Ustad Vilayat Khan was like a designer: Shantanu Moitra

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Ustad Vilayat Khan was like a designer: Shantanu Moitra

Kolkata:Sitar maestro Ustad Vilayat Khan was like a designer who tweaked things to suit his taste and boldly refused national level awards, says music director Shantanu Moitra.

“This book is really depressing for musicians like me. We realise we are completely spineless as we do any sort of work that is offered to us,” Moitra said during a discussion on Namita Devidayal’s book “The Sixth String of Vilayat Khan” at the Tata Steel Literary Meet 2019.

The National award-winning music composer of “PK” fame wondered how the legend refused Padma Shri, Padma Bhushan for he thought “who are they to judge him?”.

“For me Ustadji was a designer. He was designing the instrument to suit his thought,” Moitra said.

“At a very young age, I could understand that the person who is playing the instrument is a rockstar. He was somebody who didn’t care about form, size and riyaaz. Finally, I got to know about the enigma.”

As Khan loved singing, if he wanted to use a certain “gayaki” (rendition) on the sitar but he couldn’t due to the make of the instrument, he had the guts to change and tweak it, he said.

The Ustad’s son Hidayat Husain Khan said he wanted someone to write not about his father but the person ‘Vilayat Khan’.

Devidayal who was known to him had dealt with all aspects of his life by researching for about four years.

“Music is another language. I think this book is already a book in translation as I am translating music to an alien language to make it accessible to the world that may not understand that language,” the author said.

Speaking about her inspiration, Devidayal revealed how she was completely smitten after she got to know details about the Ustad.

Apart from being a singer, Vilayat Khan was a fabulous ballroom dancer, he stitched his own clothes and could take out the parts from the engine of a Mercedes Benz and fix it back together and so on.

Asked about his take on the book, Hidayat Husain Khan said: “Lot of great maestros of Indian classical music and their world make them holier than thou, almost like they are not human beings. My father always said that one should not forget that I am just a human being.”

He further said how his father was a very real person, would joke and talk with them and his “belief was that music is inspired by life”.

“So if you are not real with your life your music would not reflect that.”

Devidayal, who has listened to many of Vilayat Khan’s interviews where he would indirectly refer to certain musicians who didn’t deserve accolades, said the Ustad would ask concert organisers in the US about how much they paid Pandit Ravi Shankar and ask for $10 more.

“I think he did care about the fact that Pandit Ravi Shankar was world famous and had an incredible reach,” she said.

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