KOLKATA: If there may be sooner or later when All India Radio beats all tv channels hole, it’s on Mahalaya. Waking up on the daybreak to take heed to the sonorous chants of late Birendra Krishna Bhadra has nearly turn into a ritual for a era of Bengalis. Channels tirelessly proceed to rope in varied stars to current a new-improved model of the Mahisasura Mardini. But on Mahalaya, majority of Bengalis nonetheless choose to mud their transistor units and take heed to the chants that stand as a harbinger of the Durga Puja season.
What’s it that makes this radio programme on an operatic scale so particular? Is it nostalgia that refuses to lose its attraction regardless of folks having heard it so many instances over? Or is it authenticity sans any filmi connection? Or is it merely a love for clichés?
Akashvani has modified its signature tune. The once-popular programmes on radio have been nearly elbowed out of circulation. But, the timeless enchantment of Mahisasura Mardini stays. Based on Tarun Kumar Das, assistant station director of AIR, over an off-the-cuff adda in 1932, Nripen Mazumdar, Raichand Boral, Pankaj Mullick and different stalwarts mentioned how it will be good to host a programme that might hold folks awake all night time. “The programme was known as Basentesori Champu and it was held in March. This programme was redeveloped and the primary ‘Mahisasura Bodh’ bought broadcast in 1936. Again then, it was held on shoshti,” Das says.
Violinist Durbadal Chatterjee has vivid reminiscences of taking part in for the unique programme. His father used to accompany Bhadra when the programme was aired reside from the AIR’s 1 Garstin Place workplace. Musicologist Anindya Banerjee remembers watching a documentary made by DD7 Kolkata on this programme that was held at Garstin Place. “On the primary day, it was transmitted at 6 within the morning. The script was penned by Banikumar – who was the grandfather of Chandril Bhattacharya. The music was scored by Pankaj Mullick,” Banerjee says.
Other than the narration, Birendra Krishna Bhadra additionally sang the songs. The Chandipath was executed by Banikumar himself. “On October 21, 1937, the primary Mahisasura Mardini was broadcast on Mahalaya. Our data state that Birendra Krishna Bhadra had executed the Chandipath that yr,” Das says. Banerjee recounts listening to an interview of Juthika Roy within the Doordarshan documentary. “When the date of airing was shifted to Mahalaya, the timing was modified to four am. She recalled how incense sticks can be lit earlier than the programme started. The male musicians would put on dhoti-punjabi product of gorod. The feminine artistes can be wearing red-bordered garod sari. As soon as the programme was over, preparations have been made for a luxurious meal too.”
Indologist Nrishingha Prasad Bhaduri has been listening to the radio rendition nearly ever since its inception. “Nothing matches as much as this rendition. Those that carried out really internalised the entire course of,” Bhaduri says. Chatterjee too has heard such tales from his father. The artistes would attain the place the night time earlier than the programme. “Early morning, Biren-da would take a dip within the Ganga. Then, they’d mild dhup-dhuno and air the reside programme. Baba has performed in these programmes,” he recounts.
Recordings of the reside programmes began being aired from 1963 onwards. Maybe, it was the concern of pure calamity that prompted organisers to switch the idea of airing programmes reside with recordings. Throughout that point, Chatterjee himself began taking part in for the recording. By then, the system of going reside had been changed by recordings. “We used to have three-month-long rehearsals earlier than the ultimate programme. I used to work at AIR and through these three months, I didn’t need to play for another programme. Together with 25-26 musicians, we’d apply the items diligently,” the violinist says.
On the times of the rehearsals, Bhadra wouldn’t be current. “He additionally would work at AIR and was the producer of the drama part. Pankaj Mullick would conduct our rehearsals. There was no scope for us to provide the rehearsals a miss. So many artistes, together with Shyamal Mitra, Arati Mukherjee, Shipra Bose, Manabendra Mukhopadhyay used to sing for the programme. It might take eight to 9 days for us to finish the recording,” Chatterjee goes on.
Singer Ashima Mukherjee remembers recording for this programme between 65 and 67. “We might rehearse from 7 pm to 10 pm. Pankaj-da and Bani-da can be there. Pankaj-da would take care to rehearse with every of us individually. Neglect us juniors, even seniors needed to rehearse in order that they have been on the fitting pitch,” she remembers. Throughout recording, they’d all go to the No. 5 studio. “There was just one microphone. Every of us would await our turns. When Pankaj-da began singing ‘Pleasure pleasure pleasure’, it will be mesmerising,” she says.
As soon as Emergency was introduced, the scenario began altering. “Throughout these days, I had joined the radio as producer. We might obtain orders saying to make adjustments. As soon as there was an order to drop Pankaj Mullick’s songs. Then got here the order to rewrite the script. Dr Dyanesh Narayan Chakraborty rewrote it. However one way or the other, I had a fear that it wouldn’t work,” Mukherjee admits.
But, work continued. Hemanta Mukherjee was roped in to attain the music in 1976. “We go all of the stalwarts together with Sandhya-di, Manna Dey and Manabendra-da to sing. Then, I requested Hemanta-da to method Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhonsle to take part. That too was executed. Lastly, we considered asking Uttam babu to relate. Initially, he wasn’t prepared. It took plenty of convincing by each Hemanta-da and me to lastly get him to relate. This was the one time when Uttam babu had come to the radio station to document one thing. I nonetheless do not forget that he was given a paltry cheque of Rs 150 to document this,” she remembers.
The programme was known as “Debin Durgati Harinim”.
However the makes an attempt fell flat on the face. Although he himself performed throughout that recording, Chatterjee wouldn’t even reveal that reality to folks round for the concern about being criticised as effectively. “Uttam Kumar was slightly apprehensive through the recording. I keep in mind him asking Ashima Mukherjee ‘mar khaabona toh’ (‘hope I gained’t be thrashed’) earlier than starting his recording. The response wasn’t beneficial in any respect,” Chatterjee says.
Mukherjee feels the explanation for the failure was primarily the size. “Stalwarts like Basanta Chaudhuri, Chhanda Sen and Partho Ghose have been additionally a part of the programme. Govinda Gopal Mukherjee had learn part of the script in Sanskrit. So had Hemanta-da. We later edited the three-hour-long programme to 1 hour. It was once aired on Shosthi,” she claims.
However what was Bhadra’s response to Uttam Kumar? Chatterjee smiles to say, he does. By 12.30 that day, Bhadra had come to workplace. “Folks requested him if he had listened to the rendition. He mentioned he hadn’t. However that was the primary time he had realised that so many individuals knew about him and cherished him too. ‘Every single day after I got here to workplace from Dharmatala, no person recognised me. Right this moment was the primary time after I needed to give a clarification to so many individuals about why I by no means did the narration. I understood that I had gathered some quantity of fame!’” Chatterjee remembers.
On Soshti that yr, Birendra Krishna Bhadra’s programme was once more aired on the radio. It’s troublesome to determine when the system of recording reside programme was fully stalled. “Lots of the artistes expired. That was a setback. I keep in mind recordist Sudhir Mukherjee modifying the sooner recordings earlier than their broadcast. Every year, the songs of the artistes have been shuffled. However the one fixed factor was Biren-da’s narration. If one yr it was Sandhya Mukherjee’s tune, the subsequent yr it will be Arati Mukherjee,” he says. This development of shuffling the songs continues even right now.
When Doordarshan joined the fray, Bhaduri was requested to show narrator for one of many periods. “However I advised them that until I bought the identical surroundings that Birendra Krishna Bhadra used to get, there was no method this new programme would come near what he did. His visualisation was completely different,” Bhaduri says.
Later, Pt Tejendra Narayan Majumdar too was requested to attain the music for 2 Doordarshan programmes. “However I knew I wouldn’t be capable to match as much as it. The second we added the visible references, it restricted the way in which the listeners reacted to the chants. After we listened to Birendra Krishna Bhadra’s rendition, it allowed us the liberty to think about. However tv programmes all the time restrict the viewers’s freedom by getting stars to enact the scenes,” Majumdar says.
With time and straightforward availability of the narration on apps, listening to Mahisasura Mardini is only a click on of a mouse away. It’s typically performed on Cds and even at loudspeakers put in at crossroads. Nevertheless, the classic attraction of waking up on the daybreak and tuning into the chants on a radio is an unearthly expertise. “I like listening to it solely on Mahalaya – neither earlier than nor after that. I suppose, it’s due to the deep emotional and mythological join with the occasion.”
Kids may not all the time perceive this sentiment. Even some, like Chatterjee, have misplaced the desire to attach with the final over the radio. “I don’t have a radio at house. However every year, my well-wishers and college students document it and play it for me in a while. The unhappy half is that now they don’t even announce your entire listing of the musicians who’ve performed there. Throughout earlier days, announcers Dilip Ghosh would make it a degree to say all our names on the finish of the recording,” Chatterjee rues, with an ‘abhimaan’ laced voice.
Even when he doesn’t take heed to the radio, there might be others who will. If not something, not less than for outdated time’s sake. In spite of everything at a time when music movies are wanted to advertise even piece of music, it’s nonetheless a marvel that an audio programme stands the take a look at of time independently and beats each different visible makes an attempt palms down.

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