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The Golden Era of Bengali Adhunik: A Reminiscence

Originally written in 2011.

Looking back at the years when I was a child, I did not realize how lucky I was to be born during a time when the world of Bengali “Adhunik” was so blessed. To set the scene one has to think about the artists who were then in the limelight in Kolkata. Robin Majumdar, Hemanta Mukhopadhyay, Shyamal Mitra, Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhonsle, Kishore Kumar, Mukesh, Manna Dey, Manabendra Mukhopadhyay, Satinath Mukhopadhyay, Dhananjoy Bhattacharjee, Pannalal Bhattacharya, Akhil Bandhu Ghosh, Jaganmoy Mitra, Aparesh Lahiri, Sachin Dev BarmanSandhya Mukhopadhyay, Pratima Bandyopadhyay, Alpona Bandypadhyay, Nirmala Mishra, Tarun Bandypadhyay, Dwejen Mukhopadhyay, Ila Basu, Arati Mukhopadhyay, Suman Kalyanpur, Gayatri Basu, Basabi Nandy, Sanat Singha, Mrinal Charaborty, Madhuri Chattopadhyay, Banashree Seengupta to name a few. This about the composers – Salil Chowdhury, Sudhin Dasgupta, Hemanta Mukhopadhyay, Shyamal Mitra, Nachiketa Ghosh, Gopen Mullick, Kalipada Sen, Anil Bagchi, V. Balsara, Prabir Majumdar, Abhijit Bandyopadhyay, Anol Chattopadhyay, Ratu Mukhopadhyay, Ruhul Dev Barman, Sachin Dev Barman – I can easily fill the page and still only be done partially.

A Cross-section of the Golden Era: Sitting from left: Robin Majumdar, Bhanu Banerjee, Robin Chatterjee, Ila Bose, Bani Ghoshal, Sabita Chowdhury and Salil Chowdhury; Standing from left: V. Balsara, Shyamal Mitra, Montu Bose and Jahar Roy

1967 was an important year for Bengali Adhunik and film songs. Manna Dey as a playback artist in Bengali already had super-hit songs singing for Sudhin Dasgupta in “Shankhabela” in 1966. Then came “Antony Firingee” in 1967. It cemented his place in the Bengali films as a playback singer. 1967 also saw Shyamal Mitra’s smash hit song “Ki Name Deke” (কী নামে ডেকে, Lyrics and Music by Sudhin Dasgupta). I remember an incident. I was with my father getting my shoe polished by a young shoe-shiner boy. He was singing the song as he polished my shoe. My father immediately remarked, “You know it is bumper hit when even a show shiner sings it! As a matter of fact, although my father was not a singer or musician by any stretch of imagination, he had an uncanny ear for good songs and could predict well in advance if a song would do well with the audience. 1967 was also the year when we saw two stalwart composers, Salil Chowdhury and Sudhin Dasgupta gave twenty songs sung by ten artists during Gramaphone Company of India’s “Shaarad Arghya” release to commemorate Durga Puja. All of them are gems.  Think about the lineup:

Sudhin Dasgupta’s Compositions: Pratima Badyopadhyay Tomar Deoya Angurio Sojani Go Shyamal Mitra Ki Name Deke Ei Shohore Ei Bondore Arati Mukherjee Jodi Akash Hoto Ankhi Na Bole Eshechi Banasri Sengupta Aaj Shudhu Khela Eto Kore Kache Daki Mrinal Chakraborty Tumi Je Asha Nodi Koto Din Je Khunje Gelam Salil Chowdhury’s Compositions Lata Mageshkar Nishi Din Nishi Din Ke Jabi Aay Sandhya Mukherjee Ore Mon Amar Jodi naam dhore taarey daaki Nirmalendu Choudhury Hay Hay Ki Herila Sunayani Sunayi (With Sabita Chowdhury) Madhuri Chottopadhyay Gun Gun Phagun Shesh Hole Oi Je Sobuj Bonobithika Sabita Chowdhury Miti Miti Taratra Bolo naa bhoolite As a music lover, I continue to be inspired by these songs. They are nostalgic no doubt. But above all they are all classics and I continue to adore the 1950s through the 1970s – the Golden Era of Bengali Modern Songs. 
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