Rabindra Sangeet in Cinema

I had been toying with the idea of this post for some time and the demise of Suchitra Mitra was the sad - but appropriate - trigger that forced me write it down.
Having spent a lot of time out of Calcutta, I found that Rabindra Sangeet is by and large considered as the mandatory art form to be perfected by Bengali women (and displayed when prospective grooms come calling) that is also to be accompanied by Bengali men on the tabla. It is also considered slightly soporific, slightly maudlin and therefore, slightly boring.

To correct - or more accurately, try to correct - this notion, I thought I will put down a list of my favourite Tagore songs as depicted on film. This is not pristine Rabindra Sangeet but interpretations by filmmakers from different genres and brought to life on screen by extremely charismatic actors.

Kharo bayu boi bege - Kabuliwala 
The first on the list is also my earliest memory of a Rabindrasangeet on screen. Chhabi Biswas - in the title role - sees his daughter in Mini, one of the cutest child actors ever to grace the silver screen (played by Tinku Tagore, Sharmila's younger sister). And in one sequence, Mini performs in a dance programme that has her Kabuliwala and the audience enthralled.   
For the life of me, I cannot locate the movie clip so you will have to make do with the audio.

Ami chini go chini - Charulata
This is as masterly as it gets. Probably the greatest Bengali actor lip-syncs to the voice of the greatest Bengali singer under the helm of the greatest Bengali director - in a story by Tagore himself.
Satyajit Ray was hell-bent on getting Kishore Kumar to sing this song. Kishore - Bollywood's busiest playback singer - did not have time to go the loo, let alone Calcutta despite being terribly keen to sing. He requested the mountain to come to Mohammed. To solve the small matter that Kishore Kumar could not read a score sheet, Bijoya Ray (Satyajit's wife) recorded the song which he heard and sang in one clean take.
And just in case you are wondering, the piano was played by Ray himself.

Je raatey mor duaarguli - Meghey Dhaka Tara
As a life-long devotee of Ray, it is a little difficult for me to accept that the best picturisations of Rabindrasangeet is not done by him. But the case Ritwik Ghatak puts up is unassailable. And this is the prime example. 
The tragic story of the eldest daughter of a refugee family would have degenerated into melodrama with any lesser director. In the film, this song happens on the eve of her sister's wedding to her boyfriend as she tries to learn it and sing it at the wedding. The male & female voices are simultaneously mellifluous and tragic while the camera moves as a lurking shadow on her misfortune. And in a sort of first, Ghatak cut the song with a sound effect of lashes - a leit motif in the film of the protagonist's misfortunes.

Bhalobashi bhalobashi - Shwet pathorer thala
Indrani Sen's magical voice transforms this song to a different level altogether, which is performed on screen by the very beautiful, Aparna Sen.
This is supposed to be a run-of-the-mill song picturisation with a giggly, happy couple singing love songs on a boat. But there is something about the music, the words, the setting and Aparna Sen that takes it a level or two higher.

Akash bhora shurjo tara - Komal Gandhar
This is the second exhibit in the list of Ritwik Ghatak's brilliant filming of Rabindrasangeet.
The song - rendered by the inimitable Debabrata Biswas - has all the qualities of a hymn. He is the most well-loved among all artistes of Rabindrasangeet and this is - in my book - the song that benefits the most from his sonorous voice.
The relationships within an idealistic theatre group form the basis of this movie and in some ways, this becomes a 'romantic' song in the movie while in isolation, it is anything but.

Ei kathati money rekho - Chowringhee
I had to sneak in an Uttam Kumar song and this is the one.
Uttam Kumar plays a suave front office manager at a Calcutta 5-star hotel and this is a romantic interlude with an air-hostess who stays in the hotel.The film is based on one of the most popular Bengali novels (now available in a very good translation).

Purano shei diner katha - Agniswar
This is the ultimate nostalgia song. Inspired from Auld Lang Syne, this is the staple song to be performed at all farewells. And reunions.
In the film, the protagonist (Uttam Kumar) brings together his old friends and one of them sing it (in the magical voice of Hemanta Mukherjee). Nothing really happens during this song but the voice and of course, the words are too strong to not get it into the list. I wish some new filmmaker just uses this soundtrack and picturises the video better.
Or I should just ask Bishwaprasun to sing it at our next school reunion.   

Pagla hawa badal diney - The Bong Connection
This is the best remix of a Rabindrasangeet. Shreya Ghoshal picks up the baton from iconic performers as Raima Sen takes over from her grandmother Suchitra Sen in a wonderfully peppy rendition of an already wonderful song.
Anjan Dutt - the director - has a very strong music sense (being a composer and lyricist himself) and his son, Neel Dutt - the film's composer - adds the 'jhankaar beats' with just the right mix of exuberance and restraint.
And uh - ignore Shayan Munshi's tomfoolery. But that's part of the song's energy, I suppose.

Tomar holo shuru / Chhoonkar mere manko - Yaarana
Bollywood has never shied away from lifting great tunes from anywhere. And Tomar holo shuru is as good as they get! The original is about a passing of the baton from the older generation to the newer while the lift is an out-and-out romantic song, where Amitabh woos Neetu Singh in the empty expanse of Netaji Indoor Stadium in Calcutta.
As a kid when I saw this film with my mother, I remember thinking "Oh my god, they copied that Bengali song from Amitabh" but then, hey!

Jana gana mann - Rann
And this is my final - and most controversial - entry to my list.
Tagore's most famous composition is the second-most popular song in the world - with nearly a billion people knowing it and singing it (though a little unwilling, I am sure, in some cases). Ramgopal Verma's take on modern media had a scathing re-working of our national anthem, in line - he claimed - with the toxic times. Guardians of our morality and patriotism felt it was too 'seditious' (ah! that word again!) and censored it from the movie. But I think, Tagore - the original modernist - would have approved.

Honourable Mention: I was thinking of a good picturisation of Shokhi bhabona kahare boley, a big favourite of mine. An earlier version in Balika Bodhu (Bengali) was filmed with too much nyaka-ness. This is a rather interesting mix of video and audio, though I have no clue about the film or the actors.   

Now - quick, tell me what I missed!


Indrayan said…
Dipta - A nice topic indeed but a number of notable omissions listed below:

1. 'Dure Kothao Dure Dure' by Kanika Bandyoapadhyay in the film Nimantran
2. 'Kano Cheye Achho Go Ma' by Debabrata Biswas in Jukti Tokko Goppo
3. 'E Porobashe Robe Ke?' by Amiya Thakur in Kanchanjungha
4. 'Bajilo Kaharo Bina' by Shromona Guhathakurta in Agantuk
5. 'Kotha Baire Dure Jayre Ure' by Kamalini Mukhopadhyay in the film Nishijapon
6. 'Megh Bolechhe Jabo Jabo' by Debabrata Biswas in Pashondo Pandit
7. 'Hridoy Amar prokash Holo' by Jayashree Dasgupta in Paramitar Akdin
8. 'Shokhi Bhabona Kahare Bole' by Sumitra Sen in Sriman Prwithiraaj and by Jayati Chakrabarti in Ekti Tarar Khoje
9. 'Tomra Ja Bolo Tai bolo' a duet from the movie Panchashar by Debabarata Biswas and Ruma Guhathakurta
10. 'Esho Esho Amar Ghore esho' by Hemanta Mukhopadhyay from the brilliant movie ChhayaSurjyo
11. 'Tumi Robe Nirobe' in Kuheli by Hemanta and Lata (not sure)
12.'Aguner Poroshmoni' in the movie Kancher Swargo by Dwijen Mukhoapadhyay...

I think I have still missed out a few important ones.
Sudeep Lahiri said…
Very nice Dada...

Loved the article...especially "while the camera moves as a lurking shadow on her misfortune."

Reminded me of my childhood with Dad as he used to play a lot of these songs.

Jaya said…
@ Indrayan-yes in Kuheli it's Hemanta and Lata..
Mor Bina othe kun sure baje-may be from neelmoyi neel ..
Aguner Parashmani ..
Chorono Dhorite dio go..Dadar Kirti ..ok I should stop now :-)
Very Nice post..Loved reading it ..
Bidhir bnadhon katbe tumi - Kishore Kumar - Ghare Baire
Jodi tare nai chini go sheki/Tere mere milan ki ye raina - Abhimaan
And those songs from Yugpurush (Pagla hawar badol dine/Bandhan khula panchhi uda, for example) for which Vishwa Bharati possibly sued them
Dil ki jo baaten hain/phule phule - Parineeta
Ah, Kishore! And yes, Bidhir Bandhon... incidentally, was playing the song, rather recitation, to a friend just an hour ago!
Meghbalika said…
Hey Diptakirti,

Nice post. Someone shared this with me and all over again I fell in love with Rabindra Sangeet. Well, a few songs which I like for their simple rendition are:

1) Alo amar alo from Aponjon. This song is my Red Bull many a times. And if I am not wrong it was sung by the two actors themselves in the movie. The chorus was sung by the actor Partha Chatterjee and another actor whose name I don't know. And you have to pardon my ignorance on this.

2) Esho esho amar ghore esho from Chhaya shurjo. The song, in my opinion, is by far the most romantic song ever. My kind of romance that is. ;) and the rendition is such that in spite of being a "Puja porjar" gaan, has haunting feel to it. And then the rains, the thunder, the lightning, and an extremely beautifully sultry Sharmila Tagore to top it off.

3) Baje koruno shure from Teen Konya, Monihara. There is nothing to say about this one. Still get chills up my spine whenever I manage to listen to it.

4) Much to my surprise nobody remembers three magical renditions in the movie Paramitar Ekdin. That really made me sad.:(

a) Bipulo torongo re sung by Prabudhhya Raha is a sosng beautifully sung and couldn't be used more appropriately.

b) Tori amar hothat dube jaye sung by Jayashree DasGupta is another lovely rendition.

c) Hridoy amar prokasho holo another one, by Jayashree DasGupta. This one is my personal favourite. A talchhara gaan accompanied by a simple tanpura.

As far as remix with Rabindra Sangeet is concerned, Sahana Bajpayee is doing a good job. But NEVER Pagla Hawa from B ong Connection. It is called RAPE. And yes, this is again what a person biased about Rabindra Sangeet has to say. :)
Ah, and those two magical pieces...
Mayabono biharini - Lukochuri
Ektuku chhnoa lage - Ektuku Chhnoa Lage
Both sung by You-Know-Who.

I had grown up under the idea that Kishore Kumar is the best Rabindrasangeet singer. I was, and am, often ridiculed for this notion. But then, I don't really mind if I have Ray for company. :)
RS said…
Some more -

Shokhi bhabona kahare bole - Sriman Prithwiraj

Charano dhorite diyo go amare- Dadar Kirti

Ei korechho bhalo nithuro he- Dadar Kirti
Anupam said…
nice compilation ! I thought the following rendition was nice in addition to what the commentators already mentioned.

"jibano maron-er simana chharhaye" - in Subho Muharat.
Indrayan said…
A few more came to my mind:
1. 'Jibono jokhon shukaye jay karuna dharay esho' a song immortalised by Suchitra Mitra was also used in the film Arogya Niketan - do not remember the singer's name.
2.'Majhe Majhe tobo dakha pai' - by Ritu Guha was used in the movie 'the island' by Australian director Paul Cox - as background music at the end
3. 'Din guli mor sonar khachay' - by Dwijen Mukhopadhyay in the movie Kancher swargo
4. 'Deep Nibhe gachhe momo' - used in the movie Ashukh directed by Rituporno Ghosh
Can someone pls let me know the RS sung beautifully by Abhirup Guhathakurta in a superb telefilm 'Palatak' directed by Anjan Dutt ? I will be really grateful.
Anonymous said…
u have missed "aaj jyotsna raatey shobai gaechey boney"..supriya choudhuri in ritwik ghatak's komol gandhar...but as a ray fan, u most dfntly have the right of oversight:>

and most defintly bipulo taranga by prabhudhha raha in aparna senz paromitaar ekdin.

my favorite doh is "jibono moroner simana chharaye" by )chandrabindoo'z anindya(was acting also in rituporno'z shubho muharat:>
Anonymous said…
sorry anonymous was me.
Indrayan said…
@neel: playback for 'Jibono moroner Shimana chharaye' in Shubho Muharat was actually by Monomoy Bhattacharya and lip syncd by Anindya Chatterjee.
Kuntala said…
I am so happy to see 'Khorobayu boy bege' from Kabuliwala on top of your list. sorbantokorone somorthon korchhi.
Unknown said…
Just one of my personal favourites:- "Ei korechho bhalo" from Dadar Kirti. That movie also had a nice picturisation of the song from Chitrangada "Bo(N)dhu kon aalo lglo chokhe".
Shrabonti said…
There's this fabulous compilation -- available in cassette form earlier but now on CD -- called 'Chhayachhobite Rabindrasangeet'. Some fabulous songs there; each and every one is a gem, from 'Dnariye achho tumi aamar gaaner opaare' to 'Mone ki dwidha rekhe gele chole'.

Unfortunately I don't remember the names of the films or the singers off-hand. But pick up that CD if you can.
Gaurab said…
Jakhon Porbe na Mor Paayer Chinho Ei Ghate - Aalo
basskeyz said…
Randomly searching for rabindra sangeet on youtube one day, I found this clip and thought Sharmila's acting was very moving...
Eso Eso amar ghore eso
Thank you, all.
The objective of the post has been served.

Most of my favourites still remain my favourites (and everybody should write posts on theirs!).
Except, I completely missed Paromitar Ekdin and Shubho Maharat - which I would have liked to keep in my list.
Rimi said…
Thank you for having collected such an incredible fanbase, Dipta. They never disappoint :-)

My two favourites missing from the list are:
1. Jeebono moroner sheemana chharaye. It's most recently been used in Shubho Mahurat. One of my absolutest favourites.

2. Jedin porbe na more payer chinho ei baate. This easily sentimentalised song has been used often, I'm sure, but it's emphasis on the everlasting soul that transcends death is brought out beautifully by the sequence in that Rituparna Sengupta film based on the Bibhutibhushan short-story. Alo, possibly. It's marred by over-sentimental dialogue in conclusion, but the song is well used.

About "Shokhi Bhabona Kahare Bole?", have you heard the Debobroto Biswas version? It brings out quite a different meaning than the more saucy or happy numbers in say, Sreeman Prthwiraj.
the mad momma said…
at different times i won prizes for singing Khoro bayu bohe, Purano shei diner kotha, pagla hawa...

lovely post...
Anonymous said…
aaj dhaner khete - ritwik ghatak's SUBARNAREKHA
Sanjeev said…

I love listening to the song Khoro Bayu Boi Bege but have not been able to understand the lyrics being non bengali. Can someone help?

Sanjeev, here you go: http://gitabitan-en.blogspot.com/2010/09/fierce-gales-speed-forth.html

Anonymous, when I was a kid "aji dhaner khete roudrochhayay" was somehow played / sung in every para function or random pandals. And on multiple occasions, I didn't catch the "LU" bit, so it became "KOCHURIR KHELA" for me, and the resident glutton inside me used to tet terribly excited.
Unknown said…
Hi Abhishek,

Thanks a ton. As I expected the meaning is also as inspiring as the song itself...
Vyazz said…
When I was a kid, I attended a boarding school in panchgani. And there, we were taught some rabindrasangeet!!! I'm not bengali, and I didn't understand the words much!!.But I loved the songs.
We had a little song book from which we would read and sing.
I remember the songs still.....
They were (pardon my spelling)
Shiter Hawai laglo naach
Ore Bahi phagun legeche bone bone
and Ore Grihabaashi......
I have looked all across the net but I still cant find the songs on mp3 nor can I find the lyrics!!! :(
I remember the tunes well, and I can still hum them!!!
Those songs are still etched in my childhood memories!!! :)
jhinky said…
Hemanta sings a classic version of "jokhon porbe na mor" in the movie Bibhash. http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=13546114468
Debraj said…
Thanks Dipta .. loved reading this topic, to name a few missed ones

1. Anandoloke Mangalaloke - Krantikaal
2. Ha re re re re re - Saheb
3. Amar Hriday tomar apon haater dole - Parabat Priya
4. Diner Seshe ghumer deshe - Anindita
5. Tomar kachhe e bar magi - Bhalobashi Bhalobashi
Anonymous said…
Anyone watching this serial called Ganer Oparey on Star Jalsha? Makes VERY innovative use of Rabindrasangeet - the conflict of the storyline lies in the modernist vs the traditional interpretation of Tagore's music.
My favourites have all been covered.

"Bidhi'r bNadhon" of course, the Chitrangada song from "Dada'r Kirti"("Kone aalo laaglo chokhey" by Arundhati Home Choudhury, a brilliant brilliant rendition with great vocal depth) and yes, the fusion "Pagla hawa" from "Bong Connection". One of your commenters has objected to the last, but why should Robindro Shongeet not evolve? I thought it was a beautiful version (very well picturised, too).

"Chorono dhoritey" from "Dada'r Kirti" was very good. I have to find "Shokhi bhabona kaharey boley"; it was my daughter's first lullaby! Was that from "Shreeman Prithviraj"? I should get a DVD, haven't seen it in decades!

One last point. Robindro Shongeet without accompaniment, or with minimal accompaniment - that's how it's supposed to be sung. Now most purists will be aghast,but I think Kishore Kumar was second to none not only in his emoting but in his adherence to the "shworolipi". In fact, some of the songs on his second RS album suffered because he was conscious about the musical grammar.
And for the purists who object, sucks to you! The Boss thought he was the best, and his opinion outweighs a million straitjacketed nitpickers!

Parama Ghosh said…
you missed out shokhi bhabona kahare bole from sriman prithwiraj....and the interesting version from ekti tarar khoje stars shayan munshi and aarpita pal (chatterjee)..mr.prosenjit chatterjee's MRS..
gaurav said…
Switching to Uninor was really worth it! I have set my ringtone to Firiye Dao from Miles. Listening to all my favourite Bengali songs today. Now I can download all my favourite music in just Rs 2.50 per day. http://on.fb.me/i4F9Tm
Very late to join the party and forced to delurk. But I'm really surprised no one mentions Rashid Khan's rendition of 'Aha Tomar Songe' during the end-credits of Anuranan.
just thinking of it makes me break out in goose-bumps every time!
Anonymous said…
I would like to add one of my childhood favourites-Mono roina roina, roina ghorey from Sandhya Dwiper Shikha.Actually, enamoured by Mrs.Sen, more than the song.
Joy said…
Actually, 'Shokhi Bhabona Kahare Bole' was sung by Lata Mangeshkar and Kavita Krishnamurthy, in the film 'Shreeman Prithviraj'.
Anonymous said…
One of the best Tagore songs in film
Na chahile jare paoa jaay--by Manna Dey in "Megh o Roudro". Director Arundhati Devi.
Anonymous said…
Dont forget 2 great Tagore Songs in Bengali film. Singer-Legendary Krishna Chandra Dey.
1) Aandhar raate ekla pagol
2) Tomra ja bolo tai bolo
Anonymous said…
The choice of the songs listed here is very good indeed!!

However, one note of dissent on this otherwise good blog:-

"It is also considered slightly soporific, slightly maudlin and therefore, slightly boring."

- These comments are highly objectionable .
Anonymous said…
I hope there is a sequel to this blog.
@ Debanjan Roy - Outside of Calcutta, it is indeed felt that way. Very few people outside of Bengal know about the versatility of Rabindranath the composer/lyricist.

The sequel to this post is actually in the comments that have come up with the ones I missed.
Anonymous said…
@ Diptakirti Chaudhuri

In my humble opinion, your original sentence could have been qualified and re-phrased by you as:-

"Outside of Calcutta,it is also considered slightly soporific, slightly maudlin and therefore, slightly boring as very few people outside of Bengal know about the versatility of Rabindranath."
Anonymous said…
One more thing I would like to add...

Speaking from my own experience of spending 17 years of my formative period in Delhi and having done my entire schooling from Delhi,I can confidently state that Rabindra Sangeet is as popular among Probashi Bangali as it is to a person born and brought up in Kolkata.

Hence, yhen you mentioned "very few people outside of Bengal know about the versatility of Rabindranath the composer/lyricist", you probably meant the Non-Bengali population.

In that case, your statement, otherwise highly objectionable, will make some sense because one cannot know about versatility of Guru Dev unless he knows how to read and appreciate Rabindranath Thakur in his original Bengali version, be it his songs or be it his literature.
Anonymous said…

In addition to the comments made above, I may humbly add the following submission also:-

I am now taking regular tution classes to learn Rabindra Sangeet.

As a result, I can now appreciate the beauty of Rabindra Sangeet even more, as compared to the time when I was a listener only.

Really, what a gem each song is !!
Kalyan Das said…
The first instance of use of "Rabi Thakurer gaan" in my opinion was in the bengali movie "Udayer Pathey" based on the novel "Gora" by Sarat Chandra Chattopadhaya in the year 1944-"Diner shesey goomer deshay" sung bu Pankaj Kumar Mullick.
Not Udayer Pathe, but Mukti. 1935 Movie.
Unknown said…
Sobar sobkichui porlam...khub e valo akta blog...comments o valo...tobe movie te rabindrasangeet er kotha bolte hole akjoner nam e bolbo...ba hoyto 2joner. 1)Rituporno ghosh 2)Satyajit Roy...1 no.a ritudir thakar karonta onar moviegulo dekhlei bojha jay...asha kori sohomot hoben apnarao..notun kore kono gaaner nam korlam na. Pray sobai sob e likhechen. Tobe dadar kirti theke bodhu kon aalo laglo chokhe aaj o goosebump day.