16/08/2016 3:05 PM IST | Updated 19/08/2016 2:28 PM IST

Stunning Photos Offer An Intimate Glimpse Into The Lives Of India's Classical Music Legends

Striking the right notes.

Viren Desai

For classical music aficionado Viren Desai, just listening to maestros didn't whet his interest in the genre. "For years, I would hear these masters at concerts, baithaks and festivals... The more I listened to them, the more my curiosity to know the person behind the music grew," he says. "Their persona on stage, the adulation they received from their listeners completely overshadowed the real person, the one I wanted to get close to," says Desai.

The Mumbai-based photographer set out on a mission to capture the lives they lead away from the arc lights. Fortunately, not only did he get the opportunity to meet them, he also got to personally interact with 22 of them.

He first approached Ustad Zia Mohinuddin Dagar and Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia who agreed to let Desai capture them off stage. Thus began the start to a 25-year-old journey that culminated in a 288-page book comprising 150 colour photos and 130 black and white photos.

In 'The Grand Maestros Of Indian Classical Music' (as the book is called), Desai has also included anecdotes culled from the lives of the artists.

"Ustad Bismillah Khan reminiscing about the unforgettable taste of his mother's gobi ka sabzi (cauliflower curry)... Ustad Amjad Ali Khan worrying about his wife getting upset when I moved his living room furniture to set up a shot...this journey has enriched my life," says the photographer.

After investing a quarter of a century, Desai decided to appeal to music lovers in India to help him publish his book. With the help of crowdfunding site, he was able to raise Rs 11 lakh to publish and print the coffee table book (one can still pre-order the book on the site mentioned above). Here are some beautiful black and white photos that Desai shared with HuffPost India from his book:

  • Pandit Bhimsen Joshi
    Pandit Bhimsen Joshi
    Viren Desai

    Pandit Bhimsen Joshi with his beloved Mercedes Benz. He was a great lover of cars, and loved to take long drives.

  • Vidushi MS Subbulakshmi
    Vidushi MS Subbulakshmi
    Viren Desai

    A portrait of Vidushi MS Subbulakshmi - she always made a striking statement with her beautiful nose rings and bindi. 

  • Vidwan Dr M Balamuralikrishna
    Vidwan Dr M Balamuralikrishna
    Viren Desai

    Vidwan Dr M Balamuralikrishna looking on indulgently as his grandson explored the Mridangam.

  • Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia
    Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia
    Viren Desai
    Shot while Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia was in a teaching session with his disciples. 
  • Pandit Ravi Shankar
    Pandit Ravi Shankar
    Viren Desai

    Pandit Ravi Shankar caught sharing a light moment with his wife Shrimati Sukanyaji. 

  • Vidushi N Rajam
    Vidushi N Rajam
    Viren Desai

    Vidushi N Rajam conducting a teaching session with her disciples at The Banaras Hindu University.

  • Ustad Zakir Hussain
    Ustad Zakir Hussain
    Viren Desai

    Ustad Zakir Hussain with his father Ustad Alla Rakha, reciting a taal.

  • Pandit Jasraj
    Pandit Jasraj

    Panjit Jasraj performing at a concert at the Indian Music Group baithak at The St.Xaviers College in Mumbai.

  • Vidwan TK Murthy
    Vidwan TK Murthy
    Viren Desai

    Vidwan TK Murthy enjoys a walk on a beach in Chennai with his grandchildren.

  • Pandit Ram Nayaran
    Pandit Ram Nayaran

    Pandit Ram Nayaran sharing a playful musical moment with his granddaughter.

  • Pandit Shivkumar Sharma
    Pandit Shivkumar Sharma
    Viren Desai
    Pandit Shivkumar Sharma explaining the nuances of Taan to a group of his disciples including his senior disciple Shri Satish Vyas.
  • Vidushi Girija Devi
    Vidushi Girija Devi
    Viren Desai
    A portrait of Vidhusi Girija Devi as she looks at her many awards and citations in her house in Banaras.
  • Ustad Abdul Halim Jaffer Khan
    Ustad Abdul Halim Jaffer Khan
    Viren Desai
    Ustad Abdul Halim Jaffer Khan captured while doing 'riyaaz' at his house in Bandra, Mumbai.
  • Ustad Alla Rakha
    Ustad Alla Rakha
    Viren Desai
    Ustad Alla Rakha at his home in Mumbai, with portraits of his gurus – Ustad Kader Bux & Ustad Ashiq Ali Khan.
  • Ustad Amjad Ali Khan
    Ustad Amjad Ali Khan
    Viren Desai

    Ustad Amjad Ali Khan with school children in New Delhi, explaining the nuances of Indian Classical Music.

  • Pandit CR Vyas
    Pandit CR Vyas
    Viren Desai

     Pandit CR Vyas in the Green Room of Rang Bhavan, Mumbai.

  • Ustad Bismillah Khan
    Ustad Bismillah Khan
    Viren Desai
    Ustad Bismillah Khan offers namaz at his residence in Benaras.
  • Ustad Fariduddin Dagar
    Ustad Fariduddin Dagar
    Viren Desai
    Ustad Fariduddin Dagar singing a Raga in Dhrupad shaili in Palaspe, near Panvel, Maharashtra.
  • Ustad Zia Mohiuddin Dagar
    Ustad Zia Mohiuddin Dagar
    Viren Desai
    A portrait of Ustad Zia Mohiuddin Dagar.
  • Vidushi Shobha Gurtu
    Vidushi Shobha Gurtu
    Viren Desai
    Vidushi Shobha Gurtu demonstrates the nuances of Thumri singing to her disciples at her house in Worli, Mumbai.
  • Vidwan L Shankar
    Vidwan L Shankar
    Viren Desai
    A portrait of Vidwan L Shankar.
  • Vidwan TH Vinayakram
    Vidwan TH Vinayakram
    Viren Desai

    Vidwan TH Vinayakram accompanied by portraits of his parents Shri Kalaimaamani T. R. Harihara Sharma and Shrimati Neelambal.

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