Collector finds rare Ravi Shankar memorabilia in scrap shop

Published: Sep 24, 2019, 14:09 IST | PTI

A delighted S M M Ausaja said the unknowing scrap dealer in Mahim gave him a suitcase and told him that it belonged to a musician

In this undated photo, is seen a rare photograph of sitarist Ravi Sankar, found at a scrap shop in Mumbai by film archivist SMM Ausaja. All photos/PTI
In this undated photo, is seen a rare photograph of sitarist Ravi Sankar, found at a scrap shop in Mumbai by film archivist SMM Ausaja. All photos/PTI

A film archivist hoping to find movie posters at a scrap shop stumbled on a treasure trove of rare photographs of legendary sitarist Ravi Shankar as well as his musical notes and illustrations. A delighted S M M Ausaja said the unknowing scrap dealer in Mahim gave him a suitcase and told him that it belonged to a musician.

Ausaja took it home and was gobsmacked to find that it contained rare documents of the late musician, credited with taking the sounds of the sitar to music aficionados across the world."When I opened the suitcase and started going through the documents, I realised how big a part it was of our cultural heritage. If this can happen to a Bharat Ratna, just imagine what will happen to others when they are gone. It is really sad. I thought it was my duty towards my nature to at least ensure that this gets restored," Ausaja told PTI in an interview." The guy who gave me the suitcase did not know about Ravi Shankar. He said this is about some musician. But I was startled to see the material."

Collector finds rare Ravi Shankar memorabilia in scrap shopIn this undated photo, is seen rare memorabilia of sitarist Ravi Sankar, found at a scrap shop in Mumbai by film archivist SMM Ausaja

Ausaja has authored two books on cinema, "Bollywood in Posters" and "Bollywood: The Films! The Songs! The Stars!", and has a massive collection of rare Bollywood film posters. He has been following this passion for 30 years.

Asked how much he had to pay, Ausaja said, "That's immaterial. I could afford this so I picked it up but what is important is what is inside and what has been saved. You cannot quantify that.
"This contains his personal notes on some of the greatest performances he had given, musical notes written in his own handwriting and illustrations done by his son Shubho, who was an illustrator. He had also made a sketch of his father."

Collector finds rare Ravi Shankar memorabilia in scrap shopIn this undated photo, is seen rare memorabilia of sitarist Ravi Sankar, found at a scrap shop in Mumbai by film archivist SMM Ausaja

The first step, Ausaja said, was restoring all the material in his possession as it is not in a good condition. "There are pages which are torn, photographs that need to restored and artworks in need of repair. After restoration, the second step is documentation. The material is so frail and delicate."

Ravi Shankar, one of India's best known musicians, died in 2012 at the age of 92. Rare documents found in junkyards and in scrap shops is not surprising, said Ausaja. "That's how some of the rarest of film posters were found. I remember I once found a folded poster of Basu Chatterjee's film 'Manzil', starring Amitabh Bachchan. It is the rarest poster in my archive," he said.

The archivist said the condition of restoration is really poor in India and the government is doing next to nothing. "Eighty per cent of silent films are lost. Why would this happen if the government was so keen on restoration? Why was the National Film Archives founded in 1960s when cinema in India started in 1913. Who is responsible for the films that are lost? We cannot depend on the government for this.

Collector finds rare Ravi Shankar memorabilia in scrap shop

In this undated photo, is seen rare memorabilia of sitarist Ravi Sankar, found at a scrap shop in Mumbai by film archivist SMM Ausaja

"Individually also, these things cannot be sustained because restoration work is very expensive. Restoring a single poster costs about Rs 7,000-8,000. Corporates and NGOs should come forward. Collectors like me are doing their own bit in a small way to preserve as much as they can, but we are in a very slim minority," he added.

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