Lyrics played a pivotal role in the golden era of Bengali music. Essentially romantic, the compositions contained sentiments that had a wide appeal.
The lyrical value of songs is still important though the master lyricists don’t appear to be as much in demand these days. A recent programme organised by Music 2000 and Anandi Bairagi in the Triguna Sen auditorium at Jadavpur reminded us of at least master, Pranab Roy, who had written about 3,500 songs. He had started as a singer and was trained under Kazi Nazrul Islam.
There was one occasion that is recalled – he was jailed for singing a patriotic song and the British rulers did everything to harass him further. Nazrul advised him to stick to his passion and natural strength. A bit confused, the aspiring singer did as advised but couldn’t ask the poet about the quality of his writing.
Nazrul went to his house after four months and handed over a disc of songs based on his lyrics. Pranab Roy never had to look back . In a span of around 50 years, he wrote basic lyrics and also songs for films.
From Juthika Roy to Manna Dey and Sandhya Mukherjee, almost every eminent singer grabbed the opportunity to interpret his lyrics which have become part of Bengal’s musical legacy.
The evening came alive with some of these songs rendered by present day singers. It was like building a bridge between the past and the present – a rare experience in Kolkata.
The singers helped revive the mood of the songs and often delved into the nuances.
He also wrote the story and script for the comedy Bhanu Goenda Jahar Assistant. He even did the script for the Dev Anand starrer Bat Ek Raat Ki. His lyrics like Champa chameli golaperi bagey in Anthony Firingi, Amar prabhat modhur holo in Mayar Sansar and O mon kothae suru kothae bases in Kamallata are part of history today.
Among the singers, Swarup Pal, Suman Chattopadhyay, Debasree Chakraborti and others preserved the old spirit of the tunes that had earlier been rendered by Juthika Roy and other maestros. Sadly, the audience was thin and the organisers forgot to put up a portrait of the master on the stage.
Pranab Roy belonged to the Sabarna Roy Chowdhury family which has been trying to keep his memory alive. They have opened an archive which should encourage a much needed assessment of the creative mind.