Rabindranath Tagore is still an important influence when it comes to music in Bangla movies
Rabindranath Tagore had died 79 years ago, but even to this day, his name can be found in Bangla movie credits – be it for stories, lyrics or his music.
One can say with great confidence that Bangla film industry, both in West Bengal and Bangladesh, benefitted and continues to benefit from Tagore's works.
It is extremely difficult not to be swayed by the universal appeal of his songs.
Tagore, in his songs, had touched on almost all human emotions, making it that much easier for filmmakers to pick up a song for any situation.
Tagore's songs were incorporated in Bangla movies during his lifetime. "Mukti" was released in 1937.
Directed and acted by the great Pramathesh Barua, music direction was by a famous protégé of Tagore, Pankaj Mullick.
Under Mullick's direction, Kanan Devi sang two Tagore songs, "Aaj Shobaar Ronge Rong Meshaate Hobe" and "Taar Bidaibelaar Malaakhani".
Mullick himself sang "Diner Sheshe Ghumer Deshe" – this was a composition by Mullick himself of a poem by Tagore.
There goes a story about how Mullick obtained Tagore's permission to use this song in the film.
Mullick's grandson Rajib Gupta wrote that while Barua was narrating the story of "Mukti", he was repeatedly drawing references to a few lines from "Diner Sheshe Ghumer Deshe".
Barua asked Pankaj Mullick to seek permission from Tagore to use it in the film.
Gupta wrote, "After listening to Mullick's tune for 'Diner Seshe Ghumer Deshe', Tagore hugged him and said that if he left any of his songs unfinished or without composition, Dadu would have to set them to tune."
Satyajit Ray, arguably the most celebrated Bengali film director, not only adapted several of Tagore's literary creations for his films, but also used several of the bard's songs in these films and also in films which were not based on Tagore's works.
In 1961, in his "Teen Kanya" based on three short stories of Tagore, the tappa-style song "Baaje Koruno Shurey" was used in "Monihara".
In "Kanchanjanga" (1962), Amiya Tagore's rendition of "Ei Parabaashe Robe Ke" in the background was so appropriate with the settings.
Ray sprang a great surprise by not opting for famous Tagore singers like Hemanta Mukherjee or Debabrata Biswas, but choosing Kishore Kumar, more known for singing in Hindi films, to sing "Ami Chini Go Chini Tomaare" in "Charulata".
The song "Phooley Phooley Dhole Dhole", filmed on two main characters Amal and Charu, played by Soumitra Chatterjee and Madhabi Mukherjee, remains etched in the memory of many film-lovers.
Ray again requested Kishore Kumar to lend his voice in his 1984 film "Ghare Baire". Kishore Kumar sang "Bidhir Bandhon Baandhbe Tumi".
Sromona Guhathakurta's wonderful rendition of "Baajilo Kaharo Bina", picturised on actress Mamata Shankar in "Agantuk" (1991), is another song that also immediately comes to mind.
Tapan Sinha was one of my favourite directors. I still remember watching his film based on Tagore's "Kabuliwala" (1957), where an Afghan man from Kabul had to leave his daughter behind and finds a substitute in Mini, a little girl in Kolkata. Chhobi Biswas' portrayal of the lead character is still etched in my memory.
A popular Tagore song, "Kothao Amar Hariye Jawaar Nei Mana, Mone Mone", formed the theme music of the film.
He also directed two other films based on Tagore's stories – "Kshudita Pashan" (1960) and "Atithi" (1966). Tagore's song "Amaar Mukti Aloy Aloy" was brilliantly used by Tapan Sinha in "Atithi".
No other director made more dramatic use of Tagore songs in Bangla movies than Ritwik Ghatak.
In his classic movie "Meghe Dhaka Tara" (1960), Debabrata Biswas and Geeta Ghatak sang "Je Raate Mor Duar Guli", which was picturised on Anil Chatterjee and Supriya Devi and the sequence, in the opinion of any, has become iconic for Bangla cinema.
Debabrata Biswas rendered the song "Akash Bhora Surya Tara" in "Komal Gandhar" (1961) with Anil Chatterjee being picturised in the sequence while "Subarnarekha" (1965) had the song "Aaj Dhaaner Khete Roudro Chayyay" as the grassroots ode to nature.
These three movies are considered as Ritwik Ghatak's Partition Trilogy – movies that explore unhealed wounds inflicted by the partition of 1947.
In 1974, when Ritwik Ghatak acted-directed "Jukti Takko Aar Gappo", he roped in Debabrata Biswas to sing the cult Tagore song – "Keno Cheye Achho Go Maa".
As for using Tagore's music in these movies, Ghatak said, "I cannot speak without Tagore. That man has culled all of my feelings from long before my birth. He has understood what I am and he has put in all the words. I read him and I find that all has been said and I have nothing new to say."
Tarun Majumdar, a noted mainstream film director, made Tagore songs seem so obvious a part of his films.
One of Tagore's famous love songs, "Sakhi Bhabana Kahaare Bole", rendered by Lata Mangeshkar and Arati Mukherjee was brilliantly picturised on Mahua Roychowdhury and Sandhya Roy in his movie "Sriman Pritwhiraj" (1973).
In "Dadar Kirti" (1980), in which Tapas Pal made his debut, Tarun Majumdar made use of two Tagore songs, "Ei Korechho Bhalo Nithuro He" and "Charano Dharite Diyogo Amare", sung by Hemanta Mukherjee, to lyrically expose a vulnerable girl's mental state and helplessness.
In another of Tarun Majumdar's films, "Kuheli" (1980), the lead pair was Biswajit and Sandhya Roy; the song "Tumi Rabe Nirabe Hridoye Mamo", which was sung by Lata Mangeshkar and Hemanta Mukherjee, was brilliantly depicted by them. Tarun Majumdar used Tagore songs in some of his other films as well.
Many other film directors like Prabhat Mukherjee, Aparna Sen and Rituparno Ghosh used Tagore songs in their films.
The most notable Bangla film in Bangladesh in which one of Tagore's famous songs was so aptly used was Zahir Raihan's "Jibon Thekey Neya" (1970).
Tagore's famous song "Amar Sonar Bangla, Ami Tomay Bhalobhashi", which later became the country's national anthem, was shown in a very moving sequence.
It was picturised on some famous film stars like Anwar Hossain, Amjad Hossain, Suchanda and Rosy Samad among others. This movie was a great source of inspiration during the country's independence movement.
The deep influence of Tagore's music on Bangla films is unquestionable. His works are universal in terms of emotions and human relationships.
One might say that the language of movies offers the most appropriate medium to make Tagore's creations accessible to the audience.
The writer is a senior journalist and political commentato