ये रातें ये मौसम ये हँसना हँसाना
मुझे भूल जाना इन्हें न भुलाना
Pankaj Mullick. The name needs no introduction. A composer and singer par excellence, Pankaj Mullick had a defining role to play in the early stages of Hindi film music.
Heartfelt thanks to Khantha Mahadevan for putting together this exhaustive and wonderfully written article on the maestro.
PANKAJ MULLICK by Khantha Mahadevan
In the annals of popular Indian music and culture of twentieth century, one extraordinary musician, composer, teacher, innovator and actor left an amazing legacy that will never be forgotten. He pioneered new techniques, new styles and had innumerable “firsts” to his credit that one marvels how so many distinctions could be achieved in a lifetime. His humble persona remained untouched by these achievements. He led his life in complete humility, loyalty, and, dedication to his passion: music. It is this unique combination of colossal talent and high ideals that establishes Pankaj Kumar Mullick as the finest cultural ambassador bridging films, traditional music and aadhunik gaan of the land. This article attempts to highlight those areas where Pankaj Babu revolutionized the art and its practice. Three institutions owe an eternal debt to Pankaj Mullick’s vision and talent. These are (a) All India Radio where his association started in 1927 and remained rock steady until 1975; (b) Indian films where he contributed from 1929 to 1972; and (c) Rabindra Sangeet which he imbibed, breathed all his life and nurtured it for future generations. In his own words, “Rabindra Sangeet is my life. Therein lies my redemption. It is not just music but something more. I can’t speak for others, but Rabindra sangeet transports me away from this world, far away, farther than even the sun and the stars.”
Anyone who draws a list of Pankaj babu’s “firsts” will include these and some more:
1. Playback singing in films started under his music direction in 1935.
2. Pankaj Mullick was one of the first to incorporate western instruments and elements of western music such as harmony and counter melody in Indian cinema.
3. He was the first teacher to teach music to millions via radio. The number of singers whom Pankaj Babu trained who then went on to scale extraordinary heights in their field is at least twenty names long beginning with Kundan Lal Saigal, Kanan Devi, Suchitra Mitra and more.
4. He was the first person to win Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore’s approval and permission to tune his poems, sing them in public and incorporate them in cinema. To quote Gurudev (Jorasanko Thakubari, 1937): “All those lyrics of mine that I will not get the opportunity to set tune during my lifetime, I leave to you to embellish them with your music.” Gurudev’s trust and Pankaj Babu’s dedication helped spread the tranquility and beauty of Rabindra Sangeet all over India. He is fittingly recognized as the foremost ambassador of Rabindra Sangeet.
5. Pankaj Babu introduced tabla in Rabindra Sangeet and also made harmonium an integral part even though Tagore had disliked the use of harmonium.
6. Pankaj Babu was the first music composer to be awarded the Dadasaheb Phalke award in 1972.
7. The longest running program on AIR remains the classic live early morning broadcast of Chandipath and Mahishasura Mardini on Mahalaya Amavasya that Pankaj Babu started in 1931 and conducted every year until 1975 (except 1944). The program continues even today.
It is impossible to do justice to this towering personality in a few pages. Endowed with a sonorous and seductive voice, his songs imbue serenity and divinity in the listener. His voice is soothing and often displays tremendous tonal modulation. The tunes he composed are complex and imaginative. His diction is crystal clear and the subtle nuances he brings to his singing show his mastery of music. Stranded on a desert island, a Pankaj Mullick disc will satiate the mind, body and soul for days, months, years, an entire lifetime.
The following tributes from Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan and Pandit Ravi Shankar offer a glimpse of the esteem he commanded (shared kindly by Archisman Mozumder). Kumarprasad Mukherjee, the famous musicologist and singer (Agra Gharana) writes in his award winning book in Bengali ‘Kudrat Rangibirangi’ about an incident: Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, at the peak of his popularity in the 1950-s, was performing at a popular and well-attended concert in Calcutta. Pankaj Mullick had come to listen to the concert. Just before the Ustad started the programme, Pankaj Mullick was led on to the stage by the organisers to be introduced to Bade Ghulam Ali Khan. The moment Bade Ghulam Ali Khan heard of his name, he hastily hauled himself up on the platform (with difficulty, as he was a heavy person) to grasp Mullick’s hand. He said movingly, ‘hamara gaana to bahot kam log sunte hai, lekin aap ka gaana to Dhaka se leke Peshawar tak mashoor hai. Har baccha aur aurat bhi aap-ke gaana gun-gunaata hai’. He then, in his inimitable voice, broke into singing the opening lines of ‘piya milan ko jaana’ & held Pankaj’s hand & said, “kya gaaya hai aap-ne! Subhanallah!”
Pandit Ravi Shankar, in his Bengali autobiography,
‘Raag Anuraag’, mentions Pankaj Mullick’s name the moment he touches upon the topic of light music. He says (loosely translated), “If I have to link up our movies and its music, one of the first names that come to my mind is Pankaj-babu’s. Not only did he compose some beautiful tunes, he had a beautiful and sonorous voice. Also, he was such a polite and down to earth person!”
The rest of the article features a brief biography of Pankaj Mullick followed by a summary of how he nurtured three institutions for many decades. A reference list is included at the end and lists several websites and blogs created by his ardent fans.
Pankaj Kumar Mullick was born on 10 May 1905 in Calcutta. His father, Shri Monimohan, and his mother, Smt. Monomohini, nurtured an atmosphere of classical music in their middle-class home. Pankaj was drawn to music as a child. His grandson, Rajib Gupta, says that his grandfather could sing to the hum of a car engine or to the rhythm of a water pump. His formal training in classical music started at the age of ten under Shri Durgadas Bandopadhyay. It was comprehensive and included training in dhrupad, khayal, tappa and other genres. A turning point in his life came when he met Shri Dinendranath Tagore, a grandnephew of Gurudev. Shri Dinendranath and Gurudev had a working partnership where Dinu Thakur (as he is known) would write down the tunes composed by Tagore in staff notation. Pankaj Babu learned Rabindra sangeet under Dinu Thakur. This close association with the Tagore family had a lasting influence on Pankaj Da’s work, ideals and philosophy in life. Pankaj did not complete his college but turned to a career in music by the age of twenty. His first recording was for the Vielophone Company in 1926.
The Indian broadcasting Company, the forerunner of AIR, started operating the Calcutta radio station on 26 August 1927, a month after the Bombay station went on air. Pankaj Mullick’s first day at the radio started on 26 September 1927. He performed two Rabindra sangeet songs live that day. The first, “Emono dine tare bola jay” remains a classic to this day. The second song was “Ekoda tumi priye”. Shri Rai Chand Boral, another legendary composer and the first to be featured in the GHZ series, auditioned him. Boral was a year older. Both had impeccable classical training that helped them form a rich musical partnership. Pankaj Babu remained active with AIR and Kolkata Radio for the next forty-eight years of his life until 1975. The medium provided the perfect pathway for Pankaj Babu to reach to the masses. He crafted two immensely popular programs that helped change the cultural milieu of Bengal and the nation. The first of these was begun in 1929 and was a music lesson imparted on air. Titled “Sangeet Shikshar Ashar”, the Sunday morning program, was a live music class conducted by Pankaj Babu. The listeners were treated to a mix of Rabindra sangeet, Nazrul geet, folk songs, patriotic songs, Hindi bhajans, etc., all taught patiently by an able master who could prod the men and especially women in the home to start learning to sing and appreciate music without embarrassment. The program became immensely popular not only in Bengal but all over the country. The music and his voice were the main attraction and the language barrier was not even felt. The longevity of the program suggests that Pankaj Mullick practiced distance learning very early. He taught many generations of men and women to appreciate, enjoy and learn music with pride.
The second program that Pankaj initiated was in 1931. Along with Banikumar (script writer) and Birendra Krishna Bhadra (the narrator), Pankaj Babu composed the music for an operatic recreation of Chandipath and Mahishasura Mardini, the victory of Goddess Durga over the evil Mahishasura. This epic broadcast was made live at the crack of dawn (4:00 am) on Mahalaya Amavasya following which Durga Puja commenced. To keep the novelty of the broadcast, new singers were inducted in the show and trained under Pankaj Babu. It can almost be said that every singer of repute in Bengal between 1930 and 1970s appeared on this show at least once and usually many times. Singers such as Angurbala, Suprabha Ghosh, Hemanta Mukherjee, Supriti Ghosh, Sumitra Sen, Sandhya Mukherjee, Arati Mukherjee, Pannalal Bhattacharya, Dwijen Mukherjee and Manabendra Mukherjee considered it an honor to be invited to sing live under the baton of Pankaj Mullick on the holy day. The show continues to this day each year.
Pankaj Mullick along with the danseuse and actor Vyjayanthimala were the first performers when Indian television was inaugurated in 1959. He also had the distinction of recording the national anthem at the request of Jawaharlal Nehru.
Along with Rai Chand Boral, Pankaj Mullick’s first association with the film industry came around 1930 when both conducted live music orchestra on the aisles of Chitra theatre in Calcutta during the screening of two Bengali silent films: Chasher Maye and Chorkanta. This experiment where live sound was added to the action on screen showed that both composers were adept at being orchestra conductors as well. Pankaj Babu had learned to play harmonium at a friend’s home. The orchestra typically included western instruments such as piano, accordion, clarinet and horns. The presence of western composers such as Francesco Casanova, Joseph Newman, etc., at that time in Calcutta helped both composers acquire intricate knowledge of many musical instruments. They were also open to experimentation and mixing the eastern and western elements without sacrificing the beauty of either form.
1931 saw the birth of New Theatres founded by Shri B N Sircar and the emergence of the talkie films. The first talkie film ”Dena Paona” in 1932 produced by New Theatres had Boral and Mullick team up as composers. Timir Baran, another fine composer joined New Theatres soon after and these became the trinity composers of Calcutta. It is remarkable that only Pankaj Mullick remained with New Theatres in Calcutta until its shutdown in late fifties. Pankaj babu had many opportunities to take up offers from Bombay but he remained loyal and content with his first and only film production house.
In 1933 New Theatres produced the classic “Yahudi ki Ladki” that had music by Boral and Mullick. Pankaj Mullick’s film career cannot be described without recalling how he met, nurtured and bonded with his bosom friend, Kundan Lal Saigal. Writing in the Illustrated Weekly in November 1974 and in his autobiography “Aamar jug aamar gaan” (reprinted in the book on The Legacy of the legend K. L. Saigal by V. Sonthalia and K. Beriwala, 2005),
Pankaj says that his first meeting with Kundan took place in 1931, in the studios of AIR at 1, Garstin Place. He found a young gentleman, slim with an impressive face, wanting to sing ghazals for the radio and hailing from Jullundur. Pankaj who was a singer and music trainer with AIR requested the program engineer, Nrupen Majumdar, to audition Kundan. Pankaj writes, “Kundan demonstrated charming melody and rhythm, distinct pronunciation, neat articulation, embellishing the ghazal with an exceedingly sweet and melodious nasal tone. He also showed a certain excellence in playing the organ in accompaniment.” The song was broadcast that very night and Kundan joined as a regular artist of AIR soon after.
Later when B N Sircar sought an artist for the Hindi film “Mohabbat ke Aansoo”, Pankaj Mullick recalled the slim, good looking young man from the radio station. Soon Saigal was hired by New Theatres. Apart from composing innumerable Saigal favorites, Pankaj Mullick also initiated Kundan to learn Bengali and was responsible for Kundan Lal Saigal’s Rabindra Sangeet non-filmy records as well (the first non-Bengali to sing Rabindra sangeet). Kundan and Pankaj remained the best of friends. They inspired and nourished each other’s music.
Yahudi ki Ladki had fine Saigal songs, the most famous one being the Ghalib ghazal, “Nukta cheen hai gam-e-dil”. This is considered a landmark composition as for the first time it helped bring Ghalib’s works to a medium patronized by the masses instead of the literati. The tune was such as to bring the poet’s words alive and the voice of Saigal was par excellence. Despite the innumerable versions of this song in the voice of many a fine singer, Saigal’s rendition is considered an all-time best. This film also boasted a solo nazm in a female voice written by Agha Hashra Kashmiri titled ‘Ab shaad hai dil, aabaad hai dil’. It was presumably sung by Radharani but is not available anymore. Pankaj Mullick had it re-recorded in 1948 by Utpala Sen and this version is widely available. An excellent write-up on this song was made recently (October 6, 2013) by Arunkumar Deshmukh on ‘atulsongaday’ website (Ref.:http://atulsongaday.me/2013/10/06/ab-shaad-hai-dil/#more-69546). Dr. M. L. Kapur, a music connoisseur and an ardent Mullick bhakt made me aware of this one-of-a-kind exquisite song.
In 1934, came the superhit film “Chandidas” where again the team of Boral, Mullick and Saigal captured the hearts of people with their compositions. The realization of playback technique instead of live singing by the artists came in an accidental encounter between the Director Nitin Bose and Pankaj Mullick one day. The grandson of Pankaj Babu, Rajib Gupta, writes, “The Director of the movie (Bose) had come to pick up grandfather (Mullick) to go to the studio together. There was an English song playing next door and Bose thought my grandfather was singing it. When he came out, Bose asked him if he was singing it. When my grandfather said “No”, even though the voice sounded like his, an idea sprang up in Bose’s mind. He told grandpa, “You do something. Start singing the words without putting your voice in”. This was the seed of the idea that would introduce playback singing in Indian films. The idea had appeal with the New Theatre musician trio and its sound engineer Mukul Bose. Boral and Mullick refined the idea and introduced playback singing for the first time in Bose’s Bengali film “Bhagya Chakra” (1935) which was also made in Hindi as “Dhoop Chaoon” in the same year.
Boral and Mullick worked on about twenty films together for New Theatres. If Boral composed, Pankaj Babu provided the orchestration and background score. If Pankaj composed he claimed credit only jointly with Boral. In film credits, Boral’s name appeared in bigger font while Mullick’s was always the second name in smaller font. The issue did not bother him. Pankaj Babu recorded many non-film Bengali and Sanskrit songs between 1926 and 1936. His first film song appears to be for Manzil in 1936 under Boral’s music. The song “sundar naari preetam pyari” written by Arzoo Lucknawi is a delight to hear even today.
In 1937, Director P. C. Barua planned the film “Mukti” in Bengali and Hindi. Pankaj Babu accepted to play a small role, as a singer in the hills. This was also his first assignment as a solo music composer. At the film’s narration, Barua heard Mullick hum a song. He said he would like to use it. Mullick replied, “These are words by Tagore but the music is mine.” Barua insisted on using the song in the film even though Tagore compositions were never sung outside of an elite circle nor in public and no one had ever tuned a Tagore poem. Pankaj Babu decided to get the permission of Gurudev. According to his grandson, Mullick had to wait a long time before he got to meet Gurudev. Tagore asked to hear the song. When Mullick sang “Diner sheshey ghumer deshey” set to his own tune, Gurudev was so overwhelmed that he embraced Pankaj. He immediately granted permission for Pankaj babu to use the song in the film, named the film Mukti, and, also gave him the permission to tune any lyrics or poem of his after his lifetime. Pankaj Mullick thus became the first chosen ambassador to bring Rabindra Sangeet to people and places all over the country. The film Mukti and the song diner sheshey became runaway hits.
After the success of Mukti, Pankaj Babu acted, sang and also composed music for a number of New Theatre hit films. The Saigal films that are well known include “Didi” (1937), “Badi behen” (1937), “Jiban Maran” (1938), and the classic film “Dushman” (1938) where Mullick scored the music giving us the unforgettable hits, “karun kya aas niraas bhayi, karun kya aas niraas bhayi; pyari pyari suraton”, etc. Pankaj Mullick’s tunes always absorbed the poet’s lyrics deeply and followed an imaginative complex course that would capture the mood and the character of the film. Other distinguishing elements were the orchestration, the changes in tempo and a meandering structure that left the listener to marvel at the song. Combined with the magical voice of Saigal, the songs remain masterpieces now as they did when they were created.
Successful films and partnerships with Boral continued with titles such as “Dharti Mata” (Desher Mati) in 1938, “Abhigyan”, “Abhagin”. The famous “Kapal Kundala” (1939) with its exquisite song “Piya milan ko jana” established Pankaj Mullick as a foremost music composer.
One of Lata Mangeshkar’s regrets in life was not getting an opportunity to sing for Pankaj babu. She even told this in person when she met him at Nagpur a few months before he passed away. She sang “Piya milan ko jana” in her shraddhanjali tribute. “Badi didi” (1940) starred Pahari Sanyal and had music by Mullick. Then came the jaadu film “Zindagi” starring Saigal with Mullick as its composer. “Main kya jaanu kya..aa..aa jaadu hai, jaadu hai” is the best description of the powerful music Pankaj Babu gave in this film. Amongst other soulful numbers of Saigal, this film also featured the sweetest lullaby, penned by Kidar Sharma for his beloved wife, Raj Dulari. Saigal convinced Kidar Sharma to include this song in the film and the soft melody Pankaj Babu created by changing the word Raj Dulari to Rajkumari make it an all-time beloved song to this day. Pankaj Mullick also sang for other composers in New Theatres, especially Timir Baran (e.g., “Adhikaar” (1938) and K. C. Dey (e.g., “Aandhi” 1940). The three singing stars Kundan Lal Saigal, Pankaj Mullick and K C Dey had distinct traits. If Saigal’s voice was komal and madhur, and K C Dey’s vibrant, Pankaj Babu’s was a seductive blend of both. Apart from Saigal, Pankaj Mullick was the only other artist of New Theatres who achieved distinction as a singer, composer and actor.
To see the seamless integration of western elements into an Indian film song, one should hear Pankaj Babu render “madbhari rut jawan hai” in the costume drama “Nartaki” (1940). The preludes and interludes are as admirable as the tune and melody of the song. The film where Mullick’s creativity and talent were brought to the zenith was (“Daktar” – Bengali) “Doctor” (1941) directed brilliantly by Subodh Mitra. It was a reformist film and Pankaj babu had the role of an educated doctor fighting the dreaded cholera in a village setting. The first authentic ghoda-ghadi song “chale pavan ke chaal” featured in this film. In addition, it had many superb hits including “aayi bahar aaj aayi bahar”, “aaj apni mehenaton ka” and the most soulful number, “guzar gaya woh zamana, kaisa, kaisa”. The anguish in Pankaj babu’s voice is palpable in the latter even today and the soft vocals make the eyes moist and long for the bygone era.
By 1942, some of the stalwarts of New Theatres had left seeking greener pastures. Saigal left Calcutta to go to Bombay and created magic once again with Bhakt Surdas and Tansen. To change the waning fortunes of the famed New Theatres, a film titled “Meri behen” (“My Sister”) was planned with Pankaj Mullick as the composer. A few songs (“chhupo na chhupo na o pyari sajaniya”, “ae-qatibe-e-taqdeer” and “do nanina matware”) were recorded in Pankaj’s voice. It was then felt that Saigal be asked to return from Bombay and act in the film to have an impact at the box-office. Saigal agreed to Sircar’s request. Although Pankaj Babu could have used different tunes and retained his recorded songs for other films, he gladly made Saigal record the same songs again. The three songs became some of the most well known songs of Saigal. Pankaj Babu in all humility released his versions of the songs only after Saigal’s demise in 1948.
Pankaj Mullick taught Saigal how to bring his pitch down and modulate his voice, speak and sing Bengali songs and Rabindra Sangeet. Pankaj Mullick proudly acknowledged that he had never come across a singer of Saigal’s caliber and magic in his lifetime. There are numerous stories of their rich friendship. Mullick used to relish the home-cooked food that Saigal brought to the studio every day. In turn, Kundan was the only one allowed to have alcohol in Pankaj’s home. In his autobiography, Pankaj recalls an amusing incident that was kindly translated by Archisman Mozumder and brought to my attention. Pankaj had taught a Rabindrasangeet – ‘sharod pratey aamaar raat pohaalo’, which was recorded for the film Parichay (1941). Kundan was so besotted with the tune that he used to perpetually hum it. Kundan used to ride a motorcycle and often he and Pankaj would go for long rides in the outskirts of Calcutta. One day, Kundan came to pick up Pankaj from the latter’s residence. Just as Pankaj was supposed to sit on the bike, Kundan humming ‘aamaar raat pohaalo’ just drove away without even checking whether Pankaj was seated or not! So the bemused neighbours were treated to a sight of a slightly agitated Pankaj, running behind a bike (as fast as one can, clad in a dhoti!) yelling at a shirt and trouser clad Kundan to stop.
The next decade (late forties to fifties) saw Pankaj Mullick give music to Bengali films made under the New Theatres banner. In 1952, Paul Zils (a German who had landed in Bombay in 1945 after the steamer he had boarded for Indonesia got torpedoed by an Indian naval ship; he was taken prisoner but released after the war and continued to remain in Bomay to make documentary and feature films), directed a movie “Zalzala” based on Tagore’s story titled “Four chapters”. Pankaj Mullick composed the music for this film but he did so by remaining in Calcutta and never venturing to Bombay. All songs were recorded in Calcutta. Geeta Dutt who sang in this film had to come to Calcutta, learn and practise with Pankaj Babu before recording the songs. Two other films that had songs sung and composed by Mullick include “Yatrik” (1952) and “Kasturi” (1954). Yatrik had several Sanskrit compositions while Kasturi with lyrics by Vrajendra Kaur had soul-touching songs such as “Apni preet ko dhoondh raha hoon”, “ae mere dil tu zara sambhal”.
Pankaj Mullick was stubbornly loyal to New Theatres where he worked as music composer for over twenty-five years. He never demanded any special privilege. His humility was such that he never even asked B. N. Sircar to pay him more when he contributed to a film as a singer and actor in addition to being its composer. This oversight makes only a threadbare appearance in his autobiography. He writes “I received remuneration as music director, but was never offered anything for my services as playback singer and actor. Sometimes it would occur to me that the authorities might at least acknowledge my services, even if they did not remunerate them. But no, let all that be! New Theatres was my nurturing mother and let me come back to the pleasant memories…” (taken from an article by Sharmishtha Gooptu titled, “The Glory that was: An exploration of the iconicity of New Theatres”, Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East, Vol. 23, 2003, pp.286 – 300). On his demise, R. C. Boral was the first person to rush to his home to offer his tributes to a great human being and a composer, singer, par excellence.
Pankaj Babu gave music to a few Bengali films sporadically in the fifties, sixties and early seventies. These include “Nabin Yatra” (1953), “Mahaprasthaner Pathey” (1953), “Raikamal” (1955), “Louha-Kapat” (1957), “Ahwan” (1961) and his final film “Bighalita Karuna Jahabi Jamuna” (1972). According to Ajit Sheth, the writer of his biography titled “Guzar gaya woh zamana”, Pankaj Mullick sang 34 Bengali film songs, 72 Bengali non-film songs, 37 Hindi film songs, 15 Hindi non-film songs and 15 Sanskrit compositions. Yatrik and RajKamal (1955) won the President’s award for best music.
Pankaj Mullick composed and sang elegant non-film Hindi songs written by Fayyaz Hashmi, Pandit Bhushan and Pandit Indra. The most famous of these include “Ye raatein ye mausam yeh hasna hasana”, “jab chand mera nikla”, “maine aaj piya”, “tere mandir ka hoon deepak jal raha”, “mere hathile shyam”, “Prem bel mein phool na patte”, “Asha ne khel rachaya”, “Main rota hoon mat mana karo”, “jise meri yaad na aaye” (which has a distinct western prelude), “dharti ke us paar” (a Hindi translation of Rabindrasangeet), etc. The Tagore song “pran chay chokkhu na chay” better known in its translated version “Pran chahe nain na chahe” and “yaad aaye ke na aaye tumhari” (written by Pandit Bhushan) were composed by Francesco Casanova. The latter was a flautist and composer who lived in Calcutta for nearly twenty-five years until 1951. An amusing incident is mentioned in blogs comcering ‘Pran chahe nain na chahe’ song where staccato notes rule supreme. Once Pankaj and Francesco were traveling in a tram when a beautfiul lady got in. Francesco tried his best to turn around and get a good look at the lady but he could not. Pankaj then told him that Tagore’s lyrics “pran chay chokkhu na chay’ describe his predicament. Francecso composed the beautiful staccatto tune having understood the message of the poet. This song was first recorded by Kanan Devi in Bengali and some years later by Mullick in Hindi (Pandit Bhushan translated Tagore’s lyrics).
It is a testimony to the popularity of Pankaj Mullick all over India that in 1944 when the Maharaja of Mysore invited many singers for a concert, Pankaj Mullick drew much larger crowds than even the likes of Saigal and other classical singers. Pankaj Mullick had carried Hindi to every nook and corner of India, especially southern India.
Pankaj Mullick was well versed in Sanskrit. He wrote four books titled “Geet Valmiki”, “Swara Lipika”, “Raga Lakshana Geet Manjari” and “Mahishasura Mardini”.
Pankaj Babu used the medium of films (Mukti, Abhigyan, Adhikaar, etc.) and the radio to popularize Rabindra Sangeet for nearly five decades. His renditions of Tagore have an aura of their own. Even without understanding the lyrics, one is tempted to fathom the mood and emotions expressed by the poet. Consider Tagore’s words written in 1914, set to raag Kanara and taal keherwa:
Tumi Ki Keboli Chobi, shudhu Pote Likha
Oi – je sudhur niharika
Jara kore ache bhir akasher nir,
Oi jara dinraatri
Alo haathe choliache andharer jatri
Groho tara robi,
Tumi ki tader moto satya nao,
Hai Chodi, tumi Sudhu Chobi
Translation from http://gitabitan-en.blogspot.com/2009/12/tumi-ki-keboli-chhobi.html
Are you merely the image?
Are you not as certain
As the galaxy of stars As true as the luminary
Wayfarers of darkness?
As you elude my sight,
You venture into the seat of my heart
Spreading in the green of the earth,
In the azure of the sky
And in that match, my world
Finds its harmony
None realize how
Your melodies play unheard
To blend in with my songs,
And how you become the muse
Within the poet’s heart
Mullick’s tender voice with its superb diction and the ability to breathe in emotions in chosen syllables enables us to conjure the poet’s vision as seen from this rendition:
Every Rabindra sangeet sung by Pankaj babu creates this feeling of closeness with the poet. Some well known songs of Mullick in this genre include the following: Dinguli more sonar khanchar, Ami Tomari Sange, Aji Basanta Jagrata, Tumi Kemon Korey, Aami Kaan Petey Roi, Joubana Sarasinirey, Gaganey Gaganey, Bhengechho Dwar, Prolay Nachan, Tomar Holo Suru, Tai Tomar Anando, Ekti Namaskare Pravu, Je Dhrubopada Diyechho, Tomar Ashan Shunyo, etc. Pankaj Mullick’s Rabindrasangeet is a rich treasure that transports the listener to a state of pure bliss when listened attentively until it is absorbed in totality.
Recently, Rajib Gupta, the grandson of Pankaj Mullick has stated that he would release the many hundreds of Tagore lyrics and poems that Mullick had the honor to compose and record after Gurudev’s demise in 1941. It is ardently hoped that this venture will soon be brought to fruition.
PANKAJ MULLICK: AWARDS AND HONORS
• Title of Surosagar in 1931
• Title of Sangeet Ratnakar in 1962
• Title of Padmashree in 1970
• Dadasaheb Phalke Puraskar by Govt. of India in 1972
• Title of Rabindra Tattyacharya in 1977, from Tagore Research Institute
• BFJA (Bengal Film Journalists’ Association) Award
• Rashtrapati Puraskar for composing the best film music of the year for the films Yatrik and Raikamal
• Commemorative awards from All India Radio on its Silver and Golden Jubile
I am deeply grateful to Aditya Pant, Dr. M. L. Kapur, Archisman Mozumder and Manek Premchand, who helped to add valuable content, editorial comments and precious songs. Their input has been invaluable. All errors and omissions are entirely due to me. I sincerely thank everyone who had the patience to read this long article.
1. One of the first comprehensive websites created for Pankaj Mullick by his ardent fan, Mr. Surinder Madani, at the insistence of his friend, a music collector and connoisseur, Dr. M. L. Kapur (http://www.pankajmullick.com/). Dr. Kapur has a personalized license plate for his car bearing the name P MULICK.
2. The official website of Pankaj Mullick maintained by the foundation in his name: http://www.pankajmullick.org/
3. Manek Premchand, “Yesterday’s melodies today’s memories”, Jharna Books, 2003.
3. Many blogs written by ardent fans: http://www.thoughtsconnect.com/2013/03/29/pankaj-das-journey-in-the-music-industry/
4. Sound clips including a radio interview of the maestro: