The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Address shift for Tagore tutelage

Almost 60 years ago, one of Rabindranath Tagore’s talented disciples in Santiniketan decided to put his training to good use in Calcutta. Sailajaranjan Mazumdar’s vast repertoire of songs and skills on the esraj immediately found followers, and so was born the guiding force behind institutions like Geetabitan (1941), Dakshinee (1948) and Surangama (1957).

Surangama, which Mazumdar established at Netaji’s Elgin Road residence with disciples Nilima Sen and Prasad Sen, followed his trademark style of teaching without the harmonium. The centre then moved to 33, Rashbehari Avenue, and finally, plans are now afoot to open a huge centre in Salt Lake.

Mazumdar is no more but his huge band of students and teachers is determined to make the new centre worthy of his legacy. Surangama has grown in fame and stature, with 40 teachers and nearly 350 students involved with the school and its work.

“The need to open a centre in Salt Lake arose from the lack of awareness of Sailajada’s style and skills. Not many are aware that he was the first to propagate a ban on harmoniums and promote the esraj and flute as accompanying instruments,” says Amalendu Sain, president of Surangama.

The school had, a few years ago, acquired six cottahs in DD Block of Salt Lake, thanks to the efforts of the state government. Now, Sain and others are going over the blueprint that could see the completion of the Surangama Rabindrasangeet Sikshayan Trust, housed in a two-storeyed building, spread over 3,000 sq ft.

The ground floor will house an auditorium with a capacity of 200. “Special attention will be given to acoustics and sound movement that mars many a recital in a bad auditorium. On the first floor, there will be several classrooms, a library and an archive centre. Provisions have also been made for teaching outdoors, since there is substantial land lying vacant,” says Sain.

Former Geetabitan student Gayatri Dutta remembers the legendary figure as “someone whom everyone looked up to for advice when it came to Rabindrasangeet. He had this innate skill to spot talent and organise dance and music dramas”.

To those who came in late, Sailajaranjan had not just mastered the esraj, but also had nearly 100 songs (pre-recorded) to his credit, taught to him by Gurudev.

“We had often approached prominent audio companies to produce them, but since everyone runs after glitter, the songs found no takers. Now, we will preserve them in archives for reference. People will get to hear a very different Bodo bedonaar moton or Bodo bishwayo laage, when they hear these recordings,” adds Sain.

Surangama is facing a funds crunch, making it tough to complete the project within a deadline. At a rough estimate, Rs 20 lakh is required for the building and preservation material.

“At the moment, we are raising funds privately. We are holding a soiree at Geetanjali, in Santiniketan, on November 24, where we will put up Chandalika, the way Sailajada visualised it. Through various functions, we hope to attract sponsors and donations for the project. Later, we might seek government help,” says Sain.

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