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Monday, October 3, 2016

There is one day when All India Radio beats all television channels hollow, it is on Mahalaya.....

Uttam Kumar was paid Rs 150 for his radio rendition on Mahalaya

If there is one day when All India Radio beats all television channels hollow, it is on Mahalaya. Waking up at the crack of dawn to listen to the sonorous chants of late Birendra Krishna Bhadra has almost become a ritual for a generation of Bengalis. Channels tirelessly continue to rope in various stars to present a new-improved version of the Mahisasura Mardini. Yet on Mahalaya, majority of Bengalis still prefer to dust their transistor sets and listen to the chants that stand as a harbinger of the Durga Puja season. What is it that makes this radio programme on an operatic scale so special? Is it nostalgia that refuses to lose its charm despite people having heard it so many times over? Or is it authenticity sans any filmi connection? Or is it simply a love for cliches? Akashvani has changed its signature tune. The once-popular programmes on radio have been almost elbowed out of circulation. Yet, the timeless appeal of Mahisasura Mardini remains. According to Tarun Kumar Das, assistant station director of AIR, over an informal adda in 1932, Nripen Mazumdar, Raichand Boral, Pankaj Mullick and other stalwarts discussed how it would be nice to host a programme that would keep people awake all night. "The programme was called Basentesori Champu and it was held in March. This programme was redeveloped and the first 'Mahisasura Bodh' got broadcast in 1936. Back then, it was held on shoshti," Das says.

Violinist Durbadal Chatterjee has vivid memories of playing for the original programme. His father used to accompany Bhadra when the programme was aired live from the AIR's 1 Garstin Place office. Musicologist Anindya Banerjee remembers watching a documentary made by DD7 Kolkata on this programme that was held at Garstin Place. "On the first day, it was transmitted at 6 in the morning. The script was penned by Banikumar - who was the grandfather of Chandril Bhattacharya. The music was scored by Pankaj Mullick," Banerjee says. Apart from the narration, Birendra Krishna Bhadra also sang the songs. The Chandipath was done by Banikumar himself. "On October 21, 1937, the first Mahisasura Mardini was broadcast on Mahalaya. Our records state that Birendra Krishna Bhadra had done the Chandipath that year," Das says. Banerjee recounts listening to an interview of Juthika Roy in the Doordarshan documentary. "When the date of airing was shifted to Mahalaya, the timing was changed to 4 am. She recalled how incense sticks would be lit before the programme began. The male musicians would wear dhoti-punjabi made of gorod. The female artistes would be dressed in red-bordered garod sari. Once the programme was over, arrangements were made for a sumptuous meal too." Indologist Nrishingha Prasad Bhaduri has been listening to the radio rendition almost ever since its inception. "Nothing matches up to this rendition. Those who performed truly internalised the whole process," Bhaduri says. Chatterjee too has heard such stories from his father. The artistes would reach the place the night before the programme. "Early morning, Biren-da would take a dip in the Ganga. Then, they would light dhup-dhuno and air the live programme. Baba has played in those programmes," he recounts.

Recordings of the live programmes started being aired from 1963 onwards. Perhaps, it was the fear of natural calamity that prompted organisers to replace the concept of airing programmes live with recordings. During that time, Chatterjee himself started playing for the recording. By then, the system of going live had been replaced by recordings. "We used to have three-month-long rehearsals before the final programme. I used to work at AIR and during those three months, I didn't have to play for any other programme. Along with 25-26 musicians, we would practice the pieces diligently," the violinist says. On the days of the rehearsals, Bhadra wouldn't be present. "He also would work at AIR and was the producer of the drama section. Pankaj Mullick would conduct our rehearsals. There was no scope for us to give the rehearsals a miss. So many artistes, including Shyamal Mitra, Arati Mukherjee, Shipra Bose, Manabendra Mukhopadhyay used to sing for the programme. It would take eight to nine days for us to complete the recording," Chatterjee goes on. Singer Ashima Mukherjee remembers recording for this programme between 65 and 67. "We would rehearse from 7 pm to 10 pm. Pankaj-da and Bani-da would be there. Pankaj-da would take care to rehearse with each of us individually. Forget us juniors, even seniors had to rehearse so that they were on the right pitch," she recalls. During recording, they would all go to the No. 5 studio. "There was only one microphone. Each of us would await our turns. When Pankaj-da started singing 'Joy joy joy', it would be mesmerising," she says.

Once Emergency was announced, the situation started changing. "During those days, I had joined the radio as producer. We would receive orders saying to make changes. Once there was an order to drop Pankaj Mullick's songs. Then came the order to rewrite the script. Dr Dyanesh Narayan Chakraborty rewrote it. But somehow, I had an apprehension that it wouldn't work," Mukherjee admits.
Yet, work continued. Hemanta Mukherjee was roped in to score the music in 1976. "We go all the stalwarts including Sandhya-di, Manna Dey and Manabendra-da to sing. Then, I requested Hemanta-da to approach Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhonsle to participate. That too was done. Finally, we thought of asking Uttam babu to narrate. Initially, he wasn't ready. It took a lot of convincing by both Hemanta-da and me to finally get him to narrate. This was the only time when Uttam babu had come to the radio station to record something. I still remember that he was given a paltry cheque of Rs 150 to record this," she recalls. The programme was called "Debin Durgati Harinim". But the attempts fell flat on the face. Though he himself played during that recording, Chatterjee would not even reveal that fact to people around for the fear about being criticised as well. "Uttam Kumar was a little apprehensive during the recording. I remember him asking Ashima Mukherjee 'mar khaabona toh' ('hope I won't be thrashed') before beginning his recording. The response wasn't favourable at all," Chatterjee says.

For more details click on the following link.
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/kolkata/Uttam-Kumar-was-paid-Rs-150-for-his-radio-rendition-on-Mahalaya/articleshow/54592871.cms

Source and credit :- http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/kolkata/Uttam-Kumar-was-paid-Rs-150-for-his-radio-rendition-on-Mahalaya/articleshow/54592871.cms
Forwarded By :- Shri. Jainender Nigam PB NewsDesk. prasarbharati.newsdesk@gmail.com

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