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Novel take on Naxalite struggle

BOOK BAZAAR

A book that traces the Naxalite movement right from the Naxalbari of the 1970s to the more recent Nandigram protests — Atta-N’tar Surya, a docu-novel by Ashoke Mukherjee, was launched at Oxford Bookstore last week.

“I have nothing to say about the book. The reader should form his own judgement,” said the author as he thanked author Tilottoma Majumdar and one-time Naxalite Krishna Bandopadhyay, both of who were present at the event, for egging him on to write the novel. Atta-N’tar Surya was published serially in a weekend magazine before being brought out by Dey’s Publishing.

One of the main characters of the docu-novel, so called as it is a blend of fact and fiction, is modelled on Bandopadhyay. “Panchali may be inspired by me but the character comprises all my comrades,” she said, sharing snatches from her life and the struggle of the Seventies.

Bandopadhyay had accompanied the author to the poverty-stricken village from where she hailed. “Some villagers there still dream of a revolution,” she said.

Also present were poet Sankha Ghosh, historian Gautam Bhadra and filmmaker Suman Mukhopadhyay.

Music & the man

Salil Chowdhury’s 88th birth anniversary was an occasion to rediscover the author in him with the launch of the first volume of his complete works.

The book, brought out by Dey’s Publishing, is divided into five sections — mass music, modern songs, film music, children’s music and music he composed for others. “He always insisted that these songs be included whenever his complete works were compiled,” said co-editor Ranabir Niyogi.

An evening of music and memories followed as the legend’s colleagues and admirers gathered at Kala Mandir.

Writer-critic Samik Bandyopadhyay talked of the multi-faceted genius who also wrote poems and plays. “Two of his plays written for Gananatya Sangha were banned during Emergency and could not be traced. The likes of Kali Banerjee and Karuna Bandyopadhyay acted in those plays which voiced people’s protest against limiting of their rights,” Bandyopadhyay said. “Salilbabu used to sing to gather crowds before plays. I have been fortunate to hear Suchitra Mitra singing Krishnakali and he playing the harmonium and singing Shei meye in duet.”

Linguist Pabitra Sarkar came in touch with Chowdhury towards the end of his career while publishing the first volume of his poetry. “He used to speak freely about how the Russian national anthem had influenced the tune of Shyamal barani ogo kanya or how he had taken the opening of a Polish folk song for Dil tadap tadap. He once stunned the owner of a music shop in the US by playing every instrument.”

Singer Dwijen Mukherjee talked of Chowdhury’s sense of humour. “Salilda would say Dwijen has a quick temper because his head is closer to the sun,” recalled the 6ft 2.5inch man. Mukherjee praised Chowdhury’s guts as a composer. “He wanted me for Dev Anand in the film Maya but the producer wanted Mohd Rafi instead. Salilda told him to look for another music director.” Mukherjee not only sang Ay dil kahan teri manzil but it went on to be a hit as well.

The musical line-up for the evening included Haimanti Shukla, Banashree Sengupta, Sampa Kundu, Usha Uthup, Upal, Raghav, Shibaji Chattopadhyay and Arundhati Hom Chowdhury.

On chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s request, the composer’s wife Sabita Chowdhury was the first to take stage, along with daughter Antara. The audience broke into applause as they sang the evergreen Surer ei jhar jhar jharna. Antara pointed out how brave a decision it had been on her father’s part to try a three-part harmony in an age without multi-track recording system.

The audience also got a glimpse of Salil the man. “On his 60th birthday, he got busy replacing a bulb. When I pointed out the lamp was working fine, he said it was a 60W bulb that he was lighting to mark his 60th birthday.”

The composer’s sons had also flown in for the programme.

Chandreyee Ghose and Sudeshna Banerjee