Any history of Bengali literature and its songs is incomplete without a mention of the prolific novelist and composer of Vande Mataram Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay (1838-1894). His novels revealed an India caught up in the cross-currents of opposing values, of questioning traditional moral sanctions in search of self-fulfilment, the clash between the reformist and revivalist forces.
To celebrate his 178th Birth anniversary, Bankim Chandra Centre for Comparative Indian Literature in association with the West Bengal State Academy of Dance, Drama, Music and Visual Arts plan to organise a day-long programme at the BT Road campus of Rabindra Bharati University (RBU) on June 28. The day will be marked by a unique musical presentation, titled Bankimer Manchagaan, scripted and directed by researcher and singer Devajit Bandyopadhyay. He will be reflecting on the evolution of musical compositions of Bankim Chandra, along with an exploration of the text in the context of changing time as well as attitude in the theatre productions of different eras.
The songs of Bankim for his novels were expressed through the stage adaptations of different playwrights – from Girish Chandra Ghosh, Bihari Lal Chattopadhyay, Amrita Lal Bose, Kedar Chowdhury, Amarendra Nath Dutta, right down to Mahendra Dutta – but the songs hardly changed.
“The manchagaan (theatre songs) of Bankim Chandra hardly changed over time, though the treatment of the story changed depending on the producer-director or the medium such as films or theatre or jatra”, Devajit Bandyopadhyay told Millennium Post.
Bankim Chandra boasts a rich repertoire of works like Durgeshnandini, Kapalkundala, Mrinalini, Anandamath, Krishnakanter Uil and other novels. The presentation will explore how Bankim Chandra established his dominance over his successors for several years, from the mid-nineteenth century to the present day. “Another interesting facet of Bankim Chandra is the fact that he also wrote a few poems – and not just novels – which were discovered after his death”, Bandyopadhyay added.
With Devajit and eminent singer Riddhi Bandyopadhyay performing on stage, Bankimer Manchagaan will document an interesting collage of the musical ventures of Bankim, never losing site of the era in which they were written. The event will be flagged off by the Vice-Chancellor of RBU, Prof Sabyasachi Bosu Roy Chowdhury and convened by Jyotsna Chattopadhyay. A seminar will be held on Bankim’s life, works and influences on the same day.