Six rare live recordings of Pankaj Mullick, the famous Indian music composer and playback singer who was credited for successfully using Tagore’s songs in cinema, have surfaced in Ahmedabad. These recordings are from live concerts of Mullick that he did to popularize Hindi and Gujarati versions of Rabindra Sangeet across the country. In the runup to Tagore’s 159th birth anniversary celebrations, these recordings were sent to Mullick’s grandson who had never heard about their existence before. These include versions of ‘Esho he boishakh’, ‘Tumi kemon kore gaan koro he guni’ and ‘He mor debota’, among others.
That Tagore shared a special relationship with Mullick has already been well-documented. “The Pankaj Mullick Music & Art Foundation has been working on my grandfather’s works since 2005. Having done a thorough search at home, I can confidently say that nothing undiscovered remains with us. During lockdown, a lot of his fans in Gujarat and Maharashtra have sent us press clippings on him. They include photographs too, including one of Satyajit Ray, Uttam Kumar, Suchitra Sen, Soumitra Chatterjee, Pahari Sanyal, BN Sircar along with my grandfather. A collector in Ahmedabad sent us his live recordings which we had not heard before,” said the legend’s grandson, Rajib Gupta.
The importance of these recordings is better understood when reviewed in the context of how Mullick used Tagore’s songs in Pramathesh Baruah’s 1937 film titled ‘Mukti’. When Mullick was a student of Hindu College, he used to often sing a song (Diner seshe ghumer deshe ghomta pora oi chhaya’). It was actually a Tagore poem – ‘Shesh Kheya’ – which he had set to tune. There are stories of how Mullick had an encounter with Tagore’s son, Rathindranath, who asked him to sing the song in front of his father. The teenager was nervous though he still went ahead to meet the Nobel laureate at Jorasanko. “Luckily, Tagore had got busy with some writing. Other family members too had left. Seeing an opportunity, dadu had fled from there,” Gupta said.
Many years later, when the screenplay of ‘Mukti’ was being narrated, Mullick would often hum the tune of ‘Diner seshe ghumer deshe’. The bilingual film, which dealt with adultery and conflict in marriage, had director Pramathesh Baruah and Kanan Devi in the lead. Mullick himself had also acted too. “The director had liked the song my grandfather was humming and wanted to include it in the film. My grandfather had said that the song couldn’t be used unless permission was sought from Tagore,” he added.
Surprise was in store when Mullick went to seek permission. Tagore remembered the first encounter with Mullick and even asked why he had fled then! Thankfully, the meeting had ended on a happy note. There was an organ kept in the room and Mullick had played it while singing for Tagore. “The rendition had left Tagore overwhelmed. He even suggested that my grandfather use three other Tagore songs – ‘Aaj sobar songe rong mishate hobe’, ‘Tar bidaebelar malakhani’ and ‘Ami kaan pete roi’ – in the film. Tagore had also given the title of the movie taking a cue from the desire of the lead character in the film to seek ‘mukti’. Later, he also asked my grandfather to set to tune all his songs that he himself wouldn’t be able to compose. Till the last day of his life, dadu’s only mission was to popularize Tagore’s songs through his work in radio and films,” Gupta said.
In fact, Mullick valued Tagore’s words so much that at his residence, none of his own trophies including the National Awards and the Dadasaheb Phalke were ever displayed anywhere. “They were usually kept in a wooden box underneath his bed. His room had several photographs of Tagore, among others, on the wall,” he remembered.
According to his family, Mullick’s programmes in Maharashtra or Gujarat usually received audience requests for his film music. “But in between, he would sing Tagore’s Bengali songs and their translated versions. Many lyricists at the New Theatres studio, including Pt Madhur, had translated these Tagore songs to Hindi which were then set to tune by dadu.”
All these recordings that were discovered were done between 1960 and 1965. Among them are ‘Barkha ki raat’ (the Hindi version of ‘Emono dine tare bola jae’), ‘Mere devta’ (the Hindi version of ‘He mor debota’), ‘Ao he nidaagh’ (the Hindi version of ‘Esho he boishakh’) ‘Sahana gahana ratri’ (the Gujarati version of ‘Sohono gohono ratri’), ‘Aneko hai sisir gahan mein’ (the Hindi version of ‘Shitero bone’) and ‘Tum kaisi dhun par gaya karte ho’ (the Hindi version of ‘Tumi kemon kore gaan koro he guni’). “In the Hindi versions, he used to only change the tunes to accommodate the lyrics. Ninety per cent of the tunes were as per the original Bengali Rabindra Sangeets. While we have heard dadu’s rendition of the Hindi versions of Tagore’s songs, these live recordings are rare. He added a new dimension at every concert. That’s why they are so important,” he said. The family will be celebrating the 115th birth anniversary of Mullick on May 10. Since these songs have already been digitized, among other programmes, they are also looking at uploading them in the public domain.
Source: Times of India