How Yash Chopra believed in the santoor legend Shivkumar Sharma, gave us Silsila, Lamhe, Chandni and Darr

The image of Shivkumar Sharma playing a santoor will be etched in our memories for time immemorial. The music icon, who died on Tuesday at the age of 84, left behind a work that will remain a benchmark in Indian classical music for generations. Sharma can be credited with popularizing santoor in India as his son Rahul Sharma continues to carry the legacy forward.

As India mourns the passing of the legend, a look back at Shivkumar Sharma‘s musical trajectory, which also responded to Bollywood.

Shivkumar Sharma was one half of the music composer duo Shiv-Hari along with classical flautist and another legend, Hariprasad Chaurasia. The music directors have given many memorable tunes to Hindi films, as well as some notable classical notes.

Santoor player Shivkumar Sharma and flautist Hari Prasad Chaurasia. (Photo: Express Archive)

Shivkumar began his film stint with the background music of Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baje (1956), directed by V. Shantaram. He then recorded his first solo album in 1960.

He had already talked about Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baje. “Vasant Desai (Music Director) didn’t understand the technical aspects of santoor and usually left my devices to me to explore and play however I wanted,” he previously told DNA.

The santoor legend added that V. Shantaram was immensely impressed with his work and finally offered him his next project as well – Toofan aur Diya. “I thanked him profusely and apologized saying that I wanted to complete my education as my father wanted and returned to Jammu,” he said.

Shivkumar’s first collaboration with Hariprasad Chaurasia was their concept album, Call of the Valley in 1967, with guitarist Brij Bhushan Kabra. Soon after, Shivkumar and Hariprasad teamed up as Shiv-Hari and composed the music for their first film, Silsila (1981). Director Yash Chopra starred Amitabh Bachchan, Rekha, Jaya Bachchan and Sanjeev Kumar. Shiv-Hari also had Amitabh sing two tracks from the hit movie – “Neela Aasman So Gaya” and “Rang Barse”. Shivkumar revealed that as an ode to Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baje, his “Jo Tum Todo” bhajan has been incorporated even in Silsila.

In her words, “We had no idea Silsila’s music would pick up like it did.” He told PTI: “I remember when Yash Chopra asked me and Pandit Hari Prasad Chaurasia to compose music for Silsila, everyone thought he was taking a big risk signing musicians. classics. There is a difference between classical music and film music. And it was a huge challenge to take on (film music).

For the next few years, Shiv-Hari’s Bollywood collaborations remained with Yash Chopra. These included Faasle (1985), Vijay (1988), Chandni (1989), Lamhe (1991), Parampara (1993) and Darr (1993). They also did music for Sahibaan (1993) with Rishi Kapoor, Sanjay Dutt and Madhuri Dixit.

Shivkumar Sharma and Hariprasad Chaurasia worked together for over a decade before going their separate ways. “Hariji and I were making movies as long as it didn’t interfere with our classical music. Later it became difficult because we were both on tour,” he told DNA.

He said in an interview with PTI: “The shelf life of music, songs is very short today. Old songs are still remembered and people still love them now. I doubt a recent song caught my attention.

Shivkumar also had to turn down Dil Toh Pagal Hai, although Yash Chopra sent him tickets to return from Jammu. But Shivkumar’s talent was not limited to his santoor. He once revealed that he was even offered a role in a movie. This was when he was recording for filmmaker Khwaja Ahmed Abbas. “He called me aside. I thought he wanted to tell me something specific but he offered me Saat Hindustani as an actor. ‘Dikhate-bolte bhi theek ho…kad-kaathi bhi sahi hai.’ (You look good, talk good. You even have a decent personality). I put my hands together and said I wanted to continue the music,” Shivkumar explained.

He stayed away from Bollywood after Darr in 1993. He thought a filmmaker’s tastes impacted the music, which was heavily influenced by “Western rhythms and had more noise than melody”.

“We are such great imitators even of mediocrity,” he believed. According to him, the current era lacked the “right kind of directors to work with”.

Shiv-Hari continued to do shows together even after giving up composing for movies.

Shivkumar Sharma and Hariprasad Chaurasia received Filmfare Best Music Director nominations for Silsila, Chandni, Lamhe and Darr. The santoor legend also received the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1986 and the Padma Vibhushan in 2001.


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