Begum Akhtar, born in 1914, is a classic example of how personal tragedy is often that differentiating edge between a great performer and a truly exceptional one. Witty, vibrant, and engaging with the world at various levels, here was a remarkable woman who took life head-on, and by many accounts, perhaps a bit recklessly.
She braved on regardless, driven by a deep inner quest to pursue love in its purest form, as an end in itself; be it in music or in life. Today her name is almost synonymous with the concept of ghazal gayaki, and her imitable style of singing which immortalised her, and gave her the title of Mallika-e-Ghazal (Queen of Ghazal).
As the whole country gears up to celebrate her birth centenary, Kolkata cannot be left behind where Begum had home. Elocutionist and theatre artiste Sujoy Prosad Chatterjee shall present a cultural ensemble on 31 October at Padatik Theatre, evoking memories of the legendary singer through ghazals and also interesting snippets of her life and times through dramatised readings.
Eminent personalities like broadcaster Kishore Bhimani, PR veteran Rita Bhimani, theatre personalities Dolly Basu, Sanchayita Bhattacharya, Nivedita Bhattacharya, Mahmud Alam and Ghazal singer Jayati Bhattacharya and many others shall be a part of this event. The premise of the show has been inspired by the biography of Begum Akhtar written by her student Padmashree Vidushi Rita Ganguly. The show is being supported by Turning Point, Addlife Caring Minds, SREI and Phreedom 4 Ever.
As Rita Ganguly, a student and companion Begum Akhtar puts it in her book Ae Mohabbat… Reminiscing Begum Akhtar, ‘Her taseer (soulful sound) was the result of years of loneliness, pain, suppression and silence’. Her forte was not necessarily the audibility of her music, for she had a defective area where her voice cracked at a high-pitch, with a limited one-octave range, but she turned it into her virtue for she knew how to mould her voice. The much loved classical diva of 20th century India Akhtaribai Faizabadi, or Begum Akhtar was the last of the great female singers from the courtesan (tawaif) community. Begum Akhtar effortlessly transcended that label to marry Barrister Ishtiaq Ahmed Abbassi of Lucknow. Ganguly, said, ‘I really admire Sujoy as a sperforming artist and the show he is curating on my Ustad speaks volumes about her inseparable bond with the city where she has been an icon as well.
Where : Padatik Theatre, Kolkata When: 31October