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Pandit Ravi Shankar’s Life in Photos Published in New Book

‘Ravi’ by Kolkata photographer Aloke Mitra gives us a rare glimpse of the sitar legend’s life and times

Rolling Stone India Aug 28, 2013
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Ravi Shankar as a tourist in London in 1977. Photo: Aloke Mitra

Ravi Shankar as a tourist in London in 1977. Photo: Aloke Mitra

The year is 1977 and Kolkata photographer Aloke Mitra, who is on a fellowship at the Royal Photographic Society in London, meets Pandit Ravi Shankar at Trafalgar Square. “I knew him and he knew me, but not too well,” says Mitra, who began photographing Ravi Shankar from the Sixties till 2003.

The London meeting was enough for Mitra and Ravi Shankar to get past being just acquaintances. Inspired by a photobook on boxer Muhammad Ali, Mitra decided to undertake a photo album on two Indian personalities ”“ Ravi Shankar and filmmaker Satyajit Ray. An established photojournalist from the Fifties in India, Mitra even took suggestions from Ray for what he calls one of the most memorable photos in Ravi, the photo album published by Kolkata’s Alchemy Publishers earlier this year. Of the photo, which shows Ravi Shankar playing the sitar turned toward the rising sun, Mitra says, “This was on the Ganga river and we got there at 4 o’clock. The light wasn’t right that day, but Ravi decided that he’ll come again the next day, just for the photo.”

Ravi includes photos from the sitar player’s many concerts, which Mitra shot in Benaras, Kolkata and London, his candid moments while being a tourist in London, his family life with daughters Anoushka Shankar and Kaveri Shankar, being celebrated by national dignitaries such as Indira Gandhi, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Jyoti Basu and more private moments. Ravi Shankar himself admits in a 1977 letter in the beginning of the book, “He [Mitra] followed me like my shadow, even to my dentist’s chamber. He waited in silence to prey upon any interesting moment in my daily life.”

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While we’re sparing you the photo of Ravi Shankar at his dentist’s appointment, here are a few photos that really caught our eye from Ravi courtesy of Aloke Mitra.

Ravi by Aloke Mitra is available at bookstores across India at Rs 1895. Buy the book online.

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