When Anupam Roy wants to read a book, he makes sure to take out time exclusively for that and during the lockdown, he had plenty of it. “When things start getting back to normal, however, it gets difficult to take out time,” says the multifaceted artiste. Though he is “alien” to audiobooks, often considered ‘reading’ on the go, Anupam has loved his debut venture with Storytel, Nijer Shobde Kaaj Koro, where he has given voice to his own poems. Nijer Shobde Kaaj Koro is a book of poems by Anupam that was published by Dey’s Publishing early last year and the award-winning singer-songwriter has three volumes of poetry to his credit. The Telegraph chatted with the soft-spoken artiste on this new experience and more.
Congratulations for the Storytel initiative! Why did you choose this volume of poetry?
Actually, Storytel chose this book for me. (Smiles) They wanted me to read it for them. This was most probably in February or March.
How unique or different was it?
I am an alien to audiobooks. I love reading and I trust my eyes more than I trust my ears. Not for music though! When they told me that they wanted to record my poetry in my voice, I was a bit scared. I am not a trained reader. Reading needs a different skill. Since I am a musician, I thought about how I can improve my reading of poetry. I involved Prabuddhada (Banerjee). He is a dear friend of mine and a fantastic musician. We decided to read the poems with background music and there will be a sound design to go with it.
In fact, there are a few poems by (Jack) Kerouac where he is reading out the poem and there is a jazz band playing in the background. I think it was a live performance. Things like these have happened in America before. Shegulo shune aamra aaro inspired holam. Obviously, jazz is not the music that will go with my poetry. That’s their musical language. So, we designed music around my poetry and I am hoping to do more of this kind of stuff and what I realised while going through this process was aamar kobitagulo eka eka porte ekrokom laage and while reciting, it feels different.
In future when I write more poems, I am going to focus on the readability of my poems also. Aamar ekhon je kobitagulo aache, onek abstract and linearity’r theke baire and might be difficult for someone who is listening to it. So, this was an eye-opening experience for me....
How many poems have you recorded?
Around 40 poems. This book is divided into two chapters. The first section is on night, which has around 20 poems... night in the city or the bylanes or by the river or ocean. The next section comprises early poems of mine, which are essentially love poems, which was my first book of poetry that was published 10 or 11 years ago. I realised that I don’t relate to many of them now that so much time has passed. Those seemed a bit amateurish. Still, I recorded them, for the sake of my memory. Shei shomoi shegulo khub shotyi chhilo....
So, you also revisited the past 10 years...
Yes... there were a lot of flashbacks. I was reflecting, ‘Oh my God, I used to think like this’ or I was at this particular airport while writing this. Kichhu jaiga aami disown korchhilam and kichhu jaiga, I was reliving it. The experience was great and I am encouraged to do more if I get the opportunity.
Whose poems do you like listening to in terms of elocutionists?
Actually, I don’t have too much exposure, but obviously we have seen Soumitra Chattopadhyay’s recitation being used in films. I enjoy when poets read out their poems. I was once at the Calcutta Book Fair and there was this lady who had come down from Columbia and was performing her poetry. It was a very different experience. In San Francisco, there is a bookstore called City Lights Bookstore and I attended a poetry-reading session there.
There are some old recordings of (Allen) Ginsberg. I like listening to those. Sunil Ganguly reading out his own poems... I like listening to those too. In fact, there are a lot of recordings of Sylvia Plath. Though she is very morbid, the way she is reading them out and if you know what is going to happen next, then it touches you somewhere.
What are your childhood memories of listening to stories?
I loved listening to stories as a kid. I was very naughty. So, to sit me down, stories were a must. While going to bed, stories... while eating... stories.... I loved the Thakumar Jhuli stories and Lal Kamal and Neel Kamal was my favourite. Those used to be narrated by my parents. Hansel and Gretel and Goldilocks and the Three Bears were favourites too. I was a very imaginative kid and after a point, I didn’t like the regular stories and would set my own requirements like there should be a fish, a deer and a bear. Now, they had to make up a story with the characters I gave them. I was the producer!
Which literary works will translate into great audio content?
I was recently reading (Jorge Luis) Borges’s A Universal History of Iniquity, a collection of his stories and given the type of stories, it would make for great narration. I have read (Anton) Chekhov too recently, but I don’t know how well it’ll translate into the audio format. I have read a lot of Sandipan Chattopadhyay lately. I have a feeling those would make for great narration.
How much poetry did you read or write in the last one-and-half years?
I must have written 30-35 poems. Some reek of darkness because of the times. I’ll revisit them and see if I have to tone them down. I have read a lot of Robert Frost and keep going back to Binoy Majumdar and read Jibanananda Das. I read Sabyasachi Sanyal and Aryanil Mukherjee’s poems. I have read Utpal Kumar Basu in between. I was reading this Portuguese author called Fernando Pessoa. His The Book of Disquiet is a work of prose but it has so much poetry and it is quite heavy... you read two pages and you can take a break.
You are such a multitasker, which is the closest to your heart?
Khub difficult bola! (Laughs) I need a break from everything... after writing a couple of songs, I feel I have dried up. It’s a process.