| Salil Chowdhury: Melody unlimited
Two states — West Bengal and Maharashtra. Two industries — Bollywood and Tollywood. One mission — Tribute to a music maestro.
Politicians and singers from Calcutta and Mumbai will come together later this month to strike the opening chords of a foundation named after composer Salil Chowdhury. And what’s the best way to launch a mission in the name of Bengal’s leading composer in the modern era' Through his own music.
The Salt Lake stadium has been booked on November 19 for this soiree with a cause. The show will feature several artistes who sung to Chowdhury’s tunes — Yesudas, Hariharan and S.P. Balasubramaniam, who lent voice to his Tamil and Malayalam hits; Manna Dey, Dwijen Mukhopadhyay and Haimanti Shukla, who will be on stage to bring alive the six melodious decades during which Salilda reigned in Bengal, Bombay and beyond.
The younger lot — Usha Uthup, Srikanta Acharya, Indranil Sen, Lopamudra Mitra, Indrani Sen, to name a few — will also play a part in the tribute to the legend. “Kavita (Krishnamurthy), who sang in his last Hindi film Swami Vivekananda, has cancelled a trip to France to be here. Sonu Nigam is also coming over,” said the composer’s wife and the voice of some his vintage numbers, Sabita Chowdhury.
The programme, on his 77th birth anniversary, will be a fundraiser for the Salil Chowdhury Foundation of Music, Social Health and Education Trust. The basic aim of the trust is to preserve, protect and promote the music maestro’s intellectual properties. Says Chowdhury’s daughter and trust chairperson Antara: “Baba’s music and lyrics are being distorted in remake versions. Awareness needs to be created to stop that.” A volume of ‘official’ notations of Salil Chowdhury hits will be released in Book Fair 2003. His unreleased music, too, will be brought out.
The next big step would be setting up an archive where all of the doyen’s works, including his poems, plays, scripts and stories, will be housed under one roof. “A person can walk in and listen to any of his songs in 11 languages at a nominal membership fee,” Antara says. The third objective is to set up a music school, where students will be trained in both eastern and western music. “My father was influenced by world music. So a school named after him will have to include ragas, Rabindrasangeet as well as symphonies,” she says. The uniqueness of the institute, however, will be in its training course for composers, under the baton of Abhijeet Bandyopadhyay, Chowdhury’s student and associate since the IPTA (Indian People’s Theatre Association) days.
The foundation has another ambitious dream. “My husband loved working with children. So, we want to give streetchildren a chance. Our dream is to create a group with them, which will perform on stage and go on tours,” Sabita Chowdhury says. The foundation will also use its resources to fund fellowships for talented youngsters and help artistes in need.
Help for the nascent foundation has come from various quarters, with state sports minister Subhas Chakraborty taking up the organisational responsibility for the show. The artistes, too, have come forward. Speaking from his Bangalore residence, one of Chowdhury’s favourite singers, Manna Dey, said: “So far, nothing has been done in Salil’s memory. I am one of his greatest admirers, both as a person and as a composer. We worked for months together. I sang his debut composition in Hindi films — Dharti kahe pukar ke in Do Bigha Zameen. After that, there was no looking back for either of us. I will sing my heart out for any venture in his name.”
An album containing Chowdhury’s hits, sung by today’s big names, will be unveiled on the evening. The sales proceeds will go to the foundation’s coffers, informed Tapas Ghosh, event co-ordinator. Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee will inaugurate the show, with the Maharashtra government being represented by deputy chief minister Chhagan Bhujbal. “We plan to make the concert an annual event. Next year, we might take it to Chennai. After all, Salil Chowdhury belongs to the entire country,” Antara smiles.