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Rocky for Real

What is the root cause of success? Is it birth at a particular time or place? Is it circumstances, family, or luck? What about one's own hard work?

There are a dozen success stories, but the one thing that connects them all, and is perhaps the most important factor? Perseverance. The strength of willpower to keep at something, to chase one's dreams is perhaps the most important quality that one could have.

Here's the story of a boy from the streets of Karnataka who would go on to rule Mumbai. And no, I am not talking about Rocky, the protagonist of the K.G.F films.

The KGF films are perhaps, an exaggerated version of the same- the story of a hero who wanted to conquer the world, who achieved his dreams because he believed in them and kept working towards them. The movies grabbed the headlines for a variety of other things: for hiring a 19 year old to do the film's editing, for its historic collection. One of the things that drew attention was the film's excellent, goosebump inducing background score, composed by a music director unknown outside the boundaries of Karnataka who had woven magic with his musical notes. His story is something that everyone must know, for it seems to bear similarities to Rocky's life, with bomb blasts, police, and most of all, lots and lost of hardships. Yet, he struck it out. For Yash may have played Rocky on screen, but this is the story of Rocky for real.

Born in 1984 in the historic port town of Basrur, Karnataka, Ravi Basrur was born into a humble family of sculptors. Named Kiran at birth, he was the fourth son, who just couldn't bring himself to study and pursue academics. Instead, his heart was drawn towards the rich folk tunes of his artisan village. He yearned to do something, become someone in the field of music. At the age of 14, he was forced to abandon his education and take up sculpting in the family workshop as poverty threatened to knock down their loving household. Try as he might, things did not click between him and sculpting and he found he could not progress beyond a certain point. He got struck in a rut. This is where most give up, and keep at a job they hate.

When he was 17 years old, he got the opportunity to venture out of his little village for the first time in his life, when his father sent him to Bangalore with some cash in hand to learn advanced sculpting in order to develop the family business. With just 200 in hand, he joined a sculpting workshop and began saving up, in bits and pieces. When he had in hand a sizeable amount to call his own, he bought his very first keyboard. Keyboard in hand, he began his relentless quest to get a job under a music director. Looking unkempt and shabby, without even a basic knowledge of English, his honest desire and yearning for music found no takers in metropolitan Bangalore as he was turned away repeatedly. Dejected and rejected, he took a friend's suggestion to move to Mumbai, the city of dreams.

With the whos and who of the movie industry frequenting pubs, he began looking for chances to play in pubs, hoping to get noticed by someone, anyone who could provide him with a break. He got his first break when the owner of a large pub, a fellow kannadiga, agreed to let him play at his pub. Jubilant at finally getting his first chance, he promptly left his day job at a sculpting workshop and began to go towards the pub, all his instruments in tow. That was when life decided to deal a near fatal blow. He received news that the pub in question had been raided and temporarily closed down. In a strange land surrounded by strange people who spoke an unknown language, Kiran did not understand why the bustling city was restless. Sitting on a railway station platform with all of his instruments in boxes, he was assaulted by policemen on suspicions of being a terrorist. Mumbai had just witnessed some of the worst bomb blasts ever, and a stranger sitting on a platform with large black boxes was sure to attract police action. Kiran could do nothing but watch and scream as the musical instruments he had so lovingly brought with the little money he had were broken beyond recognition. Now, he had no job, no music, and definitely no money. Back to square zero.

With no money to return to his village, he travelled from Mumbai to Bangalore in the train lavatory, holding the door shut with his hands lest the ticket inspector catch him. Lacking the heart to go back to his village, he asked his elder brother to pick him up from the previous station and take him home; a home that was in a worse condition than he had left it in. The household had sunk deep in debt, worsened by the loans he had taken in an ill fated attempt to make and sell redundant music cassettes, and loans taken to buy a computer to help in his music. In an ill conceived idea, he decided to sell one of his kidneys if it meant he could continue producing music. He contacted the agents who agreed to harvest one of his kidneys in return for money. Fearing that they might cheat him out of his life, he pulled out at the last minute.

Subjected to the worst possible judgement by his brothers and parents, he resumed work at the workshop. But in reality, he was dead inside. Torn away from the music he so loved, he could not be at peace, even if it meant relative financial stability. He decided to venture out again. Asking his family to consider him dead, he left his village again to seek his fortunes in the very place that had scorned him - Bangalore. Working odd jobs, unable to catch a break, devoid of money even for basic sustenance, he took to living in public toilets at 2-3 Rs a day. He truly had hit rock bottom. All his friends who had helped him his first time in Bangalore tired of him and turned him away. One of his oldest friends, however, took pity on him and took him to a face reader (a sort of astrologer) (for what joy? I do not know). The man in question took one look at Kiran's face and declared, "This man in front of me is at a low point in life because he needs money. But there will come a time when people will have to book an appointment to see him." Unlike many others, he put money where his mouth was, and promptly have Kiran Rs 35,000 in cash, telling him that he was not going to ask any questions about money, and that he was not really obligated to return it. Kiran was speechless and overcome with gratitude. Ravi was the name of that man who had given him money, and by doing that, had given him a shot at the future he so desperately craved. He changed his name to Ravi Basrur, Ravi for the man who had changed his life, Basrur for the village that had made him into the man he was now. There was no looking back.

With the money he had made, Ravi Basrur set up a small studio and began learning the ins and outs of the music industry. Getting a job at BigFm, he began to produce small, catchy jingles that caught everyone's attention. He got introduced to Prashant Neel, the director of KGF. Eventually he got the chance to work in his first ever feature film, Ugramm, which was an enormous success. His career grew leaps and bounds after that, when Prashant Neel, the director he had collaborated for Ugramm, approached him for a mega project that would take years to complete. Ravi put aside all other commitments and put his heart and soul into what would become the album of K.G.F, with some really good songs and some of the greatest background score ever. What Ravi (the astrologer) had predicted eventually did end up becoming true. Kiran from Basrur had blossomed into Ravi Basrur, one of the most sought after music directors in the country. He had a thousand chances and a million reasons to give up. Fate, circumstances, everything seemed to ask him to stick to where he was, to not try to change the status quo, to not chase his dreams. But he persevered, and chased his dreams across the stars, until he found a place among them.

"Don't be discouraged. It's often the last key in the bunch that opens the lock"

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