Early history of reading in Bengali and Hindi cinema
The era of silent films. At that time it wasn’t called cinema or image, it was called binocular or book. Silent movies also had music. The movie started on the screen. As the story of the film progressed, the background music of the film was to be presented behind the screen according to different moments in the story.
Around this time, one day, the impresario Haren Ghosh came to Betar’s office. He asked Pankaj Kumar Mallick and Raichand Baral if they could provide the music for the film. Pankaj and Raichand had no idea about film music. By talking with Haren Ghosh, they have an idea of what to do. Both have accepted this new challenge.
Harenbabu told them that a company named ‘International Film Craft’ is making this silent film. The name of the movie is “Chorkanta”. The film will be screened at ‘Chitra’ cinema in Shyambazar, Kolkata. The Pankaj-Raichand duo will make the music for this film.
The place where the music from the silent film was played next to the stage in the movie theater was called the music box. In the music box, the instrumentalists would sit together and perform background music.
After talking with Haren Babu, Pankaj and Raichand got to work. Formed a team of skilled wireless-related instrumentalists. Both read the film’s story well. Development of a musical plan. According to the plan, they used their own tunes and in some places they also used the tunes of Rabindranath songs. This is how Rabindranath’s creation was also incorporated into the silent film.
Afterwards International Filmcraft produced another silent film. The name is “farm girl”. This time too Pankaj and Raichand conducted the music. This time too, Rabindrasura was added to their tunes. However, to save a little more time, the Pankaj-Raichand duo organized the task more nicely this time.
The music of both films won the appreciation of the public.
The international film craft is known under a new name with the launch of Sabak. New Name – New Theaters Limited Birendranath Sarkar, the all-time leader of the company, has emerged as the main figure in the historical journey of Bengali films. On February 10, 1931, New Theaters was recognized as a company and officially launched.
On March 14, 1931, the first Sabak film of the subcontinent ‘Alam Ara’ was released. In the same year, on April 11, Bengali sabak short film “Jamai Shasthi” was released. On December 30 of the same year, Sabak’s first feature film “Dena-Paona” was released in Bengal. The film based on Saratchandra’s story was produced by New Theatres. Directed by Premankur Atarthi and cameraman Nitin Bose.
The music for this film was composed by Pankaj and Raichand.
Undoubtedly a great pride for Pankaj, he was one of the two musical directors of the first Bengali feature film or feature film.
Having been involved in the musical direction of a very first film, Pankaj was understandably in an elated mood after accomplishing the historic feat. But when the film was released, we saw that Raichand’s name as musical director was given in capital letters, Pankaj’s name in very small letters below! But both took on the responsibility of managing the music in the same way. Additionally, Pankaj also claimed to have composed the music for the film on his own.
He was very sad at that time. He went through an emotionally painful time regarding the New Theaters’ discrimination and neglect of him. But as he grew up, he expressed his thoughts on the big and small name issue in a different way – “Why this injustice? This poignant question stirred me at that moment. The words that make me smile today in my old age, those words brought tears to my eyes that day.
After ‘Dena Paona’, Pankaj has composed the music for many duo and solo films.
In the beginning, there was no concept of playing music, so there was no lipping in the song. As if to launch dialogues, the actors and actresses had to sing in their own voice on the screen.
Those who wanted to act in films, especially those who wanted to play important roles, had to know music as well as theater. It was very difficult to find these two quality performers. That’s why the actor’s crisis was obvious at first. The crisis was acute until the introduction of the practice of playback.
Nitin Basu is director of photography at New Theatres. Later, he took on the responsibility of film director in his own capacity. His first film as a director was Hindi ‘Devdas’. The second movie is Bengali ‘Bhagyachakra’ and the Hindi version of the same movie is ‘Dhupchao’.
Pankaj was a paid musical director at New Theatres. So he had to go to the studio regularly. Nitin is a neighbor of Pankaj. known in advance He used to take Pankaj in his car on his way to the studio every day.
Nitin’s work increased while directing ‘Bhagyachakra’. He used to go to the studio very early in the morning. One day it was time for Nitin to come, at that time a record of a famous English song of the time was playing in the house next door.
Pagan movie song. Sung by Ramon Novarro, Lyrics—
‘Come with me where the moonbeams
Tahiti clear sky
And the starry waters linger in your
The native hills call us, we call them
And we’ll encourage each other with the
Pagan love song.
Pankaj himself sang this song. Totally immersed in the music. Meanwhile, Nitin appeared. wait Pankaj did not understand. The song ends.
Pankaj’s dad comes and informs that Nitin has come. Get ready quickly and get in the car. Nitin sits seriously. quietly Pankaj was a little scared. He thought today he had to wait a while, that’s why he might be angry. Pankaj tries to explain the reason for the delay. But to no avail, Nitin gives no answer.
Nitin got out of the car once on the way. He came back after a while. Some recently purchased magazines in hand. He came to the office and went to his room.
Nitin called Pankaj after some time. When Pankaj arrives, he pulls out a record among the magazines he bought on the way. Pankaj realizes that Nitin also bought records with the magazine. Pressed the disc on the gramophone. The music begins to play. The song was the English song sung by Ramon Rovero, which Pankaj sang in the morning.
Continuing the record, Nitin asked, “Pankaj, sing with him soon, just like you used to sing at home – ne, ne, fast.”
Pankaj started singing without understanding anything. He noticed Nitin watching him from different directions. Shortly after the song ended, Nitin happily danced. He forgets he’s in an office, keeps saying, “I get it! How many big problems have been solved so far!
Pankaj addressed Nitin as Puthulda. Then in Pankaj’s speech – ‘I shiver in shock from his dancing. I realized all this after a few moments and I was the first and direct witness of a historic moment in Indian cinema, the moment when the playback system was invented. Just what a witness! Without knowing it, I became the protagonist of this event, even though I was not the inventor of this idea, but the cinematographer Nitin Basu Mahashay himself. A breakthrough occurred silently, or with very little noise. Alone puppeteer shouting how much or sound wave could raise! From that day, he gained immortality as the father of the reading tradition in the Indian film industry.
Nitin worked on the coined idea, Nitin Bose himself, his recorder brother Mukul Bose, Pankaj Kumar Mallick and Raichand Baral. These four people from New Theaters introduced the first reading system in 1935 in the Bengali and Hindi language films ‘Bhagyachakra’ and ‘Dhupchaya’.
It is a remarkable achievement for the cinema of the subcontinent. Suprabha Ghosh (Sarkar), Parul Chowdhury (Ghosh) and Umashshi Devi performed for an ensemble song. According to Pankaj, she deserves the honor of being India’s first playback singer.
However, Hiren Bose also created a controversy about this reading. He claimed in 1982 that he was the first to do reading in Mehboob’s film “Manmohan”. But the movie ‘Manmohan’ was released in 1936. And ‘Bhagyachakra’ and ‘Dhupchaya’ were released in 1935. Therefore, Hiren Bose’s claim had no reasonable basis.
Pankaj has been involved in the musical direction of many films since the inception of Sabak films, such as “Dena Paona”, “Subah Ki Sitara”, “Kapalkundala” directed by Premankur Aarthi. ‘Chandidas’ directed by Devaki Basu. ‘Roopkatha’ and ‘Roopkahini’ (Hindi) directed by Sauren Sen. ‘Mukti’ (Bangla & Hindi), ‘Devdas’ and ‘Ruplekha’ directed by Pramthesh Barua. Nitin Bose performed ‘Bhagyachakra’, ‘Dhupchaya’ (Bhagyachakra Hindi), ‘Desh Mati’, ‘Dharti Mata’ (Hindi), ‘Kashinath’ (Bengali & Hindi) and Didi (Bengali & Hindi). ‘Bara Didi’ directed by Amar Mallik (Bengali and Hindi).
‘Kapalkundala’ (Hindi) directed by Phani Majumdar. ‘Doctor’ (Hindi), ‘Dui Purush’ and ‘Raikmaal’ directed by Subodh Mitra. ‘Abhijyan’ directed by Prafulla Roy. Directed by Karthik Chatterjee, “On the way to greatness”. ‘Meenakshi’ (Bengali and Hindi) directed by Madhu Bose. ‘Chitrangada’ (Bengali and Hindi) directed by Inder Sen. ‘Louhakpat’ directed by Tapan Singh. ‘Jaljala’ (Hindi adaptation of ‘Char Adhyaya’ by Rabindranath) directed by Paul Gilles and ‘Samrat’ directed by Gyan Mukhopadhyay.
During this time two things came to the fore, the first was the end of the flourishing status of Calcutta’s most important society, the New Theatres, and the second was the general advancement of the film industry in Bombay (today today Mumbai).
Among them, the most interesting aspect of Bombay was the film’s big budget. Good payment for those working in movies, as well as other facilities, which was not possible in Calcutta at that time. So, thinking of a good offer and a future, many people moved to Bombay.
Good offers from Bombay also came for Pankaj. But he stayed in Calcutta. Even when Binendranath Sarkar, the owner of New Theatres, citing the poor state of society, told Pankaj that he could not afford to pay as much as Bombay and allowed him to go to Bombay, there was no did not go. Thinking about the contribution of new theaters in his life, Pankaj turned down Bombay’s offer.
The role of music in movies has been immense from the start. Film songs arouse great enthusiasm among lyricists. New songwriters began to emerge. The number of lyricists writing songs for films is also increasing. Banikumar, Ajay Bhattacharya, Shailendralal Roy, Sajnikanth, Saurindramohan Mukherjee and others were among those who wrote songs for Bengali films produced by New Theatres. Incidentally, with Rabindranath’s permission, his songs have also been used in New Theaters films.
Hindi film lyricists included Asghar Hossain Shore, Arju Lakhnoubi, Pandit Bhushan, Pandit Sudarshan and Ramesh Pandey.
Many artists have sung songs for movies with Pankaj tunes. I still recorded this song. Many of them were Pankaj’s favorites. At the beginning of them – Saigal, Suprabha Ghosh (Sarkar) and Parul Chowdhury (Ghosh). The Next Generation Shaila Devi, Ela Ghosh (Mitra), Sudha Mukhopadhyay, Manvendra Mukhopadhyay, Hemant Mukhopadhyay, Uppala Sen, Tarun Banerjee, Radharani, Chitra Banerjee, Dhananjaya Bhattacharya, Kanika Banerjee and of course Geeta Dutta.
(There is another part (c) in chapter 14. At the end of it, all the references of this chapter will be given)
Author: researcher, essayist and lyricist
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