Performance by Soumitra Bandopadhyay
Kavita Charanji - New Delhi, May 12, 2009
It is unlikely that a musical soiree to celebrate the 148th birth anniversary of Rabindranath Tagore would attract strong protests from a section of the audience. However, that is just what transpired at a recent concert in Delhi by singer Soumitra Bandopadhyay, who presented an evening of Rabindra Sangeet and other popular melodies of the celebrated singer, composer, lyricist, film director and producer Hemanta Mukherjee in Hindi and Bengali. For starters some members of the audience objected to the clubbing of Hindi film songs with Bengali numbers and Rabindra Sangeet. What got their goat even more was the playful yodeling of Kishore Kumar songs by Indranil Banerjee, Soumitra's son.
The angry people had to be pacified by Bijan Mukherjee, president of Impresario India, one of the organisers of the programme. As he said, “Hemanta Mukherjee sang in both Hindi and Bengali. This concert is for all communities, not just Bengalis.” Another unruffled person questioned, “We are gathered here to celebrate music, so why the objections?”
Anyway, barring the protests, the evening effectively centred on the music of the Kolkata-based Soumitra. Among his melodious and meditative Rabindra Sangeet were “Tumi ki kebali chhobi,” “Purano shei din-er kotha” and “Pagla hawar badal din-e.” The Hemanta classics included a song of longing, "Tum pukar lo..," "Naa tum ham-e jaano naa hum tumhe jaane" and the famous "Jaane ye woh kaise log thhe jinko pyaar me pyaar mila" (the latter from the Guru Dutt classic "Pyaasa").
Talking to Soumitra was an eye opener as he related many interesting anecdotes about his late guru Hemanta Mukherjee. As the singer asserted, he knew Hemanta for a span of 13 years until his death in 1989. While Soumitra excelled in Rabindra Sangeet and the Bengali musical items he can be faulted on one score -- the heavy Bengali accent in the Hindi numbers, which detracted from the soothing ambience of the summer evening. But Soumitra had the humility to ask the audience to bear with his imperfect Hindi pronunciation.
While the young Indranil rendered some fun Kishore Kumar numbers with great aplomb, his Bengali songs lacked the depth and intensity of his father Soumitra. But this is only the beginning for Indranil, who can clearly make a mark on the music world.