#AgeNoBar with Ratnakar Pilankar

I’m 63! And trust me I still dream - I am still dreaming of winning a Grammy someday!”

Coursing through the hardships of life, he found solace in art. Finding a balance between what paid the bills and his true passion was always a challenge. His wife was the harbinger of his passion and hence the garage was transformed into a recording studio. After several decades of hustling through the music industry, he is still pursuing the acoustics of his passion and relishing the dreams of a Grammy someday soon.

His Story:  I grew up in a chawl in Bombay. My 4 sisters, parents, and I lived in a 10X10 space, but every day was exciting. Both my father and uncle were in the creative field. My dad was involved in music and writing and he wrote Marathi plays that were performed for the working class. My uncle was a well-known mimic and did many shows. I grew up in the midst of all of this, and soaked it all in — it was a world I loved. I followed their footsteps and I was a total clown— I performed in plays at school and college, I did mimicry, and made songs without any instruments — all I used were empty boxes. Everyone always enjoyed my performances — I loved all the applause. I even started writing — from dramas to poetry, I wrote my own scripts when I performed. Over time, my friend and I started doing mimicry at numerous orchestras, calling ourselves “Brandy and Whisky.” I even wrote for newspapers and started participating in competitions. My interest in college had diminished — In my 20s, I got involved in an orchestra regularly where I would perform my mimicry. It was around this time that I fell in love with a girl who was a part of my regular audience. I wanted to marry her and for that, I knew I would have to make a more stable income so I tried to make money through writing and performing but it wasn’t nearly enough. I had this dream of making music or writing for films, and I persisted for a while, but again, I was left empty-handed. In those days the first thing parents would ask is, ‘what does he do?’ In order for a “yes” for marriage, I knew I needed to be more stable. My sister had a garage space near her house that I decided to occupy to start my business. So at 26, I started screen printing from that garage. But my heart was in the arts, so while my business was running, I continued to make friends in the music industry and I spent my spare time in recording studios. I was married to my love by then and we had a beautiful daughter. Even though my business was making me good money, my wife knew where my heart was, so with her encouragement, I turned the garage space into my very own recording studio and named it after our daughter. I got my first taste of success when I started putting together children’s plays. I put together 25 songs for the show, and it was a big hit.— the play was a mega success and I even got ‘my first newspaper article! It was after this that with the help of my friends in PR, I composed for my first Marathi film in 1990. My wife was employed by Air India by then, so I took the first flight of my life to watch the premiere! Throughout the 90s, I composed numerous films. Till date, I have created over 1000 songs. The funny thing is, I never actually learned an instrument, I just taught myself. And all of my writings? Well, they eventually turned into books— 15 of them have been published. Whether it was music, acting, or writing, I never had any formal training. I was just born with the sounds and words in my heart and a passion to share it with the world. Sometimes, that’s all it takes. Anything is possible. The thing is I have even had many failures. I once took my wife and two daughters to watch a film I had composed and there were only 15 people in the theater. By the end of it, 2 of them were sleeping, and one of my daughters asked, “dad, what are you doing? What a terrible film!” We still laugh about it today. I’ve always embraced my successes and my failures because through both circumstances, I had a blast. Honestly, that is life: passion and fun. And how lucky am I that my life literally turned out to be a musical? Years later, my passion is still as strong. My friends who took a more traditional route are all tired and retired now. I am the only one who’s still active and none of them can understand how. Next year I have 6 shows, the first of which premieres in January— and I’m 63! And trust me I still dream- I still dream of winning a grammy someday!”    

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