Blind Indian composer also a prolific singer

NEW YORK • Ravindra Jain, who overcame lifelong blindness to achieve renown in his native India and beyond as a singer and composer, scoring more than 200 Bollywood films, died on Friday in Mumbai. He was 71.

His death, at a hospital, was caused by multiple organ failure, said his wife Divya.

Stout of build with flowing black hair and often wearing wraparound sunglasses, Jain was one of India's most celebrated musicians. Besides composing for film, he was a music director and baritone recording artist who found wide audiences performing in concerts and on television shows.

He also composed for television, including for Ramanand Sagar's sprawling 1980s series, Ramayana, based on the Hindu epic poem.

"He will be remembered for his versatile music and fighting spirit," India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a statement.

Jain found fame after meeting southern Indian singing star K.J. Yesudas. Together, they produced a string of hits in the 1970s and 1980s.

Jain was born on Feb 28, 1944, in Aligarh, in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh. He was the third among seven brothers and a sister. His father was a Sanskrit authority, or pundit; his mother was a housewife.

He turned to music at a young age and started singing devotional songs at temples. "I was not unaware of my talent," he told an interviewer. "I was determined to overcome my handicap and scale heights of success in music."

He was fond of reciting a poem with the lines, "Work in such a way with closed eyes that it can open the eyes of those who can see".

He built a reputation as a composer, singer and songwriter by the time he landed in Mumbai in the early 1970s and started scoring music for Bollywood. He also wrote songs and lyrics and sang in many of the films he scored.

Much of his music was in the classical Indian mode. "Pure, classical music is the closest thing to God," he once said.

Besides his prolific output, he was known for an almost single-minded devotion to his craft. In 1973, he was at a recording studio when he received word that his father had died, but he refused to leave until his work was done.

"Music is everything for me," he said in an interview. "It is the very way of life for me."

His major films include the box- office hits Chor Machaye Shor (Cry Of A Thief), a 1974 action- musical-romance; Fakira, a 1976 action thriller; and Ankhiyon Ke Jharokhon Se (From The Windows Of Eyes), a 1978 romantic musical based on Erich Segal's best-selling novel Love Story.

He also produced religious albums in different Indian dialects, including Bengali and Malayalam, which continue to be played in temples across the country.

In 1985, he received the Filmfare Award, India's equivalent to the Oscar, as best music director, for Raj Kapoor's Ram Teri Ganga Maili.

Besides his wife, he is survived by his son, Ayushman. NEW YORK TIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 12, 2015, with the headline 'Blind Indian composer also a prolific singer'. Print Edition | Subscribe