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By MUSIC: Kathakali Jana
  • Published 4.12.10

If there is one thing that marks out a place in the sun for a performer, it is individuality. Kamalini Mukherji displayed this quality in oodles in her recent presentation of Tagore songs at GD Birla Sabhagar. She sang 16 songs with effortless ease, the purity of her diction and her spirited gayaki engaging the audience in a remarkable two-hour experience, even as Mukherji made the songs her own.

She had an 11-piece orchestra that included instruments as diverse as bass guitars, mandolin, tabla, sitar, esraj and flute — competently handled by Shubhayu Sen Majumdar —to lend atmosphere to the songs. Thanks to Mukherji’s powerful singing that never allowed a note to waver or an emotional resonance to overstep its suggestion, the music remained as embellishment and never took an iota away from her performance.

Variety was the keynote in Mukherji’s selection of songs. If the profoundly spiritual Jage nath jochhonarate set to the 14-beat dhamar was appropriately inward-looking and solemn, her singing of Jete jete ekla pothey set to Tagore’s own five-beat creation, jhampak, was dramatic in its import. But whether it was the drama or the introspection that Mukherji infused a song with, she allowed the lyrics and the melody to speak for themselves, never resorting to an attention-grabbing, overly expressive articulation.

Mukherji sang with feeling, the melody coming together felicitously with her understanding of the lyrics. Indeed, the fulfilment of every Rabindrasangeet singer lies in attaining a space where words and music converge as important binaries in an artistic whole. Mukherji passes this test with distinction.

Amar shakol niye boshe achhi, one of a large body of Tagore songs that speak of love without spelling out whether the desired one is human or the supreme, was impassioned yet bold. The free-of-rhythm rendering of this song reflected the layered fluidity in Tagore’s own understanding of love, its pangs and imagined pleasures intensely experienced.

The same could be said of her interpretations of Ami rupe tomay bholabo na and Tomar khola haoa lagiye pale, the latter sung in the customary keertan style but pervaded by a profound dignity. Her versatility was evident in her consummate handling of the meend (gliding notes) in a word like dheu in Rupe tomay. Here is a singer who is able to infuse her cerebral reading of Tagore’s poetry with a disciplined tunefulness. This feeling was intensified in that little not-too-often-heard gem, Eki satya, shokoli satya.

One last word. The evening would have been more enjoyable without some particularly intrusive, self-indulgent anchoring by Chaiti Ghoshal and Parambrata Chatterjee. Although one understands Mukherji’s need for a breather every once in a while, she would have been better off without this duo stuttering over words they read from sheets of paper.