Millennium Post

Mahishasuramardini Redux

Mahishasuramardini Redux
Now, usher in Mahalaya with a difference. In a few days from now, the iconic radio programme Mahishasuramardini which is broadcast annually on the morning of Mahalaya, is going to be presented in a new avatar, Durga Mahima, ushering in the biggest festival of Bengal, Durga puja.

Scripted by maestro Pankaj Mullick’s grandson, Rajib Gupta, the new audio play comprises several songs that were once part of Mahishasuramardini, when it was broadcast live during the period 1931 - 1961. They are not a part of the recorded version from the radio and are not available in the CDs or cassettes. 

‘These songs are just as timeless and evergreen as the ones we get to hear annually. The new script incorporates excerpts from Sree Sree Chandi and as a tribute to the original script, and has parts of it interwoven in the narrative,’ Rajib Gupta told Millennium Post in the midst of last minute rehearsals. 
Pankaj Mullick is omnipresent in Durga Mahima. All the songs, about 20 of them, that will be sung in a new format, have been composed by Mullick. However, the presentation has been conceptualised bearing in mind the phrase - Revisiting Heritage. Actually, the very concept of women’s emancipation and gender equality were very much a part of ancient Indian society and this reflects poignantly in the legend of Devi Durga. ‘It is quite ironic that while speaking of women achievers, we allude to Stree Shakti and Devi Durga - a part of our Puranas and Vedas. The new script refreshes them for the current generation. The other change is the use of digital and electronic instruments,’ explains Rajib Gupta.  

Singer Jhinuk Gupta, Mullick’s grand daughter-in-law, said, ‘The hitherto-unheard songs that feature in Durga Mahima and not in Mahishasuramardini (as it is heard at present) all have a strong classical base. 
These are Durga Devi Durga, He Srishti Bidhayaka Debata and He Chinmayi.’ The duration of the programme is about 90 minutes.

The husband-wife duo have presented similar programmes  to audiences outside Kolkata and also in Singapore and say that the reception has been overwhelming each time. On 22 September, Durga Mahima will finally be performed in its city of birth – Kolkata. ‘When Pankaj Mullick, a renowned and revered singer-composer of his times, is the composer, the songs speak freely to the listeners, breaking all language barriers. Moreover, Durga is a pan-India theme and Durga Mahima is bound to find uniform acceptance across the world,’ said Gupta. 

For the Guptas, the most challenging aspect of this presentation is to not let down the creators of Mahishasuramardini - Banikumar, Pankaj Kumar Mullick and Birendra Krishna Bhadra nor the immensely talented singers who have graced the programme with their renditions. ‘Otherwise, the test lies in presenting really intricate compositions and Sanskrit Sholkas,’ says Gupta.

So what can audiences expect from this show? ‘Durga Mahima is an oratorio (audio-play) and thus is auditory in nature. The visuals that go with it only enhance the songs and orations. A depictive stage layout, innovative lighting and special use of certain props add value to the production,’ says Jhinuk, who will perform along with Rajib Gupta at ICCR on 22 September.

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