Rajagopala Kulashekhara, was a film-score composer and a conductor for Tamil and Malayalam films. Sometimes referred to R.K. Shekhar or Sekhar, is the father of the iconic music director A. R. Rahman. Shekhar worked mainly for Malayalam movies. As a composer Shekhar composed music for 52 films and was the music conductor for more than 100 films. As music director Shekhar's debut song was "Chotta Muthal Chudala Vare" for the film "Pazhassi Raja" which became a super hit in Kerala when released.
R. K. Shekhar was an immensely talented music composer and he also got recognition in Hindi film industry.
He assisted Salil Chowdhry for the music composition of Malayali film "Chemmeen" which went on to become a National Award Winner. He worked as an assistant to almost all the leading music directors like Devarajan, Dakshinamurthy, Baburaj, M. K. Arjunan and so on. Legendary music director SD Burman also invited Shekhar to assist him in his work.
R. K. Shekhar was born on June 21, 1933, to a Sengunthar family in Tiruvallur. His father Rajagopala Bhagavathar was a harikatha exponent. From his childhood Shekhar showed interest in music and particularly in harmonium. He learned the grammar of music by and large on his own. He garnered the framework of Carnatic music from Dakshinamurty and had started serving as his assistant music director. Such was his dedication to music that Shekhar did not hesitate to introduce and experiment synthesizers like Univox and Claviolin in South Indian music. Shekhar also introduced young talents into film industry. He introduced S. P. Balasubramanium and Balamurali Krishna to Malyalam film songs in the film "Yogamullaval".
Shekhar married Kasthuri (Kareema Begum post her conversion to Islam) and the couple were blessed with four children A. R. Rahman, A. R. Reihana, Fathima Rafiq and Ishrath Qadri.
R. K. Shekhar's interest in harmonium paved way for his introduction into film music as he showed extra ordinary talent on the instrument. Shekhar started his music career as an assistant to music director M. B. Sreenivasan, followed by music association with famous Malayalam Music directors M.K. Arjunan and V. Dakshinamoorthy. During the course of music composition Shekhar got fascinated by the tunes created by the legends. He would himself work hard and single handedly to create the BGM of the songs tuned by these music directors in order to match the purity and standard, thereby, making the song evergreen. Shekhar's association with these legends of music continued till the end.
Shekhar’s start as an independent music composer was with the film "Pazhassi Raja" and the song of the movie "Chotta muthal chudala vare" became a hit. Following his later work in "Aisha" he arranged and conducted for other composers as well. In 1971, he composed music for the film "Anaathashilpangal". In 1972, he composed music for "Taxi Car" directed by P. Venu. This was followed by the music composition of about 20 films.
Ill Health and Death:
R. K. Shekhar composed tunes for his last film "Chottanikkara Amma" when he was on bed for treatment. However, he died leaving the project incomplete. Continuous hard work and exertion made Shekhar's health condition worse and he died on September 30, 1976 at the age of 43. A. R. Rahman was just 9 years old when his father expired. M. K. Arjunan, a music composer, was his friend in the industry. Shekhar assisted Arjunan in all his films till his death. Arjunan later completed the project "Chottanikkara Amma" by arranging and recording the songs that Shekhar composed.
R.K. Shekhar and A.R. Rahman
A.R. Rahman was just 9 years old when his father expired and with his father gone, Rahman had to shoulder the responsibility of his family. In a statement Rahman recollects how his father was a workaholic. He said, "The memories of my father remain my inspiration. I have seen famous film music personalities and film director of those years waiting for my father in the verandah of our house. Father used to work for eight or nine films at a time. I think he died of excessive exertion... Beneficiaries have recounted to me how my father helped them, how he created opportunities for them. I was very moved by all that...."
In another statement he recalled,"My mother has told me a lot about my father. Hearing them gave me great pleasure. Father was greatly regarded as one well-versed in Music. I listen to his old songs even now. I believe that by God's grace I have inherited a small part of his great genius in music."
R.K. Shekhar’s death was an emotional setback for the family. And since he was the only bread-winner, the family went through a lot of difficult times. But his wife insisted Rahman on pursuing music. Rahman then rented his father's musical equipments and earned some money. As a child, he wasn't sure about his career goal, but he was always fascinated by electronic gadgets, especially musical equipment and that’s how his journey of becoming a music composer began.
Children: A. R. Rahman, A. R. Reihana, Ishrath Qadri, Fathima Shekhar
Daughter in Law: Saira Banu
Grandchildren: G. V. Prakash Kumar, Khatija Rahman, Ameen Rahman, Rahima Rahman
(FAN OF Mr. RAJAGOPALA KULASHEKHARA)
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