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Let us regain our Anthem: Krishna

'I have never considered myself to be a great patriot or nationalist. But now I have changed my position'

By Subhankar Chowdhury in Calcutta
  • Published 24.01.20, 3:32 AM
  • Updated 24.01.20, 3:32 AM
  • 3 mins read
TM Krishna performs at Netaji Bhavan in Calcutta. Picture by Gautam Bose

The words “Jana Gana Mana” have to be “regained and recaptured from those who are twisting” them, Carnatic classical musician, writer and social activist T.M. Krishna said on Thursday on the sidelines of a programme at Netaji Bhavan.

Krishna, who presented a special musical tribute on the occasion of Netaji’s birthday, sang some of the unsung verses that follow the national anthem.

“Ohoroho Tobo Awhbhano Pracharito/ Suni Tabo Udaaro Vaani/ Hindu Bouddho Sikh Joino/ Parosik Musolman Christaani… (Every moment your call is heard/ We hear your generous message/ Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, Jain/ Parsi, Muslim, Christian…).”

Asked what prompted him to sing the unsung part, Krishna said: “I have never considered myself to be a great patriot or nationalist. But now I have changed my position. We have to regain those words, recapture those words from those people who are twisting them. I was not a person who sang the national anthem regularly. That’s a truth.

“Then I said: I want to know what this song is. There are three words: Jana Gana Mana. Jana is the singular, Gana is the plural, Mana is the heart of the singular and plural, of the people.”

“Is it not the most beautiful way to describe the people here? Ohoroho Tobo Awhbhano Pracharito/ Suni Tabo Udaaro Vaani/ Hindu Bouddho Sikh Joino/ Parosik Musolman Christaani….

Krishna, a fierce critic of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and the National Register of Citizens, added: “So the country is not the land, country is the single person: you as an individual and we as a collective. That’s what Tagore has told us.”

Krishna was speaking at the Netaji Research Bureau on Subhas Chandra Bose’s birth anniversary on Thursday.

The musician said it was important to sing the unsung portions of the national anthem “for many reasons”.

“One of the reasons is it’s important to say that it is the land of multiple religions, multiple people. It’s important to say that this is the land of the Northeast too…. So this is the time. These are verses we have to sing again, we have to reclaim.”

One stanza from the five in the original song by Tagore, Bharoto Bhagyo Bidhata, was taken for the national anthem.

Historian Sugata Bose, Netaji’s great-nephew, said the selection was based on time constraints. “The idea was to have an anthem of less than a minute. Our national anthem is of 57 seconds,” Bose said.

Krishna said he would make it a point to sing the unsung verses wherever he can.

Krishna said earlier he would never go to a theatre on time so he wouldn’t have to stand up for the national anthem “because it was being imposed” on us.

“I refused to be forced to stand up for the anthem. So, I went late. I waited for the national anthem to end and then I went to the theatre. Imagine the anthem was being used to hit people. That’s the truth. When I said it, somebody got angry. But that’s the truth. They were beaten up as they did not stand up during the national anthem. A song that is supposed to bring us together has turned into a song that is being used for violence. Something really wrong is happening here. Something happened in Mumbai, something happened in Bangalore,” he said.

“If this has happened then what is Tagore’s gift? What we have done to his gift?”

In his performance that lasted a little over an hour, Krishna rendered songs in different languages — Malayalam, Tamil, Telugu and Bengali. “I sang in as many regional languages as possible. The idea was to project India’s plurality and diversity.”

The audience greeted each song with applause, no matter their language.

Several rows of the audience joined in when he sang Tagore’s “Mama chitte niti nritye ke je naache, ta ta thoi thoi…”

The song celebrates the rhythm and music that strike the same chord across the universe.

The audience included Shashi Tharoor, Congress MP from Thiruvananthapuram, Harvard professor Bose’s mother Krishna Bose, his brother Sumantra, professor at the London School of Economics, and former Trinamul MP Dinesh Trivedi.