A Place and Time for Bengali Pop Songs

Essays from The Education of a Bengali Gentleman-
There is a Place and Time for Pop(ular) Songs
Susm Munshi

For sometime I have been wondering whatever happened to listening to newer and current Bengali hits. My subscription to the Saavn music app allows me to listen to a variety of Indian, Bengali, Hindi Music. Saavn editors post their own playlists. The Bengali Chartbusters recommended by Saavn has 115 titles. I took them along while watering my gardens the other morning. I had adjusted my morning rituals to adapt to the hot days of summer. That’s real; Chicago does get several 90 degree days. It hadn’t rained either. The flowers were really thirsty after a hot night. Drench them in the morning. They love us back with fresh blossoms regularly. The Feng Shui Zen garden which replaced the aging bushes is coming along beautifully. A carpet rose anchors the garden. There are bright pink cone flowers, orange lily, yellow coreopsis. A black Buddha in his traditional lotus pose brings “chi” into the garden. An ornamental bird bath is the Feng Shui gardens’ Zen water feature. We have repurposed the Kitchen Garden. No more vegetables. It’s bathed in sunshine. Now it’s home to prospering Picasso calla lilies, hardy purple Salvia now in their second year. The Picasso’s grow to be 3ft tall and have a white bloom with a purple center. In Picasso’s 1932 painting of “Woman with a Flower”, he chose to use a calla lily to represent her face.

It is hard to depart from my favorite Rabindra Sangeet and tune my ears to newer, modern  Bengali pop music. In the list is an arousing rendition of Bengali lyricist Jeet Ganguli’s “Mon Majhi Re” by the very famous Bengali singer Arijit Singh. Arijit is a Bollywood Tollywood icon with many famous title tracks to his name. Arijit charges Rs. 1.5 crore for a concert. That’s around US $220,000. When Arijit records a track for a Bollywood or Hollywood movie, he charges around Rs. 15 lakhs. That’s US $22,000.  And some change. “Mon Majhi Re” is the title track from the 2013 Tollywood hit Bengali movie “Boss”. “Boss” grossed Rs. 6.5 crore, US $1 million in the first week it was released. An unparalleled achievement by Tollywood standards which lags behind Bollywood. You can listen to the song and read the lyrics at this link – http://www.bengalilyrics24.com/2014/10/mon-majhi-re-arijit-singh.html. It will give you a taste of pop culture in Kolkata.

Bengali Pop, Rabindra Sangeet, or Carole King – the best songs are love songs! Love whose cup is always half full. Love is maddening. Love casts such a gloom. Love dooms. But fall in love, I shall! The Bengali movie “Praktan” was a huge success, with popular songs like “Kolkata”. For lovers of Kolkata like myself I want to listen to it over and over. Then there is the other song from “Praktan”, “Tumi Jake Bhalobaso”, whose lyrics capture and summarize the plot of the movie – estranged love, lost love, lost opportunities. Suddenly warm and cozy love turns cold. Then you want to run from it. Immediately! There is no turning back. One day your paths cross again. When you least expect it. Age has made your reticent and nostalgic. Just for one more time, you long for a quiet moment, one last lingering touch. So much water has flowed under the bridge. The landscape of your love has changed beyond recovery. You have miles to go before you can go to sleep. Yes, pop(ular) Bengali songs do evoke many emotions. I am proud to listen to them.