Saturday, 31 October 2015

Twin Strike Jolts Dhaka

Our CorrespondentDhaka : Faisal Arefin Dipon, owner of Jagriti Prokashoni, has been stabbed to death by unknown men at the Aziz Super Market in Dhaka on Saturday evening. Jagriti Prokashoni is known for publishing books written by blogger Avijit Roy who was brutally killed in the capital early this year. Witnesses disclosed that the assassins left the crime scene after locking the office door with the dead body of Dipon inside.

Faisal Arefin Dipon
Dipon’s father Abul Kashem Fazlul Haque told the media that the attack could be unleashed by forces which are opposing free speech in Bangladesh. 

Jagirti office was attacked only a few hours after attack at Shuddhwashwr’s office in Lalmatia, leaving three injured there. The injured in the Lalmatia attack are—publisher Ahmedur Rashid Tutul (43), Tarique Rahim (30) and Sudip Kumar Burman alias Ranadipam Basu (50). Condition of one of the three injured is serious.       

A Poll Minus Muslims in Myanmar !

Special CorrespondentNaypyidaw : Myanmar’s Leader of the Opposition and epitome of democracy Aung San Suu Kyi has finally succumbed before the anti-Muslim sentiments of the fanatic Buddhists of the country. Suu Kyi, Chairperson of National League for Democracy in Burma (NLDB), has failed to grant poll tickets to a single Muslim candidate ahead of the path-breaking general elections to be held in democratic manner on 8 November. 

One source close to Suu Kyi, on condition of anonymity, recently disclosed that the Chairperson has directed the party not to include name of a single Muslim candidate in its list of candidature to avoid rage of the ultra-Buddhists. It may be mentioned that the final candidature list of NLDB has names of total 1151 candidates and none of them is Muslim. 

Not only NLDB some other parties like Union Solidarity and Development Party,too, have decided to contest polls without projecting any Muslim candidate. Experts fear that such exclusion would only complicate the issue of Buddhist violence over Muslims in Myanmar, no matter whether democracy revives in the country or not. 

Sino-Bengal Wrestling to Capture Diwali Sky

Special CorrespondentKolkata: The fireworks manufacturers of West Bengal have concentrated more on producing hot air balloons or Fanush, considering its high demand ahead of diwali this year. Being inspired by the Babu culture of the 19th century Bengal the makers went back to the days of balloons to challenge the Chinese fireworks spread all over the market in Kolkata and suburb. 

After restriction over use of various traditional sound-making fireworks the city has grabbed the opportunity of illuminating the skyline with ignited balloons. Manufacturers said that the demand for such balloons began to show its impact on the market from last year’s diwali and they have geared up themselves pretty early this year, anticipating similar demand. Besides the local manufacturers firms from Tamil Nadu have been so far dominating the balloon market in Kolkata and its neighbourhood. But recently online balloon sellers from China have been giving them a tough time ahead. Though price of Chinese balloons are on the higher side but Kolkata’s young and busy generation is preferring those instead of shopping in  local firework markets. The online buyers said, the Chinese balloons are better in terms of quality than the local ones. Those are cost effective too if compared with other traditional fireworks produced by local manufacturers here, they added.

Unlike the local firework markets like Nilgunj and Nungi etc around Kolkata the Chinese balloons are made of better quality paper. Such a high quality production is impossible for local manufacturers.

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Puja Begins Dramatically for Vidyasagar Students

Sourav Saha Kolkata: When the whole city is busy preparing for the Durga puja a handful of students of the Vidyasagar College of Kolkata have began their puja festivities on a different note on 15 October afternoon. They staged a drama, ‘Golper Seshangsho Theke' (from the last part of the story), on the day to welcome the new students of the institution. Short plays have become an integral feature of the College’s programme schedule thanks to some of the teachers who inspired and encouraged the students of this institution to continue their dramatic heritage.

Mithun and Anjura as Sunil and Rupa 
The plot of the play, written and directed by Piyal Bhattacharya, a faculty of this century-old institution, has moved around the emotions of life. It’s a combination of three inter-linked stories of Tithi (Shini Mitra), Anindya (Prabhas Mondal), Barnali (Saheli Ghosh), Rupa (Anjura Khatun), Papri alias Bhutu (Sayani Roychowdhury) and Sunil (Mithun Gupta) and Anindya’s elder brother and brother’s wife (Subhadip Saha and Kalpana Das respectively) etc. Protagonists brilliantly turned into story-tellers in the play on several occasions. The transformation was smooth and complemented the sub-plots of the drama appropriately. The play has narrated the eternal crisis of love and life and the thirst for reaching a meaningful destination with or without the loved ones. 

The intricate story-line has been properly portrayed by the director and backed well by the actors on stage. In fact, acting of students, many of whom were perhaps appearing on the stage for the first time in their life, was quite impressive and surprisingly has a professional touch. It was not at all amateurish. Shini Mitra has given a blazing performance as Tithi. Others were also good.

Use of poems by Rabindranath Tagore, Jibanananda Das, Shakti Chattopadhyay, Gulzar, Joy Goswami, Mallika Sengupta and Srijato has lifted the quality of narration to a different level all together.

Once no Bengali festival was considered complete without plays. Nowadays staging drama has become somewhat limited to group theatre only. At this hour of decaying culture enthusiasm for stage shown by these students of the Vidyasagar College is extremely encouraging. The city’s culture needs more such enthusiast youth to step ahead for a start afresh. 

The writer is an actor. Comments personal


Friday, 16 October 2015

Indranath Mazumdar: Life of a Seeker

Indranath Mazumdar is an unforgettable character of the literary world of Bengal. Aitrayee Sarkar goes deep into his passion for books with 'Ghatigaram'   

The Shakespearean method in madness was easily applicable for Indranath Mazumdar, the man who created history with his passion for books. His childhood name was ‘Mridul’ which he himself changed to Indranath, a bohemian fictional character created by Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay. 

Indranath Mazumdar and book store ‘Subarnarekha’ in Shantiniketan were almost synonymous. However, there was no connection between Ritwik Ghatak’s eternal creation Subarnarekha and the name of the book shop. In Indranath’s own words, the name was inspired by the river Subarnarekha itself. 

Indranath in search of words
Indrantha’s childhood addiction for old books later turned into passion. He was one of the most celebrated antique book collectors of Kolkata. Saptarshi Prakashan has recently published a book on this loving guide of ‘boipara’. His book ‘Ghatigaram’ is a collection of articles written by Indranath on various subjects. It also contains a long interview of the ‘book worm’ with Soumen Paul and a series of articles written on Indranath Mazumdar.
Indranath Mazumdar came across several maestros of Bengali literature like Satyajit Ray, Kamal Kumar Majumdar, Shakti Chattopadhyay and Sunil Gangopadhyay etc. He spent days with them and exchanged the art of life.

In the interview Indranath Mazumdar recalled his formative years in ‘boipara’ and the history behind setting up of Subarnarekha. He was clinical in terms of approach towards books. Indranath openly admitted that without financial viability sustaining with passion only was next to impossible. Thanks to 'Khalasitola' (a popular place for country liquor) of Kolkata Indranath got the idea of making a book on cricket records of a century from the legendary Moti Nandi. That was perhaps the first book published by Indranath’s own publication Subarnarekha. The rest is history. The amount of rare books recovered and re-published by Subarnarekha is enormous.

Indranath, in the articles, had actually narrated his passion for books. He shared his extraordinary experiences while travelling in search of rare books. Some articles also contain suggestions on library handling and importance of keeping the traditional small local libraries alive in West Bengal. 

As a reader I still feel that Indranath Mazumder’s contribution to the book world is yet to be recognised. Saptarshi Prakashan’s effort to bring that man into light once again three years after his death is appreciable.

‘Ghatigaram’ also throws light at the expression of love and respect for Indranath Mazumdar through recollections by Aniruddha Lahiri, Jahar Sarkar and Gautam Bhadra.

It's a salute to every book lover. It's a passion that unfolds many unknown facts about the world of Bengali literature. Indranath's death can not be the end of the legacy of passion that he has left behind. 'Ghatigaram' is a living example of that. 

Indranath Mazumdar
Saptarshi Prakashan

The writer is an editor of WebPressClub

"Karubasona is My Artistic Reincarnation": Arpita

Arpita Ghosh is one of the prominent theatre personalities of modern Bengali stage. She talks about her journey in the thespian world with Aitrayee Sarkar.

On beginning of the beginning

Arpita: It’s very hard for me to describe what actually brought me here. I was born in a small semi village-town away from Kolkata. It’s better to say that I was a simple rural girl. As a child I never watched theatre. But I was very fond of jatra. During durga puja every year I used to accompany my father to overnight jatra shows. I guess I was somewhat addicted to it. I still remember watching a jatras like, Pherari Fauj, by Utpal Dutta there. 

Another addiction was broadcast drama. I was so attached to it that even the day before my board examination none could stop me to listen to the radio. Listening to broadcast drama every weekend was a real fun to me.

Arpita with a never give up smile 

On interest about stage/plays 

Arpita: I never thought that I would be a theatre person. Initially, I was sportsman. I had played almost all the available games, except a few rare ones like golf, lawn tennis etc. However, cricket was my first preference.
Then I came to Kolkata and took admission in the Scottish Church College. There I got the chance to watch the first stage theatre of my life—Nathabati Anathbat. I was in class 12 then. I was mesmerized and watched it over and over again. Later, I had to leave Kolkata for job and returned around 1990-91. That was the time when I became a regular theatre audience. Around 1998 one of my friends approached me for acting in a theatre group, called Fourth Wall. I readily accepted the proposal. Fourth Wall was a small group and we all were friends there. Many of the Fourth Wall members later became very famous. I did a full-length and a short play there.

On joining Panchamvaidic 

Arpita: I joined the Panchamvaidic (Veda) Charyasharm in 2000. I was supposed to return to Fourth Wall after completing a one-year course there. But by then Fourth Wall was at the verge of fall as the members had not much time to devote for the group. So, I decided to stay back in Panchamvaidic. Nothing was planned. My entrance to the world of theatre seemed destined.

On journey with Shaoli Mitra 

Arpita: Shaolidi taught me every aspect of theatre, beginning from script editing to scene composition. She introduced me to the roots of theatre and shaped up my perspective towards stage. We, the students of Panchamvaidic (Veda) Charyasharm, were highly inspired by her. Suddenly, I realized that I have found the work that I wanted to do throughout my life. And it was theatre. 

Shaoli Mitra in
Nathabati Anathbat

On directorial debut

Arpita: I did my first venture with children in 2003. I requested Shaolidi to read the script beforehand and went about it only after she told me “go ahead”. I worked with kids in three consecutive plays. Then I approached ‘Poshu Khamar’. After translating George Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’ in Bengali I showed it to Shaolidi and requested her to direct it. But she told me that I should direct it instead of her as the project was my brain child.
I still remember that Shaolidi used to come to rehearsals whenever I requested her. She gave some valuable inputs. In fact, a large portion of Poshu Khamar’s music was conceptualized by didi. She was extremely humble and cooperating in her approach. It took me four months to prepare the production.

On directing actor Shaoli Mitra

Arpita: That was a thrilling experience. I requested didi to do a very small role in Poshu Khamar and she agreed. It was a real honour for me. I was one of the very few fortunate individuals who got the chance to direct their guru.
Now, I can realize that Shaolidi had gradually made me grow up as a director and actor. She was leaving the thread very slowly and thus, transforming me in to an independent personality on the stage.

On experience of doing Tagore plays 

Arpita: When I first showed a small draft of Ghare Baire to Shaolidi she advised me to read the novel once again. I just followed her direction. After a few days I approached her with two more scenes and she rejected those once again. I started it all over again and Shaolidi looked quite happy with the third draft. I wrote nine scenes quickly and sought her suggestion. I got a positive reaction from her finally. She loved it. In fact, Ghare Baire was the production where didi started to leave her own position for me. She in her own dignified way left her chair for the next generation. It’s a very rare sight. 

Ghare Baire 
On transition from political plays to Tagore

Arpita: To me both Ghare Baire and Achalayatan are political play. Personally, I love to do political drama. My earlier projects like Narokiyo, Poshu Khamar and Tokolosh all had direct political elements. Then I did Aparajita in 2009 as a warm up session for Ghare Baire. To me Ghare Baire was a political text too. Unlike Satyajit Ray I put politics in the first layer and love in second in it. I tried something different in Ebong Debjani but realized that the Mahabharata was not my cup of tea.
I did Achalayantan, a highly political play, in 2012. Or better to say, I interpreted it politically. Then came to the most political work of my life Astamita Modhanyo. All the productions, including the Tagore’s, I did so far have direct political dialectics. But my actual turnaround is Karubasona. 

On selecting Karubasona 

Arpita: Karubasona has actually brought me to the world of artists and their inner-pain. The plan of doing Karubasona is not new to me. I was contemplating that for some time now. In fact, I had no option left but doing it as the artist within me wanted to do that badly. You can call it a way of self-expression. Karubasona has actually reincarnated the artist within me. 

On incorporating Joy Goswami as a character in Karubasona

Arpita: Joyda was always there in my mind since the very beginning. Karubasona speaks out a poet’s thoughts. So, he was an automatic choice. I used excerpts of three poets in it—Jibonananda Das, Shakti Chattopadhyay and Joy Goswami. Here, chronological selection is also important because I strongly believe that Joyda carries the legacy left by Jibonananda and Shakti. In fact, I could have requested Shakti Chattopadhyay to be a part of the play also if he is alive. It’s a pure poetic rendition. 

In fact, I didn’t care whether the play would work commercially. Many discouraged me to do Karubasona but told them that I need to do this for myself.

On combination with Joy Goswami and Debesh Chattopadhyay

Arpita: Debesh and my combination has worked once again. We worked together in Hai Badan earlier. We always complemented each other. Not only me and him every person involved with Karubasona has done a wonderful job.  

Joyday is a keen learner. He always inquired about every small detail. When his turn was over he used to observe activities of others and learn constantly from that.

On managing time for theatre

Arpita: Theatre is first priority. I can’t live without it. Whatever I do wherever I go theatre never leaves me. Everything comes after that. 

On future projects

Arpita: I would like to do something on Van Gogh, Paul Gauguin or Michelangelo. I can also go for a Nandolal Bose. I mean I don’t know. Actually, Karubasona has opened a new horizon before me and now I am eager to explore that.

The interviewer is an editor of WebPressClub

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Anandabazar, The Unseen Shantiniketan

Soham Mitra Shantiniketan: Anandabazar is one of the lesser known traditional fairs in Shantiniketan. It reflects the heritage of this beautiful place and inspirations of Tagore. It also promotes indigenous art and culture. This year too the Anadabazar fair started with the sound of ‘Dhak’ at the Gour Prangon of Visva Bharati University campus on the day of Mahalaya (12 October).  

Students had set up temporary stalls at the fair site with iron frames, bamboo and wood etc. They decorated their stalls with colourful clothes and crafts. By the afternoon, the stalls were ready with attractive names and amateur sellers. The gross profit earned in the fair is donated to help the nearby tribal communities and for betterment of child education. 

Preparations of the fair at Gour Prangon 

Students from Patha Bhavana, Siksha Satra and other departments of the University took part in the fair. They sold a variety of items like paintings, self-driven journals and newspapers, local foods, clay crafts, bamboo, wooden and paper crafts, masks, and many more. The catchy and creative names of the stalls were the other magnets. ‘Khaaibar Paas, ‘Bonoful’, ‘Agomoni’, ‘Aahare Baahare’ were some of those.  ‘Kobikon’ (poet’s corner) was another place of attraction where people ordered a poem on their desired topic and got it delivered within half an hour. The trade cry of the young vendors made the ‘mela’ alive. In every ‘galli’, you’ll be chased by them. To secure the highest sell, a pretty interesting cold war always goes on among vendors and that results in variation of price. ‘Patha Bhavana Sammilani’ and ‘Siksha Satra Sammilani’ were the tycoons of this year’s fair.

Subir, a sixth grade student of Siksha Satra, shared his experience with us- “I like to participate in Anandabazar every year. From the morning, we had enjoyed a lot and now I’m selling ‘fuchka’ like uncles do everyday”. 

More than just a fair, Anandabazar is an opportunity to smell the life from its grassroots. Students prepare themselves throughout the year for this particular fair which gives them a chance to contribute to lives of their co-citizens. 

The writer is a freelance contributor. Comments personal
Image courtesy: writer 

The Bose Mystery: A 'Planned' Declassification!

Aitrayee SarkarKolkata: People are always eager to know the truth behind the classified files on Subhas Chandra Bose available with the New Delhi government for decades. The wait is over with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s announcement that all those files would be declassified and the process would commence on next 23 January, birthday of Netaji. The announcement has already drawn a lot of attention. Some quarters are sceptic about it while many are in a ‘let’s see’ mode.

Netaji addressing Azad Hind Fauj
There is no doubt about the fact that the declassification efforts have been triggered with West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s decision of making the classified files on Netaji held by the state, accessible to all last month. She has been praised for taking such a bold step while some described it as a major political move ahead of the legislative assembly elections in West Bengal in 2016.  Banerjee has actually thrown a challenge to the Modi government by taking the first step.

Many may argue that the files declassified by West Bengal contain no significant information about Bose’s fate after the Taihoku plane crash. But those documents have at least proved that Bose’s family members were under Intelligence Bureau’s scanner till the mid-50s. And that itself is enough to raise eyebrows. 

The Bose family has welcomed Modi’s announcement as they did for Banerjee too. This is the only way that can help them to overcome the shock and trauma they have been carrying for generations now. 

Netaji's family members presenting a portrait of the leader to Modi

But the timing of Modi’s announcement is extremely critical. Political analysts say, declassification of Bose files would be the perfect move for the Modi government to shift the country’s focus from the current allegations of intolerance to something more thrilling. They doubt whether at all the declassified files would ever be able to solve the mystery of Bose’s life.

The central government’s decision is a well thought political strategy which would pressurise National Congress as well as can ripe good fruits for the Bharatiya Janata Party in the upcoming elections in West Bengal. It would also make Narendra Modi immortal in the history of India as ‘the Prime Minister’ for taking such a brave step. In future he might be termed the most courageous Prime Minister of the country after its Independence. Modi, who projects himself as a strong, determined and fearless personality, would get another chance to uplift his global image with that. Those who are now questioning his sensitiveness after the somewhat ‘political reaction’ to Dadri incident would be no longer in a position to raise their voice. Some quarters have termed Modi’s idea of disclosing the decision of declassification in an exclusive interview with a leading Bengali daily as a master stroke which would make him popular among the Bengalis, a community which perhaps is most critical on him.

A survey carried out by WPC in Kolkata after Modi's announcement revealed that people here are curious about those files but doubtful too. They, however, do not want to get over critical before seeing what actually there in those files. Welcoming the announcement 54% of the Kolkata people are still in a wait and watch mood while 34% are sceptic about the outcome of declassification. A mere five per cent are unmoved with it and seven per cent felt that the reality would not change a lot with the said declassification.  

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Indo-German Trade Volume €16bn Now

Special CorrespondentKolkata: “Trade volume between India and Germany has doubled in the last 10 years and the overall exchange of goods and services between the two countries is valued at around €16 billion in 2014-15,” said Olaf Iversen, consul general of Germany, on the sidelines of an event in the city today. India’s export to Germany amounts to less than one percent of the latter’s total external trade, which shows that there is good potential for mutual cooperation between the two, he said.

Iversen (left) in the city today
Iversen invited Indian cooperation in areas like information and communication technology, manufacturing, energy, climate changes, vocational trainings, and similar sectors. 

“An effort needs to be made to bring the advantages that West Bengal and the other Indian states offer to the attention of German investors,” said Nari Kalwani, chairman, eastern region council, Indo-German Chamber of Commerce. 

Around 1600 German companies are present in India, with investments in sectors like automobiles, mechanical and engineering industries, services, chemicals and trading. These companies provide jobs to about 4,00,000 people. Over 40,000 jobs are expected to be added by German companies in the next three years. 

Iversen said: “Around 150 German companies are present in eastern India, and most of them are in West Bengal. About 20 companies are headquartered in Kolkata.” Germany, he said, can help India with post-harvest management technologies. 

West Bengal ranks sixth in German investments in India.

Guns of Kolkata

Visiting the curio-like shop of the oldest gun manufacturers of Kolkata is an experience forever. Aitrayee Sarkar shares her emotional journey from a glorious past to a mortifying reality 

It all began when Narasingha Chandra Dawn, one of the ancestors of the Dawn family of Uttar (north) Kolkata, took up the challenge to spread the family business of spices along the Hooghly River, giving a real tough time to his English and Portuguese rivals. It is said, that Narasingha Dawn showed interest in trading sulfur and gun-powder, too, for indigenous-gun users of that time to protect his own business as well as theirs. Using his goodwill and rapport with the then British government, Narasingha managed to secure a license for trading raw-materials for guns. This is the story behind establishment of the N C Dawn & Company in Kolkata. Later, Narasingha’s younger son Asutosh Dawn set up the A T Dawn & Company—the gun-makers and dealers from Kolkata. Dawns are the oldest gun dealers of the city and they are into this trade for more than 130 years.

An antique British rifle
Anup Kumar Dawn, a successor of Asutosh Dawn, is one of the few people who are still trying to keep the business of A T Dawn & Company alive. He knows that the trade has lost its glory as well as viability. But he still holds onto it and the legacy of his ancestors. He and his brothers are always at the shop of A T Dawn & Company in Dharmatala (present Lenin Sarani) to welcome buyers and ready to spend hours talking to the visitors with a hot cup of tea. But unfortunately, visitors often enter the museum-like shop out of curiosity only, none comes to purchase guns anymore. Every year, a number of foreigners come and visit the shop and Anup Kumar Dawn is happy to help them and proudly exhibits the shop’s valuable possessions like rare German and British pistols and rifles and stick gun etc.

Narasingha Chandra Dawn

Once Dawns had managed to spread their Kolkata-based business in Rani gunge, Ranchi, Asansol and to the entire North-East frontier of India and even in Chittagong and Rangpur (currently in Bangladesh) etc. During the British period the gun-dealers and manufacturers of the then Calcutta were patronized by not only the English-men but also the deshi Maharajas and Zamindars who needed guns and bullets for their own protection and power show. The business was doing well even after the Independence but experts say, the downfall started in West Bengal when the Naxalite movement begun in the 70s. Civilian arms licensing system became stricter and thus, marked the death of the trade. But the situation is not that bad in other parts of the country, especially in Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan or Jharkhand as the large land- holders of those areas still patronise civilian arms manufacturing. 

There was a time when one could easily purchase guns from one state of the country, using license issued from another. But that is almost impossible now. The families which still own civilian arms are more interested in handing over custody of those weapons to professional gun manufacturers and sellers who are capable of maintenance of those. But most of these families often come but never pay the maintenance –fee. Hence, maintenance of such a wide range of stock has become impossible, says Anup Dawn.

But people like Anup Dawn are determined not to put the shutters down. He proudly remembers famous visitors like Satyajit Ray, Bibhutibhushan Bandhopadhyay, Tarasankar Bandhopadhyay who once came here and fell in love with the shop forever. He says, “Bengalis are emotional people, you can say that we are the custodian of that emotion”. He, however, is clueless about whether our own legacy has burdened us! 

The writer is an editor of WebPressClub

Monday, 12 October 2015

Pre-Puja Adda in Indian Museum

Our CorrespondentKolkata: Adda is an inseparable part of Bengali life. No Bengali festival can complete without a long and intense chatting with the dear ones. Keeping that in mind the Indian Museum, Kolkata, is going to hold a unique pre-puja adda session with music at its Central Courtyard on 13 October after noon.

The programme is called Pujor Adda Jadughore (puja adda in museum). 

It will feature a discussion programme with dignitaries like Dr. Gautam Sengupta Indrajit Chowdhury, Kalika Prasad Bhattacharya and Gautam Basumullick. The programme will be anchored by Gauri Basu. It will be followed by a musical performance by folk group Dohar. Beside that an idol-making workshop will be also organised there, Students, at the workshop, would recreate an ancient sculpture, Mahishasuramardini. 

This Mahalaya City Gets New Publishing House

Special CorrespondentKolkata: A Theatre for Struggle Adventure and Success (SAS) has been a popular name in the world of Bengali theatre magazine. Since, the eighties they have been publishing a yearly issue of the magazine on every Mahalaya. This time the trend has changed a bit with SAS magazine introducing itself as SAS Publishers at Rotary Sadan, Kolkata, this evening (12 October). 

SAS Publishers is coming up with a series of collection of rare and innovative books. On the inaugural day they will publish—Antorale Shishirkumar O Onanyo by Tarakumar Mukhopadhyay (Ed: Prabhat Kumar Das),

Shishir Kumar Bhaduri 
Twelve Tuntuni Tales and a Bonus Too (a collection of English translation of stories from Upendrakishore Ray Chowdhury’s Tunnunir Boi) and Sahitikya; collection of selected essays (1937-2015). 

Renowned scholars and literary personalities like Shankha Ghosh, Pabitra Sarkar and Somendranath Bandhopadhyay are expected to attend the inaugural ceremony. Satya Bhaduri, editor of the magazine as well as one of the prominent faces of SAS Publishers, is expecting a good turnout and is also hopeful to get a good response from readers.   

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Exploring Mohor with Bithika Mukhopadhyay

WPC makes a humble tribute to legendary singer Kanika Bandhopadhyay's 91st birth anniversary. We recall the life and works of this great persona.

Bithika Mukhopadhyay, the younger sister of Kanika Bandhopadhyay, goes down memory lane to revive the most unknown facts about our loving Mohor. The editor of Mohor, so far the most authentic publication on life of this legend, Sumita Samanta helps Mukhopadhyay on her way. Some excerpts from the interview.

Sumita: On memories of Gurupally

Bithika: My father was one first 40 men who came to Shantiniketan to join Gurudev in his great idea of building an institute here. Baba came to Shantiniketan in 1922. My elder sister Kanika was born in Sonamukhi, Bankura, in 1924. In those days there were series of straw houses in Gurupally. Greats like Nandalal Bose and Haricharan Bandyopadhyay used to reside there. Incidentally, baba was given a big house in Gurupally and he brought his wife along with his three daughters—Kanika, Rekha and Sabita there. Later, we were born in Gurupally

Sumita: On your first memory of Kanika Bandhopadhyay

Bithika: When didi got married I was just three and a half year old. Surprisingly, I can remember those moments. I think that is my first memory of her. I remained with her since
the last days of her life. She and her husband Biren Bandyopadhyay were the guardians of the family. We used to look up to them for everything.

Didi and Birenda used to live in Cheena Bhavana. All the rest of our brothers and sisters used to visit them regularly. In those days, Gurupally was surrounded with open green fields. I can still remember didi coming down to our house crossing those vast open fields.

Sumita: On Mohordi’s attachment with family

Bithika: Didi was extremely sensitive about the family and never ignored it for anything. She actually discharged the duty of our elder brother. She guided us all.

You can say that her life was dedicated to two things—music and family. Not only for our generation, she had also done a lot for the family’s future generation. She loved all of us and did everything she could.

Another thing is that she inspired all of us to sing. Her voice was so divine that we could not even realized that when we all started loving music automatically by hearing her soulful renditions.

Sumita: On Tagore's impact in Kanika’s life

Bithika: Didi came in touch with Gurudev when she was merely eight or nine years old. Tagore liked her voice very much. Didi used to get invitation for singing with much older people all the time. She joined the Sangeet Bhavana after passing the school leaving examination only.

Sumita: On Kanika’s interaction with other artists

Bithika: In early days people like Suchitradi (Mitra) and Dwijenda (Mukhopadhyay) etc often visited didi. They all requested my mother to prepare good cuisine. Those were wonderful days.

Young Bithika (right) with Kanika Bandhopadhyay

Birenda was a writer and his fellow writers and friends also came to meet didi. She had great rapport with writers like Santosh Kumar Ghosh and Gour Kishore Ghosh etc. It was like a long extended family.

Didi not only had a close relation with Rabindra Sangeet singers. She was in touch with artists like Sandhya Mukhopadhyay, Shyamal Mitra, Gayatri Basu, Alpana Bnadopadhyay too.

Sumita: On Salil Chowdhury composing a song for Kanika Bandhopadhyay specially

Bithika: I went to Bombay with didi to visit Salil Chowdhury. Antara (Chowdhury) was just a kid then. We went to Salilda’s house there. The two had great relation. Salilda had composed "Prantorer Gaan Amar" for didi but unfortunately the idea did not materialise.

Sumita: On lighter moments from Kanika’s life.

Bithika: Let me share a hilarious incident with you. During a Poush Mela session one day Debabrata Biswas, our loving Georgeda, came to didi’s Nichu Bangla residence. He came and announced “Mohor ailam” (Mohor I am here). Didi’s house was filled with a number of guests and there was no place for anymore. When Georgeda came didi told him that. But Georgeda was in mood to leave. He just sat beneath a big tree in front of the house and declared that “Ami ekhan theke norum na” (I’ll not move from here). After a few hours didi discovered Georgeda still sitting there. She came out and asked him to come inside. Georgeda was very happy and said “Ami jantam ami jantam” (I knew it). Today, we cannot imagine such simplicity from any artists.

Another incident I must narrate. One day, some robbers were caught from didi's house. When she came to know about that she not only freed them but also offered them juice! Didi was extraordinarily kind hearted.

Sumita: On your visit to Europe with Kanika Bandhopadhyay

Bithika: I accompanied her to Europe in 1976. We went to Switzerland, Sweden, Germany and Copenhagen. We did a number of programmes there. During a concert there didi sang “Tobu Mone Rekho”. Though most of the listeners did not know Bengali but I saw many of them breaking into tears after hearing this particular song. Didi was crying too.

Thanks to didi people started recognizing me as a singer too. People liked my “Amar Mallika Bone” so much that they started calling me Mallika.

Bithika and Kanika at their Shantiniketan residence

Sumita: On Mohordi doing reaz (practicing)

Bithika: No she didn’t do that regularly. In fact, she has written somewhere that the best way of practicing for her was teaching music. She was completely engrossed in music. She used to live and breathe music.

Sumita: On Kanika’s role in setting up the Elmhirst Institute for social welfare.

Bithika: Didi used to go to various remote villages and teach tribal girls there. When my husband, Naba Kumar Mukhopadhyay, came up with the idea of setting up the Elmhirst Institute she and Birenda joined us immediately. In fact, didi was the founder Chairperson of the Institute. The foundation stone of it was laid by the great Ravi Shankarji. By then didi had already stopped appearing in public functions but teaching was on. Actually, didi knew where and when to stop.

Didi was deeply attached to social welfare and donated her house for the Institute. She used to stand beside every distressed woman and I even saw her counselling them.

Sumita: On Kanika Bandhopadhyay and Agantuk

Bithika: Santhal girls used to come to learn music from didi regularly. One day she got a letter from Satyajit Ray, requesting her to arrange a scene of Santhali dance for Agantuk. Later, the whole cast and crew visited didi’s place and the scene of Mamata Shankar dancing with Santhali girls was rehearsed in a field in front of didi’s residence. Didi went all the way to Goalpara to watch the shooting despite a weak health.

Sumita: On the legacy of Kanika’s singing

Bithika: Didi had learnt music from both Sailajada (Sailajaranjan Majumdar) and Shantida (Shantidev Ghosh). She, however, preferred Sailajada’s style as a singer. She had a soft voice and sensitive style of throw. Fortunately, her style of music has been later recognised as the traditional gayeki of Shantiniketan. Bannya (Rezwana Choudhury Bannya) and Banani Ghosh are carrying her legacy forward.

The other trend is also popular.

Sumita: On Kanika-Suchitra rivalry

Bithika: I never saw anything like that in my life. They were good friends but completely different personalities. They used to chat for hours whenever they met. I don’t know why people make up such stories. There was no clash between the two.  

More on the video below 

Acknowledgements: Goutam Ghose, Priyam Mukherjee, Mohor by Sumita Samanta