the pleasure and fun in life,

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and I was 18.

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So to be, all of a sudden in a place like that,

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where there's nothing, nothing.

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There was no cinema, no entertainment,

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nothing that you could waste your time.

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I had just a room to myself, next house to Baba's,

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an ordinary bed made of coconut coir, I think - very thin, you know.

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But the fact that I had tremendous fire in me,

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I went through all that.

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INAUDIBLE CONVERSATION

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He was continuously saying things

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relating to music and religion at the same time.

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And he used to say all the time that music is not for entertainment.

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It's not to make money.

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We HAVE to do it, we have to live,

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but it is not meant for that. It is meant for worshipping.

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Singers have an advantage because they can sing beautiful songs

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composed on Siva or Krishna or Devi...

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..but we...don't have that advantage.

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It's just mere sound...only,

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but to create that, you had to go within and think of...and train yourself,

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and that only can come with a lot of humility.

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If you have ego, you are saying, "Look what I can do - the speed and this,"

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and playing for...you know, continuous praising from the public.

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That is a different music. That's for entertainment.

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As they say in the West, playing for the gallery.

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But what I'm talking about is something else.

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It's more the introvert.

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You don't know what you are doing yourself.

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You're not planning to go to the next note. It flows.

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The raga and you become one.

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It is a state of mind which is unbelievable.

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It's so beautiful.

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It's an ecstasy that cannot be explained.

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Often, tears come to my eyes or...

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It is a beautiful pain,

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which makes you so sad,

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but that sadness has such beauty in it,

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it's also like a happiness at the same time, you know?

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And that truly, I think,

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is the real spirit of music.

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He had finished the film. He showed me the rushes.

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The moment I saw the rushes, which were very rough,

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I knew it was a great film.

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Nothing like that has been made in India before.

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He was very dejected

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because all his finance was finished.

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He didn't know how to bring it out.

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When I saw it, I said immediately that I had a tune, like a theme music.

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HE SINGS A MELODY

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MUSIC PLAYS ON FILM

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This came to me like this...

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and I sang to him and he was overjoyed,

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and that's why it became the theme music which flowed with different things.

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I played the sitar also. And there are a lot of different sequences,

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but with few instruments. I did it in hardly eight hours - looking at the film,

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stopping, timing it and then, the second time, just doing it with a few musicians,

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making them write some pieces,

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and it turned out to be so fantastic.

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SORROWFUL MUSIC

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MUSIC DROWNS SPEECH

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MAN WAILS

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It was in that period that I met a few diplomats in Delhi -

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you know, the Belgian, the French, and the other embassies -

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and some of them were very interested in music.

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They came to my concert and they were very impressed.

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But at that time,

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unfortunately all our musicians - almost every one of them barring a few here and there -

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they had no proper education in English,

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and they couldn't explain,

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so I, with my childhood experience and all that,

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I had a great advantage.

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COMMENTARY IN RUSSIAN

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That was their cultural delegation

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which Pandit Nehru sent in '54

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in Eastern Europe.

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We played all over Soviet Russia.

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We had Bolshoi Theatre and Kremlin Theatre

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but I had the major section,

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almost playing 20 minutes.

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RUSSIAN COMMENTARY

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I took the whole responsibility on myself, you know,

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concerning Indian music and the West...

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because I had felt that I could do it.

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All the encouragement that I had from the group in Delhi

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who told me to go out and tell them about Indian music

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made me go, go, go and not stop.

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We've invited one of India's foremost musicians, Ravi Shankar,

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to discuss the music of his country, to play it for us, and to explain its characteristics.

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The raga is very hard to explain to the Western listener

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because it is neither a scale nor a mood as many people think,

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though it was based on both.

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Like the major and the minor, we have 72 parent scales, as it is known, which is known as mela...

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'They didn't have any idea

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'that Indian music is as classical as you can think of Western music being classical.'

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And then of course, a raga is not a written-down thing.

0:31:330:31:37

First, I have to tell them ours is not written-down, it's an oral tradition,

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so a raga is just a cluster of notes

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where you give life to the raga, which you learn from the guru, of course - breathe life into it.

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Then the use of microtones... Little... Sometimes microtones are not used directly,

0:31:550:32:02

but with little...

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HE SINGS WITH SUBTLE VARIATIONS IN NOTES

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We never use staccato.

0:32:210:32:23

HE SINGS SEPARATE NOTES

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This is not Indian music.

0:32:270:32:30

It's always rounded. It's not cornered, you know?

0:32:300:32:34

That is a very important thing.

0:32:340:32:36

And then give feeling to it.

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I was lucky also being the first person there, and the right people being there.

0:34:030:34:10

Yehudi Menuhin was the greatest name that I can think of in the classical world.

0:34:100:34:16

-RAVI SINGS

-I'll do this...

-Yes, the ta-da-ra-dun.

-Pa-pa-papum...ah!

0:34:160:34:22

He got so much interested in it.

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That was a unique quality in him -

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his love and respect for other art forms, other cultures, other religions.

0:34:380:34:44

RHYTHMIC PERCUSSION

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We have to remember that this was the time that Ravi should meet people like Leary and Burroughs

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and Ginsberg and all these people that were the arbiters of a new kind of culture.

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The point was that there was a cultural shift.

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It was like a sea change. It was a profound change

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in the way Western culture saw itself in relationship to the world,

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in relationship to its own history,

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and also in terms of its own responsibilities.

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Ravi was somehow... When that door opened,

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he was already there.

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SITAR MUSIC PLAYS

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Everything was happening together,

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and they were giving all these mantras to the young people.

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"Take hashish, take LSD, take this.

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"This is how you can meet God. In India, everyone does it,"

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and that's not true at THAT time.

0:37:010:37:03

They created Haight Ashbury,

0:37:090:37:13

and the whole works - Kamasutra, Tantra, Tibetan Hole In The Head, Siddharta -

0:37:130:37:21

these were only the few things they read,

0:37:210:37:25

and they were thinking they knew everything.

0:37:250:37:29

You know, playing guitar... for hours, stoned.

0:37:290:37:34

"What are you doing?" "I'm discovering new music,

0:37:340:37:38

"writing stupid lines, my own thing. Painting, just like that."

0:37:380:37:45

But, on the other hand, I liked them

0:37:450:37:48

because, at that period, that innocence was there.

0:37:480:37:53

THEY SING ALONG WITH MUSIC

0:37:530:37:56

-Now, once more. "Jai jai Guru Deva...?"

-"Jai Sri..."

0:38:030:38:07

"..Jai Sri Guru Deva Jai jai Guru Deva."

0:38:070:38:10

It is in praise of the guru.

0:38:100:38:13

'And then I met them for the first time, the Beatles. And, believe me, I had no idea who they were...

0:38:130:38:20

'I'd vaguely heard they were very popular.'

0:38:200:38:24

It was George who really attracted me, in the sense that he was so...

0:38:250:38:31

interested in Indian music, philosophy...

0:38:310:38:36

He had come to a few of my concerts, heard me in the Royal Festival Hall and different places,

0:38:360:38:43

and he had all my records, and he had been so much interested in sitar.

0:38:430:38:50

I told him very frankly

0:38:500:38:52

that it's not like guitar - that if you have a lot of talent, you just learn a few chords

0:38:520:39:00

and, if you have enough talent, you can go on your own, write your songs - which is fantastic -

0:39:000:39:07

but it's like classical guitar or anything like violin or cello,

0:39:070:39:12

you have to give many years and many hours to work hard on it.

0:39:120:39:17

HE SINGS THE INSTRUMENTAL PHRASING

0:39:170:39:20

'He did develop a lot, musically, by listening all the time to the chords, by thinking about it,

0:39:420:39:49

'and as much as I could give him through talking to him about music.

0:39:490:39:54

'And he has become one of the dearest persons in my life

0:39:540:39:59

'and I really love him like my son.'

0:39:590:40:04

And he considers me as a father. But we are at the same time great friends. A lot of fun!

0:40:040:40:11

TABLA JOINS IN

0:40:130:40:16

TEMPO ACCELERATES

0:40:460:40:50

I was discovered, you know, by the young generation...all over the world...and became a superstar.

0:41:240:41:31

It was strange!

0:41:310:41:34

If I were young, younger than I was - because I was already 47, 48 -

0:41:340:41:40

I'm sure I would have lost my mind.

0:41:400:41:43

But having worked...

0:41:430:41:46

All the ten years in Europe had created a wonderful audience for our music.

0:41:460:41:52

That was very helpful for me to keep my head straight.

0:41:520:41:57

I mean, the first one was all right, Monterey -

0:41:570:42:01

in spite of drugs, which I was always talking against, and protesting -

0:42:010:42:07

but I saw how quickly it was going on changing...

0:42:070:42:11

And with the experience I had in Woodstock, I knew that this... this is not going to work.

0:42:110:42:18

MEDITATIONAL CHANT BEGINS

0:43:000:43:02

Sometimes it worries me, this "globalisation", as they call it, Americanisation, whatever,

0:44:160:44:23

and I feel it might harm the classical or the traditional part.

0:44:230:44:29

But...as long as there are artists, still,

0:44:290:44:33

who can really touch the heart, the soul of people through the traditional music,

0:44:330:44:40

I think it will live.

0:44:400:44:43

Ah...no... Because that sound is...

0:45:020:45:06

MOUTH-MUSIC

0:45:060:45:09

PLAYER COPIES PHRASING

0:45:090:45:12

THEY REPEAT IT

0:45:130:45:16

"Dah..." THEN, you can. OK?

0:45:160:45:18

HE SINGS LYRIC

0:45:210:45:23

PLAYER REPEATS MELODY

0:45:230:45:26

HE SINGS NEXT LINE

0:45:270:45:30

PLAYERS REPEAT IT

0:45:300:45:33

WOMAN: His disciples are REALLY like his children to him.

0:45:360:45:42

He just dotes on them, he loves them all so much.

0:45:420:45:46

They really give him the respect of a guru. But at the same time they just love him like a father.

0:45:460:45:52

They eat with him every day when they live with us,

0:45:520:45:57

and talk about all kinds of things, personal problems, musical problems. He's very close to his students.

0:45:570:46:04

'Being my teacher AND my father was a lot tougher for him than it was for me,

0:46:050:46:11

because he's the one who's USED to having many, many students and having them be a certain way with him.

0:46:110:46:19

And this relationship where there's so much respect from the student

0:46:190:46:23

that he can almost command them to practise all night, or sit for eight hours. And then I come along.

0:46:230:46:30

I was eight or nine. He really had to tailor the way he taught me. He COULDN'T get angry. I'd start crying.

0:46:300:46:37

So HE had a tough time with that. And then we worked on it together.

0:46:370:46:42

For me, it's just beautiful. I've got a father and teacher in one. And that's made me a lot closer to him.

0:46:420:46:49

'It's a pity that I didn't start with her SERIOUSLY when she was younger.

0:46:570:47:03

'I think it would have been a different story if we lived in India. But being in California...

0:47:030:47:10

'It is a life that...'

0:47:110:47:14

'She's along with all her friends, and they are into everything.'

0:47:140:47:20

Listening to all sorts of music, seeing films, this, that, TV... There's so much of distraction.

0:47:200:47:28

But in spite of all that, she has this versatile mind,

0:47:280:47:34

and anything that she wants to do, she can do it.

0:47:340:47:38

You know - she changes like a chameleon into different atmospheres

0:47:380:47:43

with different dress, different people...

0:47:430:47:46

She's a fantastic person.

0:47:460:47:50

Well, we had to do something for him, for all that he has given us.

0:48:040:48:10

And that's how it all started.

0:48:100:48:13

We needed a place to put all his things, all his works...

0:48:130:48:17

and...a home.

0:48:170:48:20

'My idea for the centre is basically research as well as an archive.

0:48:340:48:40

'I do want to help maybe a few students,

0:48:400:48:43

'but it will be training in the best thing of the old gurukul system.'

0:48:430:48:49

This is the main dining room for all of us.

0:48:520:48:57

Sitting room...

0:49:030:49:05

This is Sukanya's area.

0:49:070:49:09

To keep ALL the saris he has bought for me. Never-ending!

0:49:090:49:14

This is the... Next-door is a college, a ladies' college, girls' college.

0:49:270:49:34

-So you know he'll be standing here!

-Their playground's really beautiful.

0:49:340:49:39

Only girls.

0:49:410:49:44

This will all... Flowerpots. Flowerpots here.

0:49:460:49:52

And this, you can have a fantastic view from here.

0:49:520:49:57

I would like to watch a show from here.

0:49:570:50:01

And this is MY terrace, to keep an eye on him when he's watching the girls! Ri-ight across.

0:50:030:50:10

And this is our piece de resistance, the music room.

0:50:150:50:19

And that will be the stage, a small platform area for performance,

0:50:210:50:27

people sitting on the floor.

0:50:270:50:29

Maybe on the sides, special guests or people with bad legs might have some chairs...all around.

0:50:290:50:38

I mean, I wish we had started it at least 10, 15 years earlier!

0:50:400:50:45

But with this lady there, I have full faith that, yes, it's going to be done.

0:50:450:50:51

It's very much your thing, isn't it?

0:50:510:50:54

-Anybody would have done it...

-No.

-..for him.

0:50:540:50:59

You are special.

0:50:590:51:02

BIRDSONG

0:51:110:51:13

ALAP OF RAGA BEGINS

0:51:250:51:30

ANOUSHKA: His health is definitely not the way it was ten years ago. And I wonder how he does it.

0:53:450:53:52

He goes into the hospital and will have an angioplasty, then he'll come out and do a show two weeks later.

0:53:520:53:59

My mother and I will always be like, "You don't have to do a show. Cancel it." But he won't. He HAS to play.

0:53:590:54:06

I'm convinced that performing for people and playing his music is what keeps him alive.

0:54:060:54:13

As far as improvisation and ideas...

0:54:470:54:51

I mean, I never had it before like this.

0:54:510:54:55

It is such a joy and ecstasy.

0:54:550:54:58

It is like I'm being sent ideas after ideas.

0:54:580:55:04

It comes like a sea wave.

0:55:040:55:07

And it is so spontaneous that I'm wondering MYSELF, "Oh, how beautiful it is. I wish I can remember it."

0:55:070:55:14

But by that time it's gone and something else is happening.

0:55:140:55:19

Subtitles by Subtitling Unit BBC Broadcast - 2002

0:58:080:58:13

E-mail us at [email protected]

0:58:130:58:17

Filmed over two years in India and the USA, Mark Kidel's award-winning documentary brings together archive footage spanning seven decades of Ravi Shankar's performing life, and provides a definitive account of the late sitar maestro's unique musical career.


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