English translation of a Marathi feature by Chandu Kale
13 March 1986. I remember the day very well indeed.
At about 8.30 in the evening. My wife and I were on our scooter, returning home via the Fergusson College Road. We saw Prasad Sanwatsarkar and Pradeep Pathak near Vaishali Restaurant, so we stopped. They asked me whether I knew Shankar ji personally. I said “Eh? How would I know such great people?” They were saying, Shankar ji is in Pune, so could we meet him?
I remembered that I had the opportunity to talk to another God of mine, composer C. Ramchandra alias Annasaheb, just on the footpath opposite Vaishali. Ten years ago. I had spoken to him, got his signature. He had asked me to come to his place, so we could talk. But I had not dared to go to the great man’s place. Never repeat that mistake again!
I told them I will have a quick dinner and we would meet at that very spot in an hour.
We three Musketeers set out on our campaign. These detectives had found out the information where Shankar ji’s house was in Model Colony. We reached the action spot.
His driver was sitting there at the gate. He informed us that Shankar ji had gone out for dinner with a friend. Would be back … some time. No idea when.
We asked him whether Shankar ji would talk to us. He said that would depend on his mood. Big help!
We said OK, we will wait, for however long it takes. Hopefully we would get to talk to him. If Shankar ji were to be in foul mood, he could drive us away, but at least we will have met our God.
Around 10.30 p.m., a white Mercedes Benz car appeared and Shankar ji alighted from it. I summoned up my courage and said “Namaskar, Sir. We are your fans. We started to learn to play accordion inspired by your songs. We were hoping to talk to you.”
Shankar ji shook hands with us, said “It is nice to hear that you are interested in music.”
We were still hesitating. We thought we should now make ourselves scarce before being shooed off. So I said “We are happy we could see you in person and even talk to you. We will go now.”
Shankar ji says “Oh, no, no. Where are you going? Come in, we will have a chat.”
I said “Sir, it is late, it’s almost 11 p.m. We would not like to detain you.” He replied “Arre that’s no problem. You fans give us so much love. We must reciprocate.”
We all went inside. Chatted for a good two hours. Prasad took photos. I asked him many questions that were bothering me. “Is Sun Saiba Sun your tune? You have nt used the accordion in a long time. How do you think up such varied and innovative music pieces? Who decides the instrumentation? Who thinks up the counter melody? You or Sebastian? Do you specify the table theka and other rhythms yourselves or leave that to Dattaram? Other so-called composers use your tunes, your orchestration style left right and centre. Can’t you file a suit on them?”
Shankar ji just laughed and said “Oh forget it. Who is going to run after these idiots? And if they steal our tunes, it just proves they idiocy. And ultimately, people know whose tune it is. It only amplifies our name.”
When we looked at our watch, it was 12.30. Past midnight!! We said let’s go. It’s nice that he gave us our time without hesitation, but we shouldn’t impose ourselves on him too much.
Shankar ji came to the door to see us off. He let us take selfies with him, turn by turn. He gave us his phone number in Mumbai. Said we could come to meet him any time.
That ‘any time’ came up soon. Tabassum had interviewed Shankar ji on TV for “Phool khile hain gulshan gulshan”. Next day, I rang up Shankar ji. He asked me if I had videotaped it. I said of course. He requested me to give him a copy of the interview. That was cue enough. We three Musketters along with a fourth one, Bhalchandra Wani, set off for Mumbai that week-end, met him at CCI, Churchgate. He spoke to us freely, hummed to us a couple of pieces he had just thought up. He took us out to Hotel Samrat for lunch. Chinese. Favourite of his. Chatted a lot again.
Satisfied, we returned to Pune.
I visited SJ music rooms at Famous Studio at Tardeo 4-5 times after that. He had also come to Pune once and took me wherever he was going. I was with him for two days.
26 April 1987. Prasad called up. Have I heard the news? Shankar ji is no more.
I was stunned. We felt as if we had lost our elder brother.
Since then, our Mayoorpankh Group meets every year on this date. We play songs, discuss them, tell each other stories we might have heard recently. No other composer is allowed to be discussed on that day.
This bond will not break.