The saga of Shailajaranjan Majumder, a first class first in chemistry from the University of Calcutta, who had to do law at his father&’s behest and had a lawyer&’s job waiting in Netrakona of undivided Bengal but ultimately emerged as a Sangeetacharya at Tagore&’s Santiniketan makes interesting history. Destiny took him there as a professor of chemistry but by dint of musical talent he became the principal of Sangeet Bhavan in 1939.
Enakshi Chattopadhyay, blessed with a voice that has a remarkable technique and tonal beauty, has always excelled in Rabindrasangeet vocalist. She trained under the illustrious Shailajaranjan Majumder when he set up Suranha, his school in Calcutta. Her long years of learning under a direct disciple of Rabindranath Tagore have given her an edge over others in her genre. Connoisseurs of Rabindrasangeet got a taste of it when she recently produced and directed an evening of Sangeeta — which included vocal and instrumental music as well as dance under the Sunandan banner. The dance pieces were choreographed and directed by Purnima Ghosh and Esha Goswami. The former is adept at just the kind of aesthetic dance movements that would complement lyrics as envisioned by versatile genius for all times. The celebrations, held at Rabindranath Centre, ICCR, were in the memory of the 116th birth anniversary of Shailajaranjan Majumder. It was a humble offering of to the great musician.
“Sravaner Gaan” is of special significance, because we are presently experiencing the monsoon — a season eulogised by Tagore. It was evoked through songs, dance, narration and much more.
With their very first song, “Oi ashe oi ati bjairava harase” — which is a rich composition intermixed with ragas Malhar, Pilu, Iman, Kalyan, Khamaj and Hameer and the taalas, trital and Dadra, accompanied by group dance — they established themselves. Varsha&’s beauty was described in all its glory. Its personification in the poem “Abirbhav” was beautifully narrated, which helped to create an atmosphere of eternal beauty. The poet&’s long wait for his lover, Varsha, is best described through the alliterative line, “Chalo chapalar chakito chamake koriche charan bicharaon kotha champak abharan”.
Well selected songs of the rainy season, “Aami ki gan gahibo bhebe na pai”, “Aabar srabon hoye ele phire”, “Aaj kichutei jay na moner bhar”, “Ei srabono bela badolo jhara” were sung solo by Ayushi Kundu, Urmila Dutta, Krishna Roychowdhury and Ashish Bandopadhyay respectively. They were all superbly trained. There was perfect synchronisation in group singing and not a note was found out of place. “Neel anjan ghano punja chayay” and “Madhugandhe bhara Mridu snighdha chayay” were sung with feeling.
To listeners’ delight, the one sung by Enakshi Chattopadhyay, “Andharao Ambare prachando dambaru”, was full-throated, while the male dancer, who went solo in parts, performed with beauty, energy and dynamism. The symbolism of Nataraja used to describe “Srabono Sannyasi” was like fluid poetry. The spontaneity and verve of the group dancers proved charming. Arnita Jana, Arpita Jana, Ashish Moitra, Christina Chattopadhyay, Diptisree Chattopadhayay, Priya Biswas, Biswapratim Dutta Ghosh, Rajib Ghosh, Swagata Chattopadhyay, Sudeshna Ghosh and Hirak Saha danced their way into the hearts of the audience.
Purnima&’s solo to the accompaniment of the song “Oi malati lata dole” sung by Enakshi and Piyali was full of languorous feeling that comes in the wake of a rainy day. Santanu Gangopadhyay and Arindam Bandopadhyay kept the flow of evening intact with their successful narration. Enakshi went solo in “Trishnaro shanti sundoro kanti”, while Purnima Ghosh danced a fitting finale.
The costumes were planned with care. Colours of the rainy season were used. However, the belts usually worn by Odissi dancers were an eyesore and seemed out of place in the pieces. More flower ornaments could, perhaps, have appealed to the aesthetic sense and brought out the magic of the monsoon Purnima&’s style of dance was aesthetic. I believe Tagore had no problem using dance movements provided they were moulded to suit the lyrical beauty of his songs. Therefore, using steps and movements that exist in classical dance forms of the country did not gel. A lot of pure Odissi steps were used, which could have been designed differently. The singers were dressed artistically and the colour green was visually soothing.
Overall, it was a superbly conducted evening, where the singers and dancers moved in and out without wasting time or spoiling the mood. Among all the creations of Rabindranath Tagore, his sangeet was closest to his heart. Perhaps he and his Sangeetacharya Shailajaranjan Majumder were present in spirit at this memorable production!