A Life in Pictures

Aloke Mitra's coffee table book, Ravi: The Colours of the Sun (Alchemy publishers, Rs 1,895), represents various moments of Ravi Shankar's life since 1962, making it one more among many efforts in chronicling the maestro's life.

Kolkata-based photo-journalist Mitra shows

readers images of the musician during his days in Varanasi, London and Kolkata, through various sections in the book titled 'The Homecoming', 'Candid Ravi' and 'Film and Music', among others.

In Varanasi, he's seen outdoors, praying and buying paan, and within the confines of his house, playing his sitar before his prayer table or playing cards with his long-time companion, Kamala. In other sections, he is seen on stage, collaborating with fellow Indian classical musicians or, in more intimate settings, with his disciples, such as George Harrison, or his guru, Ustad Ali Akbar Khan.

In the preface to the book, Mitra narrates how he had been interested in photography from a relatively young age and after covering various subjects as a photo-journalist, he grew interested in putting together a book of pictures. His subject came quite easily to him. "Trafalgar Square, 1977," he writes. "I got my answer. I had known him before as well, but now he looked ethereal in a completely different ambience Pandit Ravi Shankar."

Perhaps, unlike many other efforts at documenting his life, Mitra's book, by self-admission, does not aim to be a biography. It merely represents the various facets of the maestro's life, from him on stage, to the far more intimate, quiet meals at home. While the book does begin with some rather uncommon images, it gradually progresses to photographs from the public aspects of his life, such as felicitations, that are likely to have been seen before. For a man as talked about as Ravi Shankar, this perhaps takes away from the novelty of a book that otherwise is a well-researched effort.

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