Budhbarer Boithok – Smarane Purabi Mukhopadhyay – 2nd December 2020, 6pm
From the Desk of the General Secretary, Rabindra Bharati Society
Today’s (2.12.2020) Budhbarer Baithaki Adda on zoom is to ruminate on the Memories of the legendary singer Purabi Mukhopadhyay whose 3rd Death Anniversary would be on Friday, 4th December, 2020. We started with a clipping of a Rabindra Sangeet “kon aloke praner prodip jaliye” that she sang in one of the programmes for the Society.
Remembered the day when her student, Darpanarayan informed me of her passing away at 83 years due to a viral attack and I rushed to pay my last respect to the great soul by placing a garland on her. On the occasion of 125th Foundation Day of Calcutta University, we had published a souvenir where she had given a write up. Unfortunately we could not hand over the same to her before she departed.I read it out for all where she mentioned she stood 1st in a singing competition which was judged by eminent personalities and then on there was no looking back. The Society felicitated her on the Foundation Day on 15th January, 2012, towards her contribution in singing.
Ex-Governor of West Bengal Justice Shri Shyamal Kumar Sen who was present said she was named Purabi by Kobi Guru since she was born on 24thBoishak, preceding Rabindra Nath Tagore’s Birthday on 25thBoishak.She had high regards for ShriSen and eventhough knew not a note of singing, he was appointed the Secretary of her school “Phullora”, which was the epitome of guru-sisya parampara. He revealed that she was also felicitated in the prestigious Rabindra Mela in Shantiniketan.
I requested Smt. Piyali Basu, an ex-student of “Phullora”, which was pioneered by Purobi Mukherjee, to compere today’s programme. Smt. Basu informed that the name of the school was derived from Purabi Mukherjee’s parents’ name. Her mother was Phullora and father was Late Phullo Kumar Chatterjee.
Smt. Basu requested Smt. Basabi Bagchi, Professor, Bolpur Mahavidyalaya, to say a few words on Purobi Mukherjee. Smt. Bagchi informed that Purabi Mukherjee was a very close friend of her mother and aunt. Since childhood she was more inclined towards singing than academics. They studied together in Victoria College, where they formed the “NabaRatna Sabha”, comprising of students who were talented in fine arts. They used to have their concert practices in the Presidency College premises when it was closed. Purabi Mukherjee would sing and her aunt would dance. The renowned singer attended all their family functions and constantly encouraged Smt. Bagchi to sing though she was a professor. Smt. Bagchi sang “j ratey mor duar guli bhanglo jhore” in her melodious voice.
Next Dr.Sujit Kumar Basu, Working President, Rabindra Bharati Society, was requested to say something on Purabi Mukherjee. He said that he was studying in Presidency College in 1968 when he got introduced to her songs through hiscousin who studied with her. Later when he travelled to USA for higher studies, he visited an international records studio and was surprised to find a 33⅓ RPM record of Chinmoy Chatterjee and Purab iChatterjee (her maiden name) there which he picked up and that was how he started developing a liking for her songs. Later, when he became the Vice Chancellor of Biswa Bharati, she visited their home in Shantiniketan. He stated that he has a huge collection of her songs.
Then Shri Gautam Mitrawas invited to say a few words on the famous singer. He recalled their attending a programme in Chinsura and travelling together. Since he was young, she insisted he be picked up last and dropped first to give him company. He grew uplistening to her songs and there was a mass appeal for her song “amarlotarprothommukul”, so much so that in every function she was requested to sing this song and it became synonymous with her name. She learnt singing for 10 years every day from Monday to Friday from the legendary singer Debabrata Biswas or Georgeda as he was commonly called and he regarded her as his best student. Shri Mitra ended by singing “tumi amai dekechile chutir nimontrone”.
After that Smt. Anushila Basu was called to speak about Purabi Mukherjee. She specified that Didi, as she was called by all, emphasised strongly on pronunciation of lyrics of all songs. She was also very particular about how she dressed for her programmes and was always well turned out in every occasion. Katha stitched saries from Krishna Bose’s boutique was her favourite. She was also very punctual and was always ahead of time for all functions. She was greatly respected by all and was honoured by being appointed as a Member of Rabindra Sadan Committee. She has two daughters, one settled in America and one residing in Kolkata. But unfortunately none are interested in singing, which grieved Didi very much. Smt.Basu sang 2 lines of “amar ai poth cholayatei anondo”.
Then our member, Shri Soumitra Bandhopadhyay was requested to recall his days with Didi. He said he had known her since 1974 and used to visit her house which had a beautiful garden. He was grateful to Late Ananda Kumar Mukherjee, the then Secretary of Rabindra Bharati Society, who always encouraged budding junior singers and gave them an opportunity to sing in big programmes. He recollected that in 1977 as a youngster he had the privilege to share the stage in one such programme where celebrated singers like Ashoktaru Bandhyopadhyay, Hemanta Mukherjee, Purabi Mukherjee, Srikumar Chattopadhyay, Gautam Mitra and others performed. He had once witnessed CESCorganising a programme with two Purobis, viz. Purabi Dutta rendering Nazrulgeeti versus Purabi Mukherjee singing Rabindra Sangeet, who was from a typical Rabindra gharana. He stated that Didi blessed him and told him to continue with his singing.
Next Smt. Sukla Sengupta, a student of Purabi Mukherjee, spoke fondly of Didi and the joyful days they spent in Phullora. She mentioned that once while participating in a programme in Rabindra Sadan, she was the odd one out wearing the Phullora uniform sari instead of katha stitch sari that all were supposed to wear for that occasion. Didi was displeased with her for not being attentive and she saw Didi making eyes at her from the audience. For any programme she would say, “Gaaan tu le ja”and tell them which song to sing. Smt. Sengupta sang “tai tomar anondo amar por” and enthralled the audience.
I informed that Smt. Durba Sinha, Professor of Rabindra Bharati University, will not be able to attend today’s programme due to a death in her family. Also Shri Srikumar Chattopadhyay will be unable to attend because of health issues.
Dr.Shampa Guha Roy Choudhury mentioned that Purabi Mukhrerjee taught them Rabindra Sangeet in Rabindra Bharati University.
The last speaker invited was Shri Darponarayan Chattopadhyay, another student of Purobi Mukherjee. He informed that after the demise of Didi, her residence which housed “Phullora”, was sold off. So they shifted it to the residence of another student and it is still active and operating from Park Circus. They would be bringing out a “Tribute to Tagore” in Facebook on 5th December, 2020, in remembrance of Purabi Mukherjee. He emphasised on how they enjoyed the days with her at the helm of affairs. Every year they used to have an Annual Function in March in reputed halls like Birla Sabhaghar, Ice Skating Rink, ICCR, etc., where the students used to sing in the 1st half and the 2nd half Didi would sing solos. Didi, along with Shri Pabitro Sarkar would write the script with “akash”, “pakhi”, etc., as the theme. The 75th Anniversary of Phullora was celebrated in a majestic way in Rabindra Sadan. In the last year of her life when she was unable to sing, she went on stage and called out names and made everybody sing in the 2nd half also. Shri Chottopadhyay ended by singing“dhai jeno more sokolbhalobasa”.
Smt. Piyali Basu concluded the evening’s programme on a songful note of“bhubonojora asano khani”, thanking all present and specially Shri Himadri Mukherjee for operating the zoom platform and enabling us to gather here.
2nd December, 2020