Thursday, November 29, 2007

Suchitra Sen- one of the greatest actresses on Tollywood and Bollywood

Suchitra Sen- One of the greatest actresses of Bollywood and Tollywood.

Suchitra Sen can be considered as one of the most glamourous actresses ever to appear in Indian Celluloid. Rama Sen, born on 6th April, 1931, better known as Suchitra Sen, can be considered as the greatest actresses who had remained sublime in her immortal performances. She started her career in the Bengali film Saat Number Qoidi, meaning Prisoner No. 7 in early 50s. She stormed into the Bengali silverscreen by forming successful combination with Uttam Kumar in the film Sare Chuattor, 1953. Her combination with Sandhya Mukherjee and Geeta Dutt, had provided a golden age glorified with melodious romantic songs.

In the mean time, her poetic eyes persuaded Bimal Roy to cast her opposite Tragedy King Dilip Kumar, in the film Devdas in 1955. She brought out both the affection and submissiveness possessed by Bengali housewives in the 30s and 40s in the role of Parbati and done justice to Sarat Chandra Chatterjee’s epic novel Devdas, which is even remade today, with Aiswariya Rai acting in the role of Suchitra Sen. She got offer to act in hindi films like Champakali opposite Bharat Bhushan, Musafir opposite Dilip Kumar and Bombai Ka Babu opposite Dev Anand.

While performing in a number of successful hindi films, she dominated the Bengali silver screen by providing golden jubilees one after the other, in Pathe Holo Deri, Chawa Pawa, Indrani, etc. In Harano Sur (Missing tune), in 1957, she acted in the role of a doctor who treated the patient Uttam Kumar, who lost his memory and could not even recognise her as her wife. She worked in the house of Uttam Kumar as governess of his brother’s daughter and struggled to bring back his memory by singing the missing tune. Suchitra Sen blended her romantic appeal, with the softness and humbleness possessed by women at that period of time and won all the sympathy of the audience with her everlasting performance.

In Deep Jele Jai, 1959, Suchitra Sen played the role of a nurse who acted as the girlfriend of people suffering from psychological shock due to unsuccessful affair. Day after day, she had to do the acting and a time came when she became a patient herself. Her outburst at the end of the film saying “I never acted, I never knew how to act” created unrest in the cinema halls. Wahida Rehman, took up the challenge in the hindi film Khamoshi, 1969, but she too, being a classic actress, could not bring out the feeling of the frustrated nurse, the way Suchitra Sen had done. In Saptapadi, 1961, her performance, in the role of Rina Brown, an anglo-Indian who gets involved in an affair with Bengali Brahmin played by Uttam Kumar, and sacrificed her love on the request of his father (played by Chabi Biswas). Unfortunately, Uttam Kumar, embraced Christianity and devoted his life as a doctor who treated patients suffering the after mirth of Second World War. Ajoy Kar’s cine-classic was glorified by powerful dialogue delivery and unmatched performance of Suchitra Sen.

Her performance in Saat Pake Badha, 1963, where she played the role of an affluent Bengali who married a middle class academician, commanded respect, sympathy and tears in the eyes of compassionate film-lovers. The over interference of her mother in the household affairs of her family, irritated her husband, and her effort to show adjustment and sacrifice went in vain as the bond ended with her husband leaving the city. She received the best actress award in the Moscow Film Festival in that year, for showing the depth of understanding the complex character depicted by the novelist. Jaya Bacchan was inspired by her performance when she acted in hindi version of the same film titled Kora Kagaz, 1974.

Her performance in a double role in the film Uttar Falguni, 1963, and Mamta (the hindi version of the same film), 1966, can be considered as the best performance ever given in a subject related to a bond of mother and a daughter. She being a victim of ill-treatment from her husband and under compulsion became a tawaif who sacrificed her life to make her daughter a barrister who pleaded in Calcutta High Court in a murder case, where her mother had killed the cruel husband who wanted to destroy the life of the daughter. She got involved in the role of both the tawaif and the barrister with such elegance that the director Asit Sen, got mixed up with the feeling that two separate actresses were playing the two roles.

Gulzar, in his interview before the media said that he could not get a more dignified appearance in any other actress who could play the role in the film Aandhi, the way Suchitra Sen had acted in 1975. She was a politician who got cornered by opposition due to the policies she had taken, impersonating the period when Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, faced the consequences of declaring emergency in mid-70s. She not only brought out the feelings of a loner but also matched Sanjeev Kumar in personality who was considerate and compassionate towards his wife. Suchitra Sen stopped acting in 1978, and was not seen performing in celluloid or television channels. May be eternal silence had increased the respect and honour for her numerous admirers in the country, although her granddaughters Raima Sen and Riya Sen are involved in a number of bollywood films these days. Suchitra Sen’s films should be preserved and restored in an archive to inspire new actresses to blend softness, personality, compassion in the characters the way Suchitra Sen had done in Bollywood and Tollywood films.

Kalyanji Anandji's association with Rafi

Kalyanji Anandji’s association with Mohammad Rafi.

In the Golden age of Indian film music, many composers have enriched the firmament of music with their innovative compositions, yet they did not get the recognition they deserved. Kalyanji Virji Shah (born in 1928) and Anandji Virji Shah, (born in 1933) better known as Kalyanji and Anandji, started their journey with the film Samrat Chandragupta, in 1958.

In early 60s, Kalyanji Anandji provided successful tunes in Raj Kapoor’s Chalia, in 1960, where songs like “chalia mera naam”, “dum dum diga diga” becoming successful. Due to strong dominance of Shankar Jaikishan in that era, most of the music lovers could not dissociate compositions of other composers, and thought it was S J’s composition. In Raj Kapoor’ film Dulha Dulhan, 1964, Mukesh’s song “humne tumko pyar diya hai jitna” was composed with tragic andaz.

Kalyanji Anandji associated with Mohammad Rafi, the man dominating the world of playback singing in that age in Shammi Kapoor’s film Bluff Master, 1963, where most of the songs were sung by Rafi followed by Joy Mukherjee’s Ji Chahta Hai, in 1964. The most successful composition of the musical duo came in 1965 with Shashi Kapoor’s film Jab Jab Phool Khilen, where Rafi’s songs ‘pardesiyon se na ankhiyan milana”, “mai yahan ek ajnabi hun”, “na na karke pyar” becoming super duper hits. In the film Himalay Ki God Me, 1965, Kalyanji Anandji’s composition and Mukesh and Lata’s songs became successful. In 1967, Kalyanji Anandji won filmfare award for their superlative composition in Manoj Kumar’s Upkaar. Manna Dey’s song “kasme wade” was as successful as Mahendra Kapoor’s song “o mere desh ke dharti” and Rafi’s duet song with Asha Bhosle “Gulabi raat gulabi”.

Rafi’s combination with Kalyanji Anandji continued in Shashi Kapoor’s Haseena Maan Jayegi, in 1968, with songs like “Bekhudi me sanam”, “Chale the saath milke” and the songs in the film Raaz, 1967, where Rafi’s song “Akele Hain Chale Ayo” becoming very popular. Mukesh’s song “Chandan sa badan” from the film Saraswatichandra, 1968, was also successful. Kalyanji Anandji composed legendary bhajan for Rafi titled “sukh ke sab sathi, dukh me na koi” in Dilip Kumar’s film Gopi, 1970.

In the 1970s, Kalyanji Anandji provided successful songs to Kishore Kumar including “Zindagi ka safar” in the film Safar. Rafi’s song in Raj Kumar’s Maryada, 1971, titled “tu jo aja” had an everlasting effect in the film. Kalyanji Anandji’s composition included hilly tunes composed in Rajender Kumar’s film Geet, in 1970, where Rafi’s songs “aaja tujhko pukare mere geet” becoming everlasting hit.

Kalyanji Anandji were the only musical duo along with Laxmikant Pyarellal, who could blend their own skills with the general taste of popular cinema which changed with passage of time. That was the reason why Kalyanji Anandji succeeded in composing successful songs for Firoz Khan’s films Apradh, 1972, Dharmatma, 1975, Jaanbaaz, 1986, which were spread out in two decades. He even composed successful songs in action pact films like Muqaddar ka Sikander, 1977, where he asked Kishore Kumar to sing the song “rote hue ate hai sab” for Amitabh Bacchan in the happy mood, and Mohammad Rafi to sing the same song in sombre mood for Vinod Khanna in the same film.

It is difficult to compile the contribution of Kalyanji Anandji in a short article because they had created everlasting hits in the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and even 90s. But they had grand association with Rafi, and wherever they got opportunity the combination had provided immortal songs which can be preserved for immense musical value.

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Monday, November 26, 2007

Uttam Kumar's influence on Bollywood films.

Uttam Kumar’s influence on Bollywood films.

Uttam Kumar, the all time legend of Bengali silver screen who is honoured with the title of “mahanayak” meaning megastar, was one of the most colourful personalities who not only dominated Bengali cinema but had tremendous influence on classical films created in the bollywood. Born in 1926, Arun Kumar Chatterji, better known as Uttam Kumar, made his debue in the Bengali film Dristidan in 1948. Within few years who got the recognition of the carefree hero who could portray the middle class Bengali image according to the characters portrayed by emiment novelists. Satyajit ray, the greatest director, ever to grace Indian Celluloid, said Uttam Kumar, was the only matinee idol, whom a wife wants to have as a husband, a mother wants to have as a son, a sister wants to have as a brother and a daughter wants to have as a father.

Not only did some his films have celebrated golden jubilee, films like Harano Sur, 1957, Saptapadi, 1961, Suno Baranari, 1960, Shankhabela, 1966, Nayak, 1966, Antony Firingi, 1967, Chowrangee, 1968, etc. were the most creative films that were categorised as black and white classics during the golden age of Bengali cinema. He formed the most legendary romantic pair ever to appear on Celluloid with noted actress Suchitra Sen with whom Uttam Kumar acted in 30 films.

Very significantly Uttam Kumar’s films were taken up as base for creating classic films in bollywood at different points of time. The Bengali film Saheb Bibi Golum made in 1955, where Uttam Kumar played the role of Bhutnath was remade in hindi as Saheb Bibi Aur Ghulam in 1962, where Guru Dutt played the role of Bhutnath. He was an observer who watched the aristocracy maintained in Kolkata from mid 18th century to early 19th century. The film depicted the British Raj from the capital, Kolkata, the society existing at that time, Hinduism under the tenets of Swami Vivekanda, the Brahmo Samaj and domination of women during that age.

Uttam Kumar’s legendary film Sabar Opore, released in 1955, involved a crime thriller, where his father Proshanto Chatterji, played by Chabi Biswas was wrongly prosecuted for murder of a lady, and Uttam Kumar had to reopen the case after 12 years and proved before the Court of the law, that the actual murderer was the public prosecutor played by Nitish Mukherjee. Chabi Biswas bewildered the audience after spelling out before the judge that his youth was destroyed by the wrong sentence and asked them to return his 12 years back the period of time he languished in the solitary jail. The same film was remade in hindi under the title of Kala Pani in 1958, where Dev Anand played the role of Uttam Kumar.

Uttam Kumar’s super hit film Agni Parikha, released in 1955, opposite Suchitra Sen, was remade in hindi under the title Choti Si Mulakat in 1967, where Uttam Kumar acted in the hindi version opposite Vaijayantimala. It was related to a couple who were married to each other when they were infants, then the marriage being disowned by a section of the society and the husband and wife falls in love once again when they become matured. Shankar Jaikishan’s composition of music and Rafi’s songs were successful, including songs like “Choti si mulakat me pyar ban gayi.”

Uttam Kumar’s successful film Jivan Mrityu, 1967, where he was wrongly charged in a cheating case by his fellow bank collegues and he took revenge against all of them, was remade in hindi under the title Jeevan Mrityu, where Dharmender played his character. He was travelling in a train and a person fell down from the running train and died. The media wrongly stated that Uttam Kumar had died. He took the make up of a sikh and destroyed the business of all his colleagues. Uttam Kumar's classic film "Lal Pathor" in 1963 based on the historical backgruond of a nawab who marries twice and kills his wives is made in hindi with the title "Lal Patthar", where Raj Kumar played the role of Uttam Kumar. It was shot at Fatehpur Sikri and both the films depicted the royal style of living exhibited by the Feudal lords at that period of time.

Uttam Kumar’s comedy film Bhranti Bilas, 1963, where he had a double role and played the role of the twin brothers under the translated version of Shakespearean play titled The Comedy of Errors, was remade in hindi by Gulzar under the title Angur. There was double role of both the Zamindar played by Uttam Kumar and the servant played by Bhanu Banerjee. In the hindi version Uttam Kumar’s role was played by Sanjeev Kumar and Bhanu’s role was played by Deven Verma. It showed the immense comedy skills possed by Uttam Kumar, who maintained both the personality and sense of humour in the role displayed in the film.

Uttam Kumar’s comedy film Choddobeshi, in 1971, where he depicted a botanist who disguised himself as a driver to irritate his wife’s sister and her husband, was remade in hindi under the title Chupke Chupke, in 1975, by Hrishikesh Mukherjee, where Dharmender played the role of the Botanist. Uttam Kumar’s film Ami Se O Sakha, 1975, where he played the role of a friend of a doctor and loves the same woman whom the doctor loves, is remade in hindi under the title Bemisal, where Amitabh Bacchan played the role of Uttam Kumar. He sacrificed the lady for his friend.

Uttam Kumar’s film Amanush, in 1974, where he depicted the story of fishing community who was wrongly rebuked by the local police officer, was remade in hindi under the same title Amanush by noted Director Shakti Shamanta in 1975. The other film where Uttam kumar acted both in the Bengali version and the hindi version include Anand Ashram. In both these films, Sharmila tagore acted opposite Uttam Kumar. Here the wife of the doctor dies, while giving birth to the child. Uttam Kumar displayed the pathos of the husband after the demise of his wife with same level of excellence which Dilip Kumar used to depict in tragic roles.

The list of films of Uttam Kumar, which influenced bollywood can go on. Very significantly Uttam Kumar had given lips for songs sung by different singers, including Hemant Kumar, Shaymal Mitra, Manna Dey, Mohammad Rafi, Kishore Kumar, etc. Even Bhupinder Singh had sung songs for Uttam Kumar titled “zindagi me jab tumhare gham nahi the” and “zindagi, zindagi, o mere ghar ana zindagi” in the film Dooriyan, 1980. It is a pity that as Uttam Kumar had acted in around 205 films within a span of 35 years, he did not get the time to act in major bollywood films. An archive of Uttam Kumar’s works should be created which can depict the rich subject matter presented in his films which had provided inspiration to directors like Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Shakti Shamanta, Gulzar, to reciprocate the stories in bollywood films.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Manna Dey- A versatile Genius

Manna Dey: The genius of Hindi playback and Bengali modern songs.

Manna Dey is probably one of the most talented singers who had glorified the golden age of Bollywood cinema. Born on May 1st, 1919, Probodh Chandra Dey, better known as Manna Dey, studied in Scottish Church College, in Kolkata, where Swami Vivekananda and other great men studied at a point of time. Although his father was a Chartered Accountant, his uncle K.C. Dey’s influence had turned his attention towards music and he completed his classical talim from Ustad Aman Ali Khan. His uncle, K.C. Dey also acted in famous theatre in Kolkata during the period when Natyacharya Sisir Bhaduri’s classic plays Chanakya, Alamgir, Shahjahan, mesmerised the Bengali audience.

Manna Dey went to Bombay with his uncle KC Dey and also worked as assistant of SD Burman. His song “upar gagan bishal” in the film Mashal, stationed him permanently among other singers during the golden age. He stormed into the bollywood arena with successful songs in Raj Kapoor’s Shri 420, namely “mur mur ke na dekh mur mur ke”, “pyar hua ikrar hua hai” and “dil ka hal sune dilwala” and caught the attention of Shankar Jaikishan, the famous musical duo. His classical background was fully exploited in the film Basant Bahar, 1957, where Shankar Jaikishan’s composition “sur na saje kya gayun mai” and his contest with Bhim Sen Joshi was well acclaimed by music lovers.

Manna Dey got the opportunity of singing almost all the songs of Raj Kapoor’s Chori Chori, 1956, where songs like “yeh raat bheegi bheegi”, “aja sanam madhur chadni me hum” brought the first filmfare award for Shankar Jaikishan. Within a short time Manna Dey got the recognition of singing challenging songs in the film industry including qawallis, Hindustani classical, bhajan’s, etc. Madanmohan’s composition “kaun aya mere man ke dware” in the film Dekh Kabira Roya, shows his immense classical control.

Roshan, exploited the range of Manna Dey in Raj Kapoor’s film Dil hi to hai, where his song “laga chunari me daag chupayun kaise” brought his supreme command over sargam, taal, tempo, etc. His qawalli in Barsaat ki Raat, in 1960, composed by Roshan, and sung along with Mohammad Rafi, showed the capability of transforming the grammer of these songs into effortless, flawless pursuits which were simplified for the common audiences.

In the mean time, Manna Dey brought out his supreme performance in Bengali films during the golden age, and his songs “ogo tomar shesh bicharer asay” in the film Dak Harkora, 1958, composed by Sudhin Dasgupta, and “uthali pathali amar buk” in the film Ganga, 1960, composed by Salil Chowdhury flabbergasted the listeners, people wondered how could Manna Dey, coming from complete urbanised background provide perfect intonation for folk songs including bayul and bhatiyali.

Manna Dey’s songs “pucho na kaise maine rain bitayi” in the film Meri surat Teri Ankhen, composed by SD Burman, “ay mere pyare watan” in the film Kabuliwala, composed by Salil Chowdhury, “kasme wade pyar wafa sab” in the film Upkar composed by Kalyanji Anandji, are all masterpieces, some having patriotic feeling, others having pure classical raga embedded in them. Salil Chowdhury even exploited the chorus oriented command of Manna Dey in the song “zindagi kaisi hai paheli hai” in the film Anand, 1970. Other than Mohammad Rafi, no other playback singer could show the versatility and elegance of singing classical, thumris, qawallis, rock and roll, etc., as displayed by Manna Dey.

From mid-sixties, Manna Dey, played the second innings of his musical career by lending his voice for the superstar of Bengali films Uttamkumar in Shonkhobela, 1966. His songs “ami agantuk ami barta dilam” and “dekechi ke age” composed by Sudhin Dasgupta, became super duper hits, and Manna Dey became the most legendary singer of bengali modern songs of all times. His songs in Uttamkumar’s films Antony Firingi, 1967, “ami je jalsaghare,” “ami jamini tumi sashi he”, Nishi Poddo, 1970, “ora je ja bole boluk”, Stri, 1971, “hajar takar jhar batita”, “ose jatai kalo hok”, Sanyasi Raja, 1975, “shashikanto tumi dekhchi”, “bhalobashar agun jalao”, transformed Bengali film music into an invaluable khazana (tressure) which contained Manna Dey’s rock and roll effect, to tappas, to kajris, to other Hindustani raga oriented performances. Manna Dey also had the supreme calibre of imitating a drunkard and the way he sung “ei duniyay bhai sabi hoy sab satti” for legendary actor Chabi Biswas, in Raj Kapoor’s Bengali film Ekdin Ratre, 1955, which was remade in hindi under the title Jagte Raho, 1956, one wonders that he had synchronised his singing capabilities with acting qualities. At the same time his Bengali adhunik (modern) songs most of which were composed by himself like “kotodure aaj niye jabe bolo”, 1953, “hay hay go raat jay go” “ami aaj akasher moto akela” show the romantic appeal of his voice where pathos and classical touch complimented each other.

Manna Dey received filmfare award for best singer in 1972 for the film Mera Naam Joker, national award for singing in Nishi Padda, 1970, a number of Bengal Film Journalist Association Awards (BFJA), Padmashri and Padmabhushan. Besides his versatile talent was exhibited while he did sing songs in regional languages like marathi, malayali, gujrathi, etc. Lata Mangeshkar in her speech in DD1 had said, Manna Dey’s marathi intonation is even better than Marathi Brahmins. No award is sufficient for acknowledging the superlative skills of Manna Dey. An archive should be created where all the songs of Manna Dey in different languages should be preserved and restored, and whenever people here “o mere zohr zabi” or “ek chatun nar” or “yari hai iman mera”, the nostalgia of qawallis, Hindustani ragas and grammatical presentation of ustadi gharana will reflect in their minds.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Influence of Bengali Classic Literature on Bollywood Films

Influence of Bengali Classic Literature in Bollywood films.

Bengal in the eighteenth and nineteenth century had produced intellectuals of different dimensions in different fields including academics, politics, music, literature, social science, etc. Social reformers like Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Vidhyasagar brought social awakening through the prohibition of evil practices like Sati and bringing modern legislations with the help of the British Government in the colonial era like Widow Remarriage Act. In the field of religion Swami Vivekananda redefined Hinduism in his Chicago Conference in USA and provided the deliberations of Sri Ramakrisha in condemning materialist philosophy. Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose was one of the most dynamic personalities of the freedom struggle movement of India.

Literature is a field where the immortal works of the Bengali Legendary thinkers have influenced the silver screen the most which even has significance after around 50 years of creation of the classic works. Bankim Chandra Chatterji was given the title of Sahitya Samrat (the Monarch of literature) who nurtured Bengali language from its Sanskrit-oriented origin in almost the same manner in which mythologically Lord Mahadeva brought river Ganges from his knotted hair (jata) and created classic novels like Kapalkundala, Anandamath, Devichowdhurani, etc. His song Vandemataram had instilled patriotism and respect for the motherland and was the guiding mantra in India’s freedom movement which became the national song of the country after India got independence. His novel “Anandamath” was picturised as Bollywood film in 1950 with Pradeep Kumar, Bharat Bhushan, Prithviraj Kapoor playing significant roles.

Bimal Mitra’s epic literature Saheb Bibi Gulam, directed by Karthik Chatterji became a historically eminent work depicting the Zamindari existing in Kolkata during Colonial rule. Chabi Biswas was the second brother, showed the aristocracy, grantieur with which the feudal lords ruled the state. Uttamkumar was the observer of the events as Bhutnath.[1] Guru Dutt played the same role in the hindi film Saheb Bibi Aur Ghulam, 1962, where Meena Kumari played the chotibahu in her own style.

Rabindranath Tagore, the winner of Nobel Prize in literature for Gitanjali, in 1913 had galvanised the firmament of creativity with short stories, poetry, prose, plays, songs and had influenced both Bengali and Hindi films with his revolutionary thinking. His story Kabuliwala was directed by Tapan Sinha in 1957, with Chabi Biswas, the greatest actor of Bengali Silver Screen giving immortal performance of an Afghan father who left his country, came to Kolkata to sell his produce of mewa, pesta and loving a small Bengali girl “mini” who brought him memories of his own daughter back in the country.[2] Tapan Sinha’s films Khudito Pashan, Atithi, 1965, Satyajit Ray’s cineclassic, Teen Kanya, 1961, Gharebaire, 1984, are based on the immortal prices of work of Tagore.

Bimal Roy, the winner of a number of Filmfare awards for best direction in bollywood films made Kabuliwala with Balraj Sahani in 1961. Although the film could not create the same impact as the Bengali film Kabuliwala, yet the classic literature was well appreciated by the Indian masses. Previously Salil Chowdhury’s Do Beegha Zameen, in 1953 had kept its mark as a Bollywood film having strong storybase and powerful direction.

Sarat Chandra Chatterji, titled Katha Sahitwik, influenced Bollywood films the most as his language was understandable to the people of the grass root level and his observation on social, economic issues of rural Bengal had tremendous impact on the readers and filmlovers. His story Devdas picturised by Bimal Roy stormed the silver screen in 1955, providing Dilip Kumar the title of Tragedy king and the image which did not fade with changing times. The remake of Devdas by Sanjay Leela Bansali shows the fact the story is immortal and has not lost its significance even today, more than 70 years after its creation. Similarly Sarat Chandra Chatterji’s Parineeta was picturised by Bimal Roy in 1953 with Meena Kumari in the lead role. The same film had been remade by Pradeep Sarkar in recent times and had been well appreciated by the Indian masses showing the strength of the story and the depth of thought of the author.

Bimal Roy picturised Biraj Bahu in 1954, another story of Sarat Chandra Chatterji, showing the experiences of rural Bengal. Sarat Chandra Chatterji’s classic story Niskriti, based on the problems of joint family system was picturised in Bengali film and in the hindi film Apne Paraye, 1980, the pain of poverty was well depicted through strong performance of Shabana Azmi and Amol Palekar with Utpal Dutta’s compassionate andaz as elder brother. Sarat Chandra Chatterji could think ahead of his time, because joint families are getting eroded these days due to lack of adjustment and giving birth to nuclear families. Besides the biographies of Sarat Chandra Chatterji were picturised in Bengali cinema in Rajlakhi Srikanto,1958, Kamallata, 1969, where Uttamkumar represented Sarat Chandra himself and Abhaya Srikanto, 1965 where Basonto Chowdhury represented Sarat Chandra. In all these stories, the social stigmas, religious barriers, poverty existing in the rural countryside and condition of women was depicted with such a pictographic dimension that people find themselves and associate themselves in one character or the other.

Noted author Jorasondho had provided immortal stories based on his experiences as Jailor in a Bengal prison. Tapan Sinha mesmerised the Bengali audience with his powerful adaptation of the novel Louhakapat in 1958. Chabi Biswas’s performance was well acclaimed throughout Bengal and Nirmal Kumar playing the role of the observer was well appreciated. Bimal Roy made his epic film Bandini on the story of Jorasandho in 1963. The tragic background of individual prisoners made people think whether our justice system punishes the crime or the offender. Other landmark stories include hinger kachuri, written by Bibhutibhushan Mukherjee, which was picturised as Nishipadda, 1970, where Uttamkumar gave a lifetime performance and also translated into hindi version in Shakti Shamant’s Amar prem, 1972. The list can go on. As Bengalis are characterised with their depth of thinking, analysing and feeling human emotions, Bengali literature still is an invaluable asset, even today. Still realistic films can be made from the classic literature of different ages by thoughtful directors. Efforts should be made to translate the Bengali classic literature into different regional languages, so that more section of the society can cherish them for generations.

[1] My father Chitta Ranjan Chatterji, Ex-chief Public Prosecutor, Bankshall Court, had interviewed Dilip Roy, eminent actor of Bengali films who was his witness, in a case instituted in Bankshall Court, who said there was no second actor in India who could depict the role of Zamindar in the way Chabi Biswas had done in Saheb bibi Golam, Jalsaghar, Dui Purush, Antarikha, etc. He also said when Raj Kapoor tested Chabi Biswas in the role of a drunkard in the film Ekdin Ratre, 1955, his performance in the song “Ei duniyay bhai sabi hoy” sung by Manna Dey, he came down the trolley and saluted Chabi Biswas saying he had not seen an actor in Indian screen like Chabi Biswas. In the hindi version Jagte Raho, 1956, the same character was played by Motilal, but he could not match the level of excellence of Chabi Biswas.

[2] Kabuliwala received President’s Gold Medal for best film in 1957. Renowned Director Satyajit Ray in his TV interview on DD Bangla had said Chabi Biswas was the greatest actor ever to grace the silver screen and giving him direction was his greatest challenge in the award winning films Jalsaghar, 1958, Devi, 1960, Kanchenjungha, 1962. Chabi Biswas’s performance in the film Manik, 1956, the adaptation of Oliver Twist written by Charles Dickens, in a role of a handicapped grandfather could have brought him Oscar had the film being placed for the nomination.

Dilip Kumar

Dilip Kumar – the greatest tragedian of golden age of bollywood films.

Yusuf Khan, better known as Dilip Kumar is one of the greatest legends who had glorified the golden age of bollywood films with his everlasting appeal as a tragedian. Being one of the most popular actors for the last last six decades both in India and Pakistan, much had been said about the grand icon of hindi cinema. What has not been said is that there are few personalities in the film world whose performances are so effortless and natural that it is a wonder how can real life characters be provided living identity with such ease, the way Dilip Kumar had done.

Born in December 11, 1922, in Peshawar, he had seen the transformation phase of hindi cinema during the pre-independence and post-independence period. His films in the 40s starting from Jowar Bhatta in 1944 and including Jugnu, Azaad, etc. showed that he possessed inherent acting skills which got immense exposure in the 1949 blockbuster of Mehboob Khan titled Andaz, where the other notable personality named Raj Kapoor faced Dilip Kumar. Dilip Kumar’s path of sacrifice in triangular affair-based films became a hall mark for other notable actors in the later years and at the end of the film he won all the sympathy of the audience who considered him as deserving Nargis equally like Raj Kapoor.

His films in the early 50s titled Aan (the first coloured film in India) opposite Nadira, Deedar, Babul, etc., had diverse subjects. But he formed a very successful pair with Madhubala, one of the most glamourous actresses in the golden age of hindi cinema, and the tragic-oriented roles in Tarana, 1950, Sangdil, 1951, Amar, 1954, provided him the title of tragedy king where the audience had identified themselves within the romantic characters of Dilip Kumar and Madhubala.

In the mean time, Dilip Kumar created a hat trick by winning filmfare awards one of the other in 1956, 57, 58, for the films Azaad, Devdas and Naya Daur. Devdas probably provided Dilip Kumar the everlasting identity of the tragic hero whose romance never blossoms into successful destinations and the failure haunts him throughout his life. Sarat Chandra Chatterji’s epic literature depicted him as the Bengali Brahmin who falls in love with Parbati a neighbouring girl, who could not cross the social barriers and were married to a wealthy family in the same village. Devdas accompanied Chunnilas played by Motilal and went to a Kotha where alcohol and the company of Chandramukhi acted as the sedative which could enable Devdas to forget his unsuccessful romance. The unfettered consumption of alcohol led to his death and he died in front of the house of Parbati. The feeling of a frustrated person, who is almost at the verge of death, who cannot breath due to failure of health is very difficult to portray which Dilip Kumar had done in an extraordinary manner. Talat Mehmood’s song titled “Mitwa” which was played when Dilip Kumar’s body was lying on the ground created pensive and sombre mood for all sections of the society. The film has been remade a number of times, but still Dilip Kumar’s appeal is everlasting even after 50 years of the release of the film.

His tragic oriented roles also include Daag, Footpath, Uran Khatola, Yahudi, had created an immortal appeal in the minds of numerous filmlovers across country where Talat’s song “Koi Nahi mera is duniya me”, Rafi’s song “woh dur ke musafir humko bhi saath lele re”, Mukesh’s song “yeh mera diwanapan hai” brought tears in the eyes of the audience. The tragic stories followed in Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Musafir, 1957, and Bimal Roy’s Madhumati, 1958. Dilip Kumar almost penetrated the soul of the characters he used to display and the doctor advised him to stop acting in these types of films as his health was getting affected due to them.

Dilip Kumar switched over to comedy based films and music oriented films and his performance in Kohinoor opposite Meena Kumari, 1960, and Mughal –i-azam opposite Madhubala, received critics acclamation. His lips in Rafi’s songs “Madhuban me radhika nache re”, “do sitaron ka zameen par hai Milan aaj ki raat” showed the other dimension that he had extraordinary command over classical music.

He started his production in 1961, with the film Gunga Jumna, opposite Vaijayantimala and there too he mesmerised the audience in a role of a dacoit and acting with Bhojpuri accent. The following years provided Dilip Kumar’s epic performances in coloured films with strong musical background like Leader, 1964, and films opposite Wahida Rehman including Ram Aur Shyam, 1966, Dil Diya Dard Liya, 1966, and Aadmi, 1967. the combination of Rafi, Naushad and Dilip Kumar was bolstered in all these films with songs like “teri husn ka kya tareef karoon”, “aaj ki raat mere dilki salami lele”,“ koi sagar dil ko behlata nahi”, “ aaj purani raho se koi mujhe awaaz na de”. The double role of Dilip Kumar in Ram Aur Shyam, showed all the elements of a successful matinee idol including innocence in the role of Ram, fighting skills in the role of Shyam, choreographic skills and romantic skills. The success stories of jubileekumar Rajender Kumar in that decade and other young actors did not create any impact on Dilip Kumar’s domination in hindi films as he became a legendary star.

Dilip Kumar was admired by Bengali Directors during an age when Bengali Film industry in Tollygunge also reached its zenith in the 50s and 60s. His performance as a jailor in the film Paari and a trade union leader in Tapan Sinha’s “Sagina Mahato” opposite Saira Banu, which was remade in hindi, requires special mention because he spoke in broken Bengali the way the tribal and hilly people speak in the hilly regions of West Bengal.

In the 80s when Amitabh Bachhan dominated Bollywood with his angry young man image, Dilip Kumar’s exhibition of personality in films like Shakti, 1982, Mashal, 1984, Karma, 1986, etc, with his soft style of dialogue delivery showed the audience of the new generation that his style is unparallel in different ages. His running with a private car in the film Mashal, when Wahida Rehman died with the dialogue “koi hai” is a performance which neither can be learnt, nor can be imitated. He received 8 filmfare awards as best actor, Dada Saheb Falke Award for his life time contribution to hindi films and “Nishan-i-imtiaz”, the greatest civilian award of Pakistan after Morarji Desai, India’s Ex-Prime Minister. He did not learn acting from Pune Institute or Delhi School of Drama from where modern giants of bollywood like Om Puri, Nasiruddin Shah have come. One of the great aspect of Dilip Kumar lies in his understanding of the characters which he depicted which led to natural performances. An archive should be created where the immortal works of Dilip Kumar can be restored for future generations to cherish for generations and generations.

Tapan Sinha

Tapan Sinha – the Creative Genius of Bengali Classical Cinema.

Tapan Sinha can be considered as the most dynamic creator of Bengali films after Satyajit Ray, who had glorified the Bengali golden age of Classical cinema with his outstanding vision. Being a legendary figure of the 50s, 60s and 70s, much have been written about the maestro whose significant films can be considered as masterpieces. What has not been written is that the standard of excellence he had created in those films cannot be replicated in hindi or any other regional films.

Firstly Tapan Sinha was fond of Classical literature and as such in his films the characters from the popular novels and short stories became lively in blood and flesh in celluloid. He made Kabuliwala based on Tagore’s epic short story, in 1957, which was astonishing for the viewers. Chabi Biswas, the greatest actor ever, to grace Bengali screen, mesmerised the audience with his dynamic performance of an Afghan character Rahmat. Chabi Biswas met few Afghans who sell mewa, peshta in the streets in Kolkata, personally to personify their characteristics in the role. Tinku Thakur, who played the role of the little girl Mini, was the best child artist ever to appear in Bengali films and the entire credit goes to Tapan Sinha for choosing her. Radha Mohan Bhattacharya was a grand scholar and his literary skills were synchronised with the role of Mini’s father who was a novelist in Tagore’s story. Manju Dey, the mother of Mini, was probably the most powerful character artist in the 50s, and she never looked like acting, every gesture of her seemed natural. Tapan Sinha’s script was outstanding by every standard. The film got national and international awards.

Tapan Sinha continued with his picturisation of classical literature in the following years. His brilliant film Louha Kapat was based on Jorasondho’s epic novel, which dealt with his experiences of different prisoners which he witnessed as a Jailor. The central character was played brilliantly by Nirmal Kumar whose poetic eyes showed the expression of observer. Chabi Biswas was again majestic in his notable role. Kali Banerjee’s performance as was one of the prisoners who was convicted for murder charge requires special mention. There were so many characters, out of which, Tapan Sinha picked up few and did not change the flow of literature in the novel. The other film Khoniker Atithi speaking about a handicapped boy who was cured by Nirmal Kumar, a doctor, who was compassionate about the mother of the child who was widow (played by Ruma Guha Thakurada), in the entire film, merged the pathos of the story with the elegance of camerawork.

In 1961, Tapan Sinha, came up with Bengali version of Hollywood film Prisoner of Zenda, titled Jhinder Bandi, it was related to a story of two twin brothers, with one of them, Shankar Narayan Singh, the king of Jhind, being kidnapped by his other brother and later freed by the twin brother. Uttamkumar, the dynamic personality of Bengali films, played a double role in the film, exhibiting the royal andaz of the historical character in the film, including sword fighting with anti-hero Soumitra Chatterji. The shooting of the film in the mountains and the lake palace required extraordinary skill. Radhamohan Bhattacharya showed the dignified personality of a Diwan who was the protector of the state and Tapan’s Sinha’s faith in his casting was bolstered by his brilliant display of royal character. Tapan Sinha’s wife Arundhuti Debi, was aristocrat in real life with her Rabindrik education of Shantiniketan and it helped her to display the role of the queen in the film who previously gave a life time performance in Tapan Sinha’s Khudito Pashan based on Tagore’s classic literature.

In 1963, Tapan Sinha, created Nirjan Saikate, a film showing the tragic story of 5 widows who came on a pilgrimage to the holy place at Puri. Anil Chatterjee, one of the other dynamic actors of Bengali cinema, played the role of the observer who went to Puri, and by acknowledging the rich sculptures of Sun Temple in Konark, convinced Sharmila Tagore, that the work of art of the unknown artists depict the fact, life is precious and human beings are expected to utilise their life for some immortal work by rising above their personal sorrow, sniffles, etc. The film received President’s gold medal, and significantly all the widows, five of them, Chaya Devi, Renuka Devi, Bharati Devi, Sharmila Tagore and Ruma Guha Thakurta received national award in that year, which has happened only once in the history of Indian cinema.

In 1964, Uttamkumar produced Jatugriha, based on the story of Subodh Ghose which was directed by Tapan Sinha. The film displayed the complexity of a rich couple living in Kolkata who did not have children with Arundhuti Debi playing the role of the wife who could not bear a child in her life. Significantly both Uttamkumar and Arundhuti Debi loved children a lot and the incapability led to domestic unhappiness which ultimately led to separation. The ending of the film was significant as both Uttamkumar and Arundhuti Debi rode on two trains which crossed each other in opposite directions. In their separation also both the husband and wife had mutual respect for each other. It can be classified as one of the most thoughtful cinema made by Tapan Sinha. In the following year Tapan Sinha made Atithi, based on Tagore’s story talking about the life of a bohemian character who travelled from one village to another whose mind never settled in one place.

Tapan Sinha also made Hate Bajare, where Ashok Kumar (Dadamoni) played the role of a village doctor who witnessed the tragic conditions of villagers who were subject to backwardness and oppression by the middlemen. Dilip Kumar gave a life time performance in Tapan Sinha’s Sagina Mahato, where a trade union leader was utilised for own benefit by the political forces of the region and exploited to the fullest extent. Anil Chatterji, the political activist countered Dilip Kumar in the tassel of muscle power in the film.

Tapan Sinha was a source of inspiration for film directors in Bombay to make realistic films. His film Kabuliwala was remade in hindi by Bimal Roy, with Balraj Sahani playing the role of Kabuliwala. His film Golpo holey Satti, 1966, was made in hindi by Rishikesh Mukherjee tilled Bawarchi in 1972. Tapan Sinha made a hindi version of Sagina in 1974, with Dilip Kumar playing the same role. Tapan Sinha’s Arohi, was picturised in hindi with the title Arjun Pandit, where Sanjeev Kumar played the central character which was played by Kali Banerjee in the Bengali film.

Tapan Sinha even depicted the naxalite movement in the films Ekhoni, Aponjon, in the 1970s and local unrest in the late 80s in films like Atonko, Antardhan, etc. The distinctive feature of Tapan Sinha’s films include, strong script, powerful story telling and superlative use of theme music. He chose locations which were romantic, picturesque and were colourful even during the black and white era which justified the depiction of the story. It is difficult to describe the immortal work of Tapan Sinha in a small article as he made around 35 films in a span of 40 years and each of the works can be scanned for cinematic, poetic and musical value. An archive should be created to preserve the works of Tapan Sinha for the film makers of present generation to learn to use classic literature to reach the message of the literary giants to the people at large.

Ajoy Kar

Ajoy Kar – The genius of camera, lighting and path-breaker in Bengali Cine-classics.

Ajoy Kar emerged in the Bengali film arena at a period when celluloid was at the stage of transformation from talkies era to studio based feature films. Studios were not developed to that extent and there was hardly any evidence of outdoor shootings taking place in the mid-40s. Ajoy Kar initially relied on popular stories like Bhraman Kanya, Bamuner Meye, etc., in the 40s with Shahar Theke Durey, with Jahar Ganguly making a mark in the minds film lovers of Bengal. His adapatation of Sarat Chandra Chatterjee’s tragic story Mejdidi, in 1950, showed the skills of powerful script and elegant story-telling with Kanon Devi showing her depth of acting and understanding the leading character termed mejdidi with her compassionate andaz.

But the critics in Bengal were shaken up with Ajoy Kar’s dynamic crime thriller Jighansa, in 1951. The story was based on Arthur Conan Doyle’s Suspense thriller, The Hound of Baskervilles where Sherlock Holmes and Watson were involved in solving a murder mystery. The role of the detective was played by Sishir Battobyal with Manju Dey playing a ghostly character with her eloquent skills and natural splendour. Bikash Roy, was given a different dimension as one of the relatives of the princely estate, who was deprived of real property of the royal family and took revenge by killing each of the new predecessors of the royal family. He stayed in the neighbourhood in the disguise of a Botanist and was ultimately killed by the detective in the story before he could commit another murder. Ajoy Kar’s casting of the leading characters was as outstanding as the supporting casts, example being Metro Cinema’s gatekeeper (tall, lanky and fearsome) who was employed to kill the prince ( Biren Chatterjee) in the film. The hindi version of the film Bees Saal Bad, made in 1961 could not create the same fearsome impact as that of Jighansa.

After creating Darpachurna, Grihaprabesh with Uttamkumar and Suchitra Sen, Ajoy Kar took up the challenge of picturising Shyamali in 1956. Shyamali was the story of a deaf and dumb girl who was married to Uttamkumar, and was not accepted by his mother Malina Devi. At the end of the film Uttamkumar becomes successful to convince her mother that as he was lawfully married to the deaf and dumb girl and the marriage was solemnised according toHindu religious rites and ceremonies, she has to accept her as his wife and fill up her disability with love and compassion. As Shyamali was played in Star Theatre in Kolkata for five years with Sabitri Chatterjee, providing an outstanding performance in the role of Shyamali in stage, it was a big risk in picturising the story in a film. Ajoy Kar’s story-telling and a different casting (Kaberi Bose played the role of Shyamali in the film), had been successful to receive critic’s acclamation. Sarat Chandra Chatterji’s Bardidi was also picturised by Ajoy Kar with Uttam Kumar and Sandharani adjusting themselves to the rural characters and showing the softness of mind of villagers of Bengal in that era.

Ajoy Kar’ grand blockbuster came in 1957 with Harano Sur. If any director had made the best use of Uttam Kumar and Suchitra Sen, the legendary pair who had ruled the golden age of Bengali Cinema, then it was Ajoy Kar himself. Uttam Kumar launched himself as producer with story depicting the lost memory of an industrialist in Kolkata who suffered a railway accident, who was treated by a Doctor in Palaspur, and was married to the Doctor, but another accident brought back his old memory leaving aside the events that happened in between. Suchitra Sen had to work in the house of Uttamkumar as a governess of his nephew and through the missing note sung a number of times brought back his memory. Firstly, such an innovative type of idea was not presented in Bengali films before Ajoy Kar. Secondly just like Franz Beckenbauer was called the Kaiser, emperor in German football, Ajoy Kar could be termed as Kaiser of camera, as his naming of the film starts with words floating on the ripples and waves of water. Besides his presentation of Suchitra Sen, was classic in the film, because nobody in Uttamkumar’s family knew about Suchitra Sen’s (his character was Rama in the film) relation with Uttamkumar and as such rebuked her at different times, and she inspite of being a doctor was submissive at every moment of the film, digesting the insulting words hurled at her with calmness and composure. Besides, her glamour was utilised by Ajoy Kar to his fullest capability in the film.

After being successful with Khelaghar in 1959, Ajoy Kar, made his next masterpiece Suno Boro Nari, in 1960. The film depicting Subodh Ghosh’s literature was based on the tragic tale of a Professor of Bengali University (played by Uttam Kumar) who loved a rich student who defied him and led him to leave the place where he started his new life as a homeopathy doctor who used to reach women from one part of the country to the other in trains for security and other reasons. The daughter of Charu Ray (majestic barrister played by Chabi Biswas) fell in love with this person while he reached her to Patna from Giridih. At the end of the film this girl rejects the relation with a rich materialist person and embraced the middleclass professor against the wishes of her parents. Most of the film was depicted through train journey and at the end of the film when Chabi Biswas asked Uttamkumar to leave Giridih, he was in the train when Supriya Debi, the daughter of Chabi Biswas meets him in the train after leaving her house, property, pomp, grandier, etc. The literary value of Subodh Ghosh was matched by Ajoy Kar’s strong script and Uttam Kumar’s superlative performance.

Ajoy Kar was in the march for excelling himself and made the greatest blockbuster in Bengali film history with Saptapadi, in 1961. It was Uttam Kumar production again. The story written by Tarashankar Bandhopadhay depicted a medical student played by Uttam Kumar falling in love with an Anglo girl Rina Brown (played by Suchitra Sen). Uttam Kumar’s father Chabi Biswas, being an orthodox Hindu Brahmin could not accept a Hindu marrying a Christian and begged his son before Rina Brown. Rina Brown sacrificed her love and Uttam Kumar after converting himself into a Christian dedicated his life as a doctor who helped the victims of second world war which took place at that time. At the end of the film, Chabi Biswas realised that human attachment cannot be obstructed with the barriers of religion and glorified the sacrifice of Rina Brown. Uttam Kumar treated Rina Brown after she was severely injured by bomb blast. Romance was given a different dimension by Ajoy Kar in Saptabadi which can be categorised as one of the most refined cine-classic created during the golden age. The Shakespearean play Othello picturised in the film acted out by Uttam Kumar and Suchitra Sen and the playback provided by Utpal Dutta and Jennifer Kapoor was another grand creation in the same film. Uttam Kumar’s make up with beard in the role of the Christian doctor who had renounced desires, is probably the best make up ever given to Uttam Kumar in his life. Suchitra Sen’s performance and Chabi Biswas’s acting was as majestic as the dynamic camera work in the film.

After making Atol Jaler Aohan, Ajoy Kar created Sat Pake Bandha, in 1963, showing the adjustments of Suchitra Sen as a daughter of a rich family, whose marital life was ruined by the undue interference of her mother in the affairs of his middle class husband who was an academician. The personality of the husband (played by Soumitra Chatterjee) was shaken up with the insulting demeanour of his mother-in-law played by Chaya Debi and Suchitra Sen’s struggle for persuading her mother and convincing her husband failed as her husband never tried to show any adjustment. Suchitra Sen received best actress award in Moscow film festival and created an everlasting impact in the minds of film lovers across the country. The hindi version of the same film Kora Kagaz could not create the same impact where Jaya Bacchan played Suchitra Sen’s role.

The other notable films of Ajoy Kar include Kach Kata Hire, Dutta, Kayahiner Kahini, Parineeta, etc. Ajoy Kar trained a number of film –makers in the Film Institute of Pune in early 70s. As the neo-realistic film movement initiated by Satyajit Ray, Ritwik Ghatak diverted the focus of critics towards parallel cinema during the golden age, Ajoy Kar did not receive the recognition he deserved. He is the most unsung, unlamented, unrecognised director ever to grace Bengali cinema inspite of providing a new expression to plutonic affairs and nurturing the talents of Uttam Kumar and Suchitra Sen who had brought colour in the black and white classics which have become immortal with passage of time. Ajoy Kar’s works should be preserved in an archive where new generation of film makers can learn how to develop a story base with powerful screenplay, excellent camera work, accurate casting and stylish effects.

Arundhuti Debi

Arundhuti Debi – the most aristocrat actress of Golden age of Bengali Cinema.

Arundhuti Devi (Mukherjee) born in 1925, is one of the most aristocrat actress to grace the silver screen during the golden age of Bengali cinema. She was educated in Biswabharati, (Rabindranath Tagore’s renouned University at Shantiniketan) and made a dramatic debue in director Karthick Chatterjee’s travel-based film Mohaproshaner pathe which was written by Proboth Sanyal. Bosonto Chowdhury, the hero of the film also made a sensational debue and both of them provided life in the role of the travellers who were bohemians as depicted in the film.

Within a short time Arundhuti Devi switched herself to a serio-comic film Chele Kar, 1954, directed by Chitta Basu. The story involved a small child of a needy family venture into the streets of Kolkata and caught hold of a wealthy bachelor person Bikash Roy, whom he calls father. The entire film hovers around that theme and at the end of the film both Bikash Roy and Arundhuti Debi falls in love with the child. The acting of Chabi Biswas, the greatest actor of Bengali silver screen, in the role of the grandfather of the small child named Tomato, was amazing as he portrayed both the personality of a father of patriarchal society and blended the sense of humour with the anger in the role.

Within a short period of time Arundhuti Debi created an image of thoughtful, understanding women in that age who could understand the complexities of life. After providing a serene performance in Asit Sen’s Chalachal, in 1956, opposite Nirmal Kumar, another thoughtful actor of that age, Arundhuti Debi got acclamation from the film lovers of Bengal with her powerful performance in her husband (Prabhat Mukherjee)’s film Bicharak, in 1957.[1] In the same film Uttam Kumar played the role of the Judge (bicharak) who had previously married the elder sister of Arundhuti Debi, played by Dipti Ray, who was suspicious about the relationship of her husband with her sister. In fact Uttam Kumar had attachment towards Arundhuti Debi. In the mean time fire broke out in the house on one day while Dipti Roy was sleeping. She laid her hand toward Uttam Kumar for help the way a drowning person catches straw. Uttam Kumar could help her, but the thought of attraction towards the sister was playing in his mind and he took his hand away. That provided him the opportunity of marrying Arundhuti Debi. While hearing a murder case which had a similar story line, Chabi Biswas, the public prosecutor, raised the same issue. Uttam Kumar recollected his past and the guilty conscience told him that he could have helped his wife if he wanted. Chabi Biswas’s standard of performance superseded the skills of professional pleaders in the court of law and Arundhuti Debi again kept her mark while consoling her husband about his previous deeds. Arundhuti Debi again showed her depth of thinking in the film Pushpadhanu opposite Uttam Kumar, where being duped by her first husband and bearing the burden of a small child whom she could not give his father’s identity, she renunciated her wealth after disclosing before Uttam Kumar her unfair past. Arundhuti Debi made a sensational performance in Tapan Sinha’s Khudito Pasan, where there was no dialogue for her. He used to come in dreams of the author and displayed the feelings of an unsatisfied soul who wanted to portray the events in her previous birth.

In 1959, Arundhuti Debi got an opportunity to perform in a film totally based on aristocracy titled Sasibabur Sangsar. Chabi Biswas acting in the pivotal role, displayed the agony of a karta of a hindu undivided family, who loses supremacy after retirement. He gave an immortal soliloquy about the definition of family, where he said in the outside world, the bread earner is known by his designation, but the same person when he returns home is a father, a father –in –law, a husband and the protector of the family under whose light and shade the happiness and sniffles of life revolve. In that classic film, Aundhuti Debi, the daughter-in-law faced a personality clash and convinced Chabi Biswas that the world had changed, and the displacement of members of the family for better jobs and new ventures is catered towards seed of development without disrespecting the values maintained by Chabi Biswas in his illustrious career.

Arundhuti Debi won the Bengal Film and Journalist Association Award (BFJA) for her classic performance in the film Bhagini Nivedita. She displayed the spiritual awakening of Bhagini Nivedita, who inspite of being an European realised the spiritual sermons of Swami Vivekananda and devoted her life towards social awakening and education of women in Bengal.

At the same time she acted with Uttam Kumar is successful films like Manmayi Girls School where she had to act as the wife of Uttam Kumar to get accommodation as the landlord required such a condition for allowing tenants in his lodge. In Tapan Sinha’s films Jhinder Bandi and Jotu Griha, she provided unparallel performance where the sorrow, the pains, the romantic appeal, everything was displayed with aristocracy. Also in the film Harmonium, in 1975, she displayed the elegance of a royal family inspite of being a widow who bought the harmonium for her little daughter to carry on the noble culture maintained by her ancestors.

In the late 60s, Arundhuti Debi launched her career as a director, and there too, her classic films Chuti and Megh O Roudra, based on classic literature of Tagore, got critic’s acclamation. Even her other films like Nyay Dando, where she brought up the daughter of a prisoner who was wrongly sentenced to prison by Radhamohan Bhattacharya who played the role of District Judge showed her capability to feel the character that had to be portrayed in the respective situation.

Although Arundhuti Debi, did not have the popularity of Suchitra Sen, the most successful actress of Golden age of Classical cinema, nor did she form any everlasting pair in that age, yet her performance had classical touch and carry the same impact in the same the way in which Pandit Ravi Shankar’s sitar or Bismilla Khan’s Shehnai mould the souls of listeners. Arundhuti Debi’s films should be restored for future generations to learn the art of skilful, thoughtful, powerful acting.

[1] Incidentally Chalachal was remade in hindi by Asit Sen with the title Safar in 1970, where Sharmila Tagore played the role of Arundhuti Debi.

Jaidev, Khayyam and Rafi

Khayyam and Jaidev’s relationship with Mohammad Rafi.

When we visualise the golden era of music in Indian cinema we primarily think about the giant music directors like Shankar Jaikishan, Naushad, etc., or lyricists like Shakeel Badayani, Shailendra, Majrooh Sultanpuri or singers like Rafi, Lata who made major contribution to the music of that age. Among the legendary giants there were other composers who composed music for less number of films but created their identity and everlasting appeal even with the less number of compositions. Jaidev and Khayyam are two composers who received numerous awards for their classic performance and still remain few of the offbeat composers without whom the firmament of music would be colourless.

Jaidev who came to Bombay initially from Ludhiyana to become an actor learnt music from K. Jaokar and Janardan Jaokar and Ustad Ali Akbar Khan and after ashort span of stay in his home town Ludhiyana, returned to Bombay with his immense command of folk and classical music. As he initially worked with Navketan Banner, he got a scope of working with SD Burman also. His debue with Chetan Anand’s film Joru Ka Bhai, 1955, gave him opportunity to compose independant music but he got recognition with the film Humdono in 1961.

Humdono was also the starting point of Jaidev’s relationship with the man with the golden voice, Mohammad Rafi. The unique style of Jaidev included his tunes which appeared not to end with the antara or the sanchari and uniting them with the mukhra unlike other composers. Rafi’s voice had the effect of sedative which doctor’s prescribe for patients who cant sleep in the song “Abhi na jao chor kar, ki dil abhi bhara nahi” in Hum Dono. The way Rafi pronounced adhuri yaas, hardly any playback singer can think even today. The emotions of the character were kept intact and the musical value of the song was enhanced by Rafi in a tremendous way in Humdono. The ghazal in the film “kabhi khud pe kabhi halat pe rona aya” can be categorised as one of the ten best ghazals Rafi did sing in his life. At the same time the other song “main zindagi ka saath nibhata chala gaya” which showed the carefree attitude of Dev Anand, who got admitted in military in the film, had the effect of santoor and the prelude and interlude followed the main song of Rafi that music lovers even memorised them as a song itself. Lata Mangeshkar’s performance in the song “Allah tero naam” in raag gara was probably one of her best performances ever. Jaidev’s return path of the sanchari was again evident in the classical bhajan which is still sung sometimes as prayer song at other times in temples and places of worship. The other film he composed music for include Mujhe Jeene Do, 1963, where Lata’s song “Nadi nare na jao sham” became hit. As it was female oriented film with Wahida Rehman providing the lead performance there were hardly sequences for male songs.

In the other film Kinare Kinare, in 1963, Jaidev asked Rafi to sing duet song with Usha Mangeshkar titled “maya anchal jale kaya ka abhiman”. His other notable songs for Rafi include “aaj ki raat hai bus jalwa dikhane ke liye” and “roop ki dhoop to dhalke rahegi” from the film Jiyo Aur Jeene Do, in 1969. Both were successful with Jaidev’s folk effect in the respective songs.

In the 1970s, Jaidev shifted towards Ghazal singer Bhupinder Singh for most of his songs, with “Do Diwane Shahar Me” and “Ek Akela is shahar me” from the film Gharonda, 1977, directed by Gulzar with Amol Palekar in the lead role.[1] Runa Laila’s song “tumke hona ho mukhko to itna yakeen hai” looked like it was never going to end with the brilliant lyrics of gulzar. The violin was played so brilliantly in the song “Ek akela is shahar me” depicting urbanised folk songs, that it identified the pathos of Jaidev who was a loner in life. The other successful film of Jaidev included Dooriyan, 1979, acted by Uttamkumar and Sharmila Tagore. There Bhupinder Sing’s song “Zindagi zindagi o mere ghar ana ana zindagi” and “zindagi me jab tumhare gham nahi the” showed Jaidev’s unconventional movement in the rise and fall of the antara and sanchari. Jaidev along with Madanmohan had composed music for Rishi Kapoor’s film Laila Majnu, 1977, where Rafi’s songs “barbad muhobbat ki dua saath liye ja”, “is reshmi pazeeb ki jhankar ke sadpe”, “likhkar tera naam zameen par” were superhits and marked Rafi’s tremendous combination with Rishi Kapoor.

Jaidev received national award for the brilliant composition of music in the films Reshma Aur Shera, Gaman and Ankahi, most of which included Rajasthani folk music. Jaidev never got the recognition which he deserved. It is a pity that Jaidev got a scope of composing music for female oriented films where he made the best use of Lata Mangeshkar, because Rafi could have made enormous contribution to Jaidev’s remote style of music composition. Even then the combination of Rafi and Jaidev carry enormous musical value for music lovers across the country.

Khayyam better known as Mohammad Zahur Khaiyyam is the other music composer, who had such an immortal appeal in his compositions, yet had not received the recognition he deserved. He was born in Jullundher, Punjab in 1927, and learnt music from Pandit Amarnath and Hunslal Bhagatram. Khayyam initially used Tala Mehmood in the song “Sham-e-gham ki kasam” in Dilip Kumar’s Footpath, 1954, where he made his debue and Mukesh in the songs “Woh subah kabhi to ayegi” and “phir na kije meri gustaq nigaho ka gila” in Raj kapoor’s Phir Subah Hogi, 1958. Although Rafi had one song “jo bor kare yar ko us yaar se touba” in Phir Subah Hogi, 1958 where it was a duet with Mukesh singing for Raj Kapoor and Rafi singing for Rehman.

But Khayyam acknowledged the golden voice of Rafi in the film Shola Aur Shabnam, 1961, where most of the lyrics were written by Kaifi Azmi and Rafi’s songs “dhunti rehti yeh ankhe mujhme”, “jeet hi lenge bazzi hum tum”, “pehle to aankh milna”, “phool ko dhoonde pyaasa bhawra” had a soft, passionate flavour of the soil of mountains. The songs were picturised on Dharmender. In the film Shagun, 1964, the song “parbaton ke paron par sham ka basera hai” sung by Rafi carried the intoxicating appeal of Khayyam. The next film Mohabbat is ko kahte hai, 1965, picturised on Shashi Kapoor had a fantastic duet song of Rafi and Suman Kalyanpur titled “thehriye hosh me alun to chale jaiyega” which was a form of a poetry where each of the poets answered one another. In Akhri Khat, in 1966, Rafi’s song “aur thori der theher” had the same folk effect of Khayyam. Lata Mangeshkar was brilliant with her performance of “baharo mera jeevan bhi sawaaro” and “mere chanda mere nanhe” in the same film.

In the 1970s, Khaiyyam composed music in lesser films but again came up with creative music and received the filmfare award for composing music for the film Kabhi Kabhi, 1975, where the title song written by Sahir Ludhianvi and sung by Mukesh and Lata were well acclaimed by music lovers of India. His composition in Umrao Jaan, 1981, brought him the second filmfare award and amazed the musical pandits with classical mujra, which became extinct from bollywood music at that time. His songs in the film Bazaar, 1982, picturised on Nasiruddin Shah, titled “karoge yaad to” had ghazal andaz and Bhupinder Singh was sublime with his performance.

As Khayyam, like Jaidev, composed music in mostly offbeat films their presence was felt whenever the directors came up with thoughtful stories, powerful direction and rich lyrics. Although they have provided less number of songs for Rafi but the creations of the combination should be restored for the epic value of the folk and classical effects in the songs.

[1] Bhupinder Singh in his TV interview in DD1 Channel said he was an absolute admirer of Rafi. He said he got a scope of acting in Chetan Anand’s Haqeeqat, 1964 where the songs were composed by MadanMohan. There was a song “hoke majboor usne bulaya hoga” which had to be sung by Bhupinder, Tala Mehmood, Manna Dey and Rafi. He wanted to share the microphone with Rafi. As Rafi was shorter in height than Bhupinder a tool was provided during the recording to match both Rafi and Bhupinder.The song was very successful and was a landmark in Bhupinder Singh’s life.

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Madanmohan and Rafi

Rafi’s pleasant memories with Madanmohan.

If any composer had utilised the ghazal andaz of Mohammad Rafi to the best of his potentiality it is Madanmohan whose name appears in the minds of the lovers of music across the nation. Madanmohan’s father Rai Bahadur chunnilal send his son to Dehradun to join the army. Instead he left the army and joined All India Radio in Lucknow. He came in contact with Ustad Faizz Khan, Ustad Ali Akbar Khan and carried on their legacy in the compositions he made for 30 years which can be classified as masterpieces.

As Madanmohan was not associated with the Big Banners like RK or Navketan, he was not categorised with any star of bollywood during 50s, 60s, 70s. Further he never wanted to balance the popular test of music and excellent class of classical compositions he created. But the compositions were so rich in lyrics and tunes that the musical pandits had no way but to admire them.

The golden age of bollywood music was categorised with the excellence of Mohammad Rafi and as such if any composer neglected Rafi and tried to reach the summit of popularity they have invited their own downfall. Madanmohan did not make such a mistake. He started his career with the film Ankhen in 1950. He also composed music for Raj Kapoor’s film Ashiana in 1952. His notable songs for Rafi in the film Railway Platform, 1956, include “basti basti parbat parbat”. In Gateway of India, 1957, Madanmohan used Mohammad Rafi for the song “do ghari woh jo pass aa baithe” picturised on Bharatbhushan. It was very successful and strengthened the everlasting bond of Rafi with Madanmohan. Rafi’s intoxicating appeal in the song “kabhi na khabhi kahin na kahin koi na koi toi ayega” in the film Sharabi, 1964, composed by Madanmohan can be classified one of the best songs in sombre mood.

The most majestic ghazals of Rafi composed by Madanmohan include “kisiki yaad me apnako hai bhulaye huye” and “baad muddat ke yeh ghari ayi” from the film Jahan ara, 1964, picturised on Bharat Bhushan. Talat Mehmood’s song in the same film “phir wohi sham wohi gham wohi tanhai hai” was also based on ghazal andaz. The classic lyrics were written by Rajinder Kishan. The film titled Ghazal, in 1964, was based on ghazals and Rafi was outstanding by every standard in the song “rang aur noor ki baraat kise pesh karun.” In the same year Rafi’s patriotic flavour was bolstered in the song “kar chale hum fida jan-o-tan sathiyon” in the film Haqeeqat, where Rafi’s ghazal titled “hoke majboor usne bulaya hoga” shared with Bhupinder Singh, Manna Dey and Talat Mehmood was sensational.[1] The majestic lyrics were written by Kaifi Azmi. In the film Neela Akash, 1965, picturised on Dharmender, Rafi’s song “akhri geet muhobbat ka sunayun to chalun” showed the tragic note of Madanmohan. In the film Need Hamari Khwab Tumkhari, all the songs were sung by Rafi including “husn ne jab isq se takraya tha”.

Returning back to ghazals, Rafi’s song “aap ke pehlu me akar” in the film Mera Saya, 1966, was as outstanding as Lata’s title song “tu jahan jahan chalega mera saya saath hoga”. The lyrics were written by Raja Mehendi Ali Kahan. Raj Khosla’s crime thriller ended up becoming a musical blockbuster just like Woh Kaun Thi, in 1964, where Madanmohan’s composition “naina barse,” “lagja gale”, etc. for Lata Mangeshkar was probably the most immortal creation in the history of film music, with Sadhna giving life time performances in ghostly characters in both these films.

The landmark ghazal “tumhari zulf ke saye me sham karlunga” in the film Naunihal, in 1967, is probably one of the five best ghazals Rafi did sing in his life. Experts in music realise that ages will pass, but no second singer can provide blood and flesh in the superlative ghazal of Madanmohan the way Rafi had done in this song. Kaifi Azmi has written sensational lyrics for the abovementioned song. People started thinking that Rafi and Madanmohan were made for each other. The belief was put to action in the next film Dulhan Ek raat ki, in 1967, picturised on Dharmender in the song “ek haseen sham ko dil mera kho gaya. In the film Chirag, 1969, “teri aakhon ke siwa duniya me rakkha kya hai” Madanmohan combined ghazal with light orchestration to try to inspire the common listeners in understanding these type of songs.

In the film Heer Ranjha, 1971, picturised on Rajkumar, Rafi’s song “yeh duniya yeh mehfil” was well acclaimed by music lovers. Rafi was outstanding by every standard in the song “tum jo mil gaye ho” in the film Hanste Zakhm, 1973, where Madanmohan synchronised lightning with his own orchestration. Madanmohan also gave a tremendous break to Bhupinder Singh in the song “dil dhoonta hai, phir wohi, fursat ke raat din” written by Gulzar in Sanjeev Kumar’s Mausam in 1975. Rafi had the song “chari re chari kaise gale me pari.”

Madanmohan’s last performance with Jaidev brought out Rafi’s Himalayan range in the film Laila Majnu in 1977. Rafi’s songs “tere dar pe aya hoon,” “barbad muhobat ka duya saath liye ja”, picturised on Rishi Kapoor showed his master spirit of adapting to tunes of middle east which was the geographical location where the story was based. Madanmohan died in 1975, without even seeing the success of Laila Majnu, it appeared like out of seven sur in every octave one sur had gone, because, the majestic combination of Madanmohan with Rafi cannot be forgotten through ages. Rafi’s archive should restore Madanmohan’s combination to let the next generation know about the high esteem with which Madanmohan addressed Mohammad Rafi during the golden age of film music.

[1] Bhupinder Singh was a great admirer of Rafi. In his interview in DD India, he said, he got a chance of acting and singing in the film Haqeekat and he was supposed to share the microphone with another singer for the song “hoke majboor usne bulaya hoga.” He chose Mohammad Rafi to share the microphone with and as he was taller than Rafi, Rafi was given a tool to balance the voices. Manna Dey and Talat Mehmood shared the other microphone.

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Sudhin Dasgupta

Sudhin Dasgupta – A creative genius of Golden age of Bengali Modern songs.

In the 50s, 60s and 70s, during the Golden age of Bengali Modern songs, it was very difficult to create a distinct identity in terms of compositions as it was a transition period between use of classical music with westernised effects and incorporation of folk and other rural tunes in the urbanised music base. On one hand the classical legacy created by Legends like Viswadev Chatterji, Ghyanendra Prosad Goswami, Tarapodo Chakraborty were carried forward by Manobendra Mukherjee, Manna Dey, Dhanonjoy Bhattacharya, Satinath Mukherjee, Akhil Bandhu Ghosh and others. Although the noted singers did use pure classical only in certain songs but the classical touch was evident in all their performances. On the other hand the folk singers like SD Burman, Nirmalendu Choudhury inspired Shyamal Mitra and others to maintain the colour, flora, fauna of Bengal’s romantic landscape.[1]

In the golden age, music composers and lyricists in Bengal had reached the zenith of creative compositions. Noted lyricists included Gouriprasanna Mojumdar, Shaymal Gupta, Pronob Roy, Sailen Roy and others. Music composers included Robin Chatterji, Pabitra Chatterji, Anol Chatterji, Anupam Ghatak, Anil Bagchi, Gyanprokash Ghosh, Salil Chowdhury, Nochiketa Ghosh and others. In the same age Sudhin Dasgupta, came up with his westernised compositions and contributed to Bengali modern songs, both with his lyrics and memorable music composition.
He had showed his skills in playing the Piano and with the expertise in a number of musical instruments, his compositions had an identity of his own in an age when every music composer galvanised the horizon of Bengali Modern song with their unique style.[2]

Notable compositions of Sudhin Dasgupta include “Moyurkonthi rater nile” for Manobendra Mukherjee, “Ei Jhirjhirjhir batashe” for Dhanonjoy Bhattacharya, “Akash eto meghla” for Satinath Mukherjee, “keno tumi phire ele” for Shyamal Mitra, etc. The big challenge of Sudhin Dasgupta was to face Robin Chatterji, who was dominating the Bengali film music, and modern song with his versatile creations. Robin Chatterji had introduced Portugese folk song in the film Deeper naam tiya rong, “o amar sat rajari dhon” and “phiriti bosakor kure gi dise” sung by Shyamal Mitra and Bhaisnav angik bhajan “O mon kokhon shuru kokhon je shesh ke jane”in Uttamkumar’s film Kamallata, 1969. Besides he composed prayer song to kirtan to classical song in Lalubhulu, 1958, for Manobendra Mukherjee.

Sudhin Dasgupta changed the horizon of Bengali film song by asking Manna Dey to sing for Uttamkumar whose major songs were previously sung by Hemanta Mukherjee whose voice suited him the most. Sudhin Dasgupta went to Bombay where Manna Dey and Lata Mangeshkar were busy in the recording of songs of film Pakizaa with Gulam Mohammad and Naushad. When Sudhin Dasgupta recorded the song for Uttamkumar’s film Shonkhobela, 1966, titled “Dekechi ke age ke diyeche sara” as a duet song for Manna Dey and Lata Mangeshkar, Naushad said the words could not be understood as it was composed in Bengali, for the tune was excellent.[3]

The film Shonkhobela was a superhit film and Sudhin Dasgupta’s composition for Manna Dey “Ami agantuk” and for Lata Mangeshkar “Aj mon cheche ami hariye jabo” was well acclaimed by music lovers across the nation. Sudhin Dasgupta shaped the career of Legendary singer Manna Dey who was busy in Bombay singing different types of songs under the patronage of Shankar Jaikishan, Roshan, Salil Chowdhury and others. After Shonkobela, Manna Dey formed an immortal combination in playback singing with Uttamkumar, providing sensational performance in films like Antony firingi, 1967, Nishipadda,1970, Stri, 1971, Sanyasi Raja, 1975, and winning national awards and Bengal Film Journalist Association (BFJA) awards one after the other.

Notable Bengali films where Sudhin Dasgupta composed music include Dakharkora, 1958, Shonkhobela, 1966, Choddhobeshi, 1971, Har Mana Har, 1972, Teen Bhubaner Pare, etc. He has used bayul ( a type of folk song in rural Bengal) in “ogo tomar shesh bicharer asay” for Manna Dey, South Indian tune in “bachao ke acho” in Chaddabeshi, rural touch in “rangila ranga dehe bhab jegeche” for Manobendra Mukherjee, Westernised chorus effect in “aro dure cholo jai” for Asha Bhosle. His lyrics were also very colourful like his compositions. He even taught music to established singer like Bonoshri Sengupta.

An archive should be created where Sudhin Dasgupta’s compositions are restored and preserved for future generations to get inspiration from creative music in the Golden age of Bengali modern songs.

[1] My father Chitta Ranjan Chatterji, Ex – Chief Public Prosecutor, Bankshall Court, Kolkata was the Cultural Secretary of Scottish Church College, Kolkata, the same college where Legendary singer Manna Dey, Eminent Film Director Nabyendu Chatterji ( Director of Award winning films like Chopper, Mansur miyar ghora, etc.), Parthoprotim Chowdhury ( Director of Award Winning film Chayasurjo)studied. In 1956, my father conducted the cultural program in Scottish Church College, inviting Manobendra Mukherjee, Shymal Mitra, Satinath Mukherjee to sing in front of huge crowd in North Kolkata. Satinath Mukherjee with his song “Bonopatho majhe” got huge applaud which was even outplayed by Manobendra Mukherjee with his song “Emni kore porbe mone baki jibon dhore”. The same crowd was spellbound with the orchestration of Sudhin Dasgupta in the song “Elo Borosha je sohosa money tai”.

[2] Sudhin Dasgupta played his compositions in Piano in Public function held in DumDum, Kolkata, in 1955, where Classical Singer Sandhya Mukherjee performed her songs of Uttamkumar’s film Sabar Upare. The program was held at a place close to Sudhin Dasgupta’s own house in Kalicharan Ghosh Road, Sinthee, Kolkata.

[3] Manna Dey gave memorable interviews in DD India, where he said Naushad’s remark about Sudhin Dasputa composition was that “awaaz ki ahmiat samajh me nahi aya, lekin sur bahut hi umdah hai”.