From the Desk of the General Secretary, Rabindra Bharati Society
As part of Rabindra Bharati Society’s yearlong 75th Foundation Day Celebration, we organised a virtual Budhbarer Baithaki Adda on musical soirée titled “tumi j surer agun lagiye dile mor prane” with eminent artists, to commemorate the birth centenary of legendary pianist V. Balsara, to celebrate the International Music Day and also for know-hows of the Society.
I welcomed all members present. Then the President of the Society, former Chief Justice Chittotosh Mukherjee spoke on Rabindra Bharati Society’s “Itikotha” from its inception. It was registered under the Society’s Act on 15th January, 1947, in 5 and 5/2, Dwarka Nath Tagore Lane, Kolkata and the passage way on Circular Road leading to Jorasako Thakurbari. These are mentioned in a Deed dated September, 1962. It was founded with the initiative and able leadership of the first Chief Minister of West Bengal, Dr. Bidhan Chandra Roy, with an intention to save Rabindranath Tagore’s property being illegally occupied, to renovate it and also to preserve Kabi Guru’s works. Dr. Roy was the first President of the Society. Then Bhaskar Chandra Chunder, nephew of eminent Dr. Pratap Chandra Chunder, the first Secretary of the Society, read out extracts from Dr. Chunder’s book “Smritikotha” about the formation of the Society by the then stalwarts like Ananda Mukherjee and others. Later a University was also formed whose first Vice Chancellor was the Governor of West Bengal, Smt. Padmaja Naidu.
Moving onto the next agenda, Mallar Ghosh, son of Acharya Gyan Prakash Ghosh, cited a few anecdotes about the legend V. Balsara whom he had seen since childhood as he was extremely close to his father. V. Balsara accompanied his father in music in six movies and both did an album “Raga On Key Boards” under HMV, which became very popular worldwide for which they practiced meticulously daily for 2½ hrs for 3 months at a stretch. He was the only musician to write staff notation in English. In 1965 when V. Balsara left Mumbai for good and wanted to settle down in Kolkata, it was Acharya Ghosh who helped him find a residence and also with his profession. He was a simple, extremely dedicated, hardworking person who was loved by all. He was very passionate about music and loved his giant piano like one of his family members. He would accompany it on a matador at 6am to the venue of a programme and bring it back at 10pm when traffic rules were relaxed. He preferred to travel by local transport to programmes venues with his assisting personnel. Sri Ghosh ended his talk by rendering one of his compositions, which is played in all the puja pandals. I informed all that in 1993 V. Balsara along with singer Ashoktaru Bandopadhyay were felicitated at Rathindra Mancha on the occasion of 50th Golden Jubilee Foundation Day of the Society where he also played the piano accompanied by Buddhadeb Dasgupta.
Then came the musical part where Rabindra Sangeets were played by artists on varied instruments.
Two pieces, “sakhi bhabona kahare bole” and “bahire ghum bhamge jokhon” were played live on Sarod by Promontho Thakur of Pathurighata Thakurbari.
All India Radio artist, Anupam Acharya, who joined in from Bishnupur, Bankura played “anondo dhara bohiche bhubane” on Behala or Violin.
Gorgie Guha, music teacher of Pratt Memorial School, played a western tune and “phule phule dhole dhole” on the Piano with his deft fingers.
Then Saptarshi Bhowmick played a barsha composition “sawana gagane ghor ghana ghate” on Sitar.
Two versions of “bhenge mor ghorer chabi” accompanied by Ektara, Ghumru and a Small Tabla were performed by renowned Nitai Das Baul from Birbhum. I informed all of his performance in a programme for Advocates in Darjeeling along with orchestra and how all danced to his song.
“Eso shyamalo sundoro” was played melodiously on the Flute by Soumyajyoti Ghosh, student of Pandit Ajoy Chakraborty, who travelled to 30 countries and accompanied many musicians. He joined in even though he lost his father few days ago. He mentioned about the three legendary Rs in music, viz. Rabindra Nath Tagore, Ravi Shankar and Rahul Dev Burman, amongst which undoubtedly Tagore was all time the greatest.
Two songs were played on the Saxophone by Jadabendro Pal, who too accompanied many an artists in their albums. He spoke on how V. Balsara had come on time to the studio for recording a piece even on the day his wife passed away, saying that life has to move on.
Pakowaj was played live by Pandit Biplab Mondal, teacher of Rabindra Bharati Bidyalaya and husband of renowned singer Rama Mondal. He too spoke very fondly about V. Balsara and how he used to pack up at 4pm every time.
Dotara and Chinese Flute were played by Roky Basak. He mentioned that the flute took two months to reach him from China.
Chandrani Basu sang a Rabindra Sangeet accompanied by her self-taught Esraj.
Joydeep Chongder, who assists renowned singer Debojyoti Mishra, played “purano sei diner kotha” and “jogote anondo lokey” on the Harmonium, accompanied by his tabalchi.
The last artist, also a writer, Md. Bauli, commonly known as Med Bay, who joined in from Tunisia, North Africa, played the Oriental Maulaf, a stringed instrument.
I requested Dr. Ahbijit Ghosh, Asst. Secretary to wind up the day’s programme. He apprised that Maharaja Sir Sourendra Nath Thakur of Pathurighata Thakurbari possessed 100 musical instruments, the highest collection by any individual in India. All of those are preserved in the Indian Museum in Kolkata. He said when he was in Class V he attended a programme where V. Balsara played the Univox. He displayed his autograph which he collected then. Dr. Ghosh then thanked the Speakers for their valuable insights, all the participants for their incredible performance, Siddhartha Mukherjee and Himadri Mukherjee for the commendable job in organising a programme of this stature in such a short notice and the members for patiently lending their ears to this four hour long programme.
The evening started and ended with a short movie on V. Balsara where he was interviewed by Satinath Mukhopadhyay. He mentioned that he played a wide array of music but Tagore’s songs were the closest to his heart. Many legendary singers like Hemanta Mukherjee, Manna De and other spoke about the great pianist. It was peppered with his piano recitals of Rabindra Sangeet which left the audience enthralled.