Yesteryear legend Ravi’s music allowed the listeners to soak in the lyrics and the mood of the song through the singer’s voice.

If a survey is conducted about the ratio of popular songs to total number of songs created by a composer of the Hindi film industry, probably late music director Ravi would win the top slot by a huge margin. While most agree Ravi has the maximum percentage of hit films to his credit, it’s accepted that his songs have always been at the forefront of people’s choice. Sure popularity isn’t a barometer of quality but in Ravi’s case, says master composer Khayyam, “it’s a significant pointer that the majority of his songs have ‘saadgi’ (simplicity), ‘kashish’ (magnetic appeal) and melody to instinctively draw everyone’s attention”.

Khayyam’s analysis is apt since the ability to snuggle into listeners’ heart and make them sing is what makes Ravi a universal favourite. Critics may not laud Ravi’s achievements in euphoric phrases but masses have constantly favoured his unfussy tunes as they are easy to roll on lips. Unlike composers who subjugate lyrics and vocals with contrived lattices of synthetic sounds, Ravi’s tunes come forth in minimal patterns that allow lyrics to bloom in the lap of singers’ voice, enhancing listeners’ pleasure!

Prominent music director Jeet Ganguli compliments Ravi’s “creative compositions as they provide unalloyed joy to ears.” Emphasising how instruments like flute, sarod, santoor, shehnai, mandolin and harmonium dominated his songs, Gannguli states, “His musical synchronisation allowed poetry and mood to be soaked through a singer’s expression, without compromising the needs of a film.” He cites Shakeel Badayuni’s “Chaudhvin ka Chand”, an eternal ode to feminine beauty in Mohammed Rafi’s dulcet notes, as the perfect example of Ravi’s prowess to create, enchant and overwhelm. Amazingly, in a televised interview, Ravi had declared composing the immortal melody in ten minutes!

Scores of Ravi’s compositions are distinguished as the well known “Sau Baar Janam Lenge” (“Ustaadon Ke Ustaad”), “Aage Bhi Jaane Na Tu” (“Waqt”), “Jaane Bahaar Husn Tera Bemisaal Hai” (“Pyaar Kiya to Darna Kya”), “Tumhi Mere Mandir” (“Khandaan”), “Chhoo Lene Do Nazuk Hothon Ko” (“Kaajal”), “Ae Mere Dil-e-Naadaan” (“Tower House”), “Ye Waadiyaan, Ye Fizaayein” (“Aaj aur Kal”), “Ae Meri Zohra Zabeen” (“Waqt”), “Tujhko Pukaare Mera Pyaar” (“Neel Kamal”), “or “Rang Aur Noor Ki Baraat” (“Ghazal”). Ravi may be held guilty of not experimenting enough but never for lacking in grace whereby even his not-so-popular songs are better than the best creations of many others. Savour “Koi Mujhse Poochhe” (“Ye Raaste Hain Pyar Ke”), “Wo Dil Kahaan Se Laaon” (Bharosa), “Baazi Kisi Ne Pyaar Ki” (“Nazrana”), “Kiske Liye Ruka Hai” (“Ek Saal”), “Ye Haseen Raat” (“Girls’ Hostel) or “Sab Kuchh Luta Ke Hosh Mein” (“Ek Saal”) and you’ll realise why connoisseurs are haunted by these tender songs.

Popularity is considered low brow but music director Jatin Pandit feels critics don’t realise “Ravi was a magnificent composer who allowed complete freedom to lyricists by creating music to poetry.” If Indian marriages aren’t complete without “Aaj Mere Yaar Ki Shaadi Hai” or “Babul ki Duaaen”, Ravi’s tributes to birthdays, ‘Raakhee’, ‘Karva-chauth, ‘chanda mama’ and ‘dadi amma’ still remain a rage like his songs picturised on beggars! And except Nayyar, none has captured the beauty and pace of ‘horse hoof-beat’ songs better than Ravi “who endeared himself to producers by delivering quality on time at an economical price”. So burdened was Ravi with work in the mid-’70s that he voluntarily took a decade long sabbatical to give rest to his limbs. And though Ravi confessed “feeling crippled without Rafi”, he did come back to score exemplary music for several Hindi and Malayalam films, many of which won him national honours, but retired gracefully on account of old age.

Ravi Shankar Sharma may have failed to be a playback singer but made it big because he had his ears to the ground and worked diligently to earn people’s affection. His talent was also responsible for shaping singing styles of Asha Bhosle and Mahendra Kapoor, giving both some exemplary songs to exhibit their range. Apart from N. Dutta, perhaps none explored Kapoor’s low octaves better, though Kapoor lost his soothing timbre after he started “yelling” patriotic numbers much against Ravi’s advice. Music lovers have to be grateful to the great Hemant Kumar for advising his assistant to venture forth alone, after Ravi’s mammoth contribution to musical successes like “Nagin”, or else, we’d have been deprived of a melodious song maker. If Ravi landed three films on the first day after leaving Hemantda, the prophetic advice also turned out to be a “blessing in disguise” for music lovers across the world. After all, who could have envisaged that an electrician earning two rupees from New Delhi would have an electrifying effect for decades on the lives of millions through his musical baton?