New Delhi, April 20, 2009
West Bengal and Bangladesh recently came together on a common platform, titled 'A Panorama of Bengal's Performing Arts Heritage.' Depicting the rich plurality of Bengali art and culture, the event featured the best of both Bengals.
Among the show stoppers were 'Traditional epic of Bengal -- Manasa Mangal in Katha Style,' presented by Dr. Ashish Ghosh and group from Delhi, the Dhaka-based Chandana Majumdar's rendering of 'Sufi Tradition of Bengal -- Songs of Lalon Fakir, Bauls etc' and 'Chandalika,' also from Dhaka, performed ably by Sharmila Bandyophadyay in the central role, accompanied by her Nrityanandan dance organisation.From Kolkata came superb groups such as Su Samannaya, which transported the audience to a mystical realm with 'Proside Mato Mahishashur-Mardini,' an episode from 'Sri Sri Chandi,' a religious discourse based on the Goddesses Kali and Durga. The main singer was Subhamay Banerjee. One would find it difficult to believe that a performer with such a magical and moving voice was a management graduate. However, with his education at the School of Ramakrishna Mission, Kamarpukur, it is easy to understand how he gave of his best to the complex shlokas that he sang at the show. Today his mission is to form musical groups, particularly those dedicated to devotional music and spread the message of Thakur Sri Sri Ramkrishna.
The essence of Bengali culture was demonstrated when performers from Dhaka took the stage. On the first day of the programme, Chandana Majumdar sang folk songs originally sung, composed and written by mystic poets. Among those that went down well with the audience were "Khachar bhitor achin pakhi" of Lalon Shah, "Ki shap-e kamralo" of the famous late singer, lyricist and composer Kabi Bijoy Sarkar and "Aamar bondhu doyamoy" (Radharaman, also singer, lyricist and composer).
So what's up with the City Cell-Channel i Music Award-winning Chandana? One of her playback songs for the blockbuster Bangla film, "Monpura," she says, has become a hit and is on everyone's lips in Bangladesh. Beside, on Pahela Baishakh (Bengali New Year), she released her 23rd album (folk songs), called "Bondhu Doyamoy."
Another show stealer was the Nrityanadan dance organisation's rendering of Tagore's "Chandalika." With Sharmila in the eponymous role, the dance drama was sheer magic. Hasn't "Chandalika" been overdone, asked this correspondent? “Yes, it has been done many times by different people,” she acknowledges, going on to add, “Each time it comes up with a new element as each choreographer has her own perspective on it.” And Chandalika is still relevant in contemporary society, she says, “Its relevance today is that it shows the evils of the caste system, which is prevalent even today.”
And Sharmila has great credibility in her chosen sphere. She is the director of Nrityanandan and head of the dance department and Manipuri dance teacher in Chhayanat. For her indisputable talent, she recently received the Meril Prothom Alo Award for best dancer, choreographer and dance director. “The award has increased my responsibility towards myself, my dance school as well as towards society.” Not just this, Sharmila is the proud recipient of a recent award from the Bangladesh Mohila Parishad for her contribution to the field of dance. Now she is concentrating on Tagore's dance drama, "Shyama." She says she is reviving the dance drama with new elements.
With Chandana and Sharmila here in Delhi, the audience had a first hand look at the immense talent of Bangladeshi artistes. Such cultural exchanges cut across barriers even amidst the continual ups and down of political ties between the two nations.