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By Sreyashi Dastidar
  • Published 21.07.07

On the first day of the two-day Barsha Utsab organized by Samaroha at Madhusudan Mancha over July 12-13, it was disappointing to find more people sitting on the steps outside than inside the auditorium. The scene was strangely symbolic of the ebbing popularity of Rabindrasangeet today, particularly among younger listeners. Sadly, the quality of music on the first evening did not generate hopes of the picture changing any time soon. The standard rose marginally on the second day.

This is not to say, however, that all was bleak and grey. In fact, there were a few singers who left room for hope. Such as Debanjan Kundu, whose “Mor bhabonare ki haoway matalo” and “Ami ki gaan gaabo je” spoke of a close reading of the poetry of the songs. But for one such satisfying performance, there were below-par ones from Madhuchhanda Ghatak and Basabi Bagchi. Bhaskar Chakraborty lifted the spirit somewhat with his “Bohu juger o-paar hotey”. Sanghamitra Chakraborty’s “Puba-haowatey daey dola” was well-sung, but her diction in “Shangana-gaganey ghora ghanaghata” sounded laboured. Subrata Sengupta’s rich baritone sounded a little unsteady in “Chhaya ghonaichhe boney boney”, but he recovered in “Kotha je udhao holo”, only to be overpowered by the tabla in “Jete jete ekla pathey”.

In one of her rare stage appearances these days, Sanghamitra Gupta represented all that is missing from Rabindrasangeet today. To use a tennis analogy, her singing is reminiscent of the subtlety and elegance of Steffi Graf in this age of power tennis. Note-perfect as always, her selection of songs — “Nibir megher chhaya”, “Eshechhinu dwarey tabo” and “Aay aay aay amader anganey” — emphasized the fact that Tagore’s repertoire of rain-songs is richer than the few oft-heard ones might lead us to believe. (Half-a-dozen songs were sung by two or more singers in this programme itself.)

Swastika Mukhopadhyay is another singer of admirable consistency, and her “Megher pore megh jomechhe” and “Amar din phuralo” were imbued with the right amount of pathos. Rajyeshwar Bhattacharya was his usual dramatic self in “Aji jharer raate tomar abhishar”, “Abar eshechhe ashadh” and “Krishnakali ami tarei boli”.

The second evening began with promise, thanks to Suchhanda Ghosh’s fine rendering of “Nila-anjana-ghana-punja- chhayay” and “Aji srabon-ghana gahan mohey”. But Sucharita Bandopadhyay, Debarati Mitra, Irabati Basu and Mrinmoy Ray failed to build on the good start. Sutapa Haldar (“Utal dhara badal jharey”, “Badal diner pratham kadam phul”) has both confidence and a good voice and, unlike many others, can handle the microphone well.

Achin Mukhopadhyay belongs to the old school which combines melody and drama. By his spirited rendition of the kaharba version of “Amar nishith raater badaldhara” and “Mono mor megher shongee”, he salvaged the evening to a great extent.

The star attractions of the evening were without doubt Lopamudra Mitra, Monomoy Bhattacharya and Srikanto Acharya. The three (along with Sriradha Bandopadhyay who sang the previous day) are more popular as singers of Bengali modern songs, and as a result, considered somewhat suspect in the puritan world of Rabindrasangeet (with the exception of Srikanto, perhaps, since he has a bona-fide Tagorean training). Given the rather sorry performance from most of the others, their singing made an instant impact — most notably, Monomoy’s “E ki gabhir bani” and “Saghana gahana ratri”, Lopamudra’s “Abar eshechhe ashadh”, Srikanto’s “Gahana ghana chhailo” and Sriradha’s “Esho go, jwele diye jao”. Lopamudra’s voice sounded stretched in “Krishnakali”, while Monomoy’s pronunciation of “akash chheye” as “akass-chheye” in “Amar priyar chhaya” had a jarring effect. One did not feel inclined to look for faults and impurities in their gayaki, simply because they sang to tune. Which is more than can be said about the majority of the artists who sang on the two days.