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Father of Indian symphony orchestra - Timir Baran

A talented composer who is now forgotten and is unknown to the present generation, Timir Baran, brought Indian movie music out of the influence of theatre and enabled it to acquire its own distinct identity

Timir Baran was born on July 10, 1904, in the traditionally musical family of Bhattacharya's. The family was also known for its tantric Sadhna. It produced many disciples of the Thakur family of Pather Ghat. During Timir's frequent visit to Thakur's, he came in contact with Guru Dev Rabindranath Tagore. Young Timir learned harmonium and sitar under the guidance of Rajendralal. He also started playing the banjo.

Once, to get his banjo repaired he went to Goverdhan's musical shop. Goverdhan liked the interest of Timir in music. He asked Timir, "Why do you play this instrument? It is meant for children. Why don't you try your hand on Sarod?" Timir took the Sarod from Goverdhan and started fiddling with the strings. He liked the instrument so much that he decided instantly he would play the Sarod in the future. Goverdhan gave him the address of Ustad Ameer Khan who was a renowned Sarod player of that time.

The next day, Timir came to the shop with his elder brother and asked him to buy a new Sarod. Goverdhan told him that he would make a new instrument for him but it will need sometime. After practicing for nearly six months, Goverdhan took him to the Ustad Ameer Khan.

Once Baba Allauddin Khan came to Calcutta (Kolkata) for his concert. Timir Baran listened to Baba's concert and was left in awe. Baba was reluctant to teach Timir, but later, he agreed and took him to Maihar. Baba had several illustrious disciples, his children Ali Akbar Khan and Annapurna, Nikhil Banarjee, Pannalal Ghosh, Bahadur Khan and Sharan Rani.

After a few years of training under Baba, Timir Baran went to Uday Shankar's India Cultural Centre at Almora. He used to compose music for Uday Shankar's ballets. Soon he won over Shankar's heart and accompanied him to America and Europe. After coming back from these tours, he came back to Almora and did a lot of experiments composing the music for ballets. Timir Baran also composed music for the plays of Madhu Bose. By now, Timir was a well-known figure in India and abroad.

Birendra Nath Sarkar started New Theatres on February 10, 1931. He was the son of Narendra Nath Sarkar, who was the Advocate General and Law member of the viceroy's council. Birendra Nath produced two silent films: Chor Kanta (Hidden Thorn) directed by Charu Rai and Chasher Meye (Pasant Girl) directed by Prafful Rai. In spite of the brilliant cinematography and direction, the films were washed out. Birendra Nath was a man of guts. New Theatres was a hermitage of the artists. It had a galaxy of best men in the various field of Cinema. It had directors like Pramathesh Chandra Barua, Debki Kumar Bose, Dhirendra Nath Ganguly (Director/Actor), Phani Majumdar, Hemchandra Chandra and Kartik Chatarjee it had Nitin Bose and Bimal Rai behind the lens, Hrishikesh Mukharjee as editor Mukul Bose, Bani Datta and Tapan Sinha for sound. Later on Nitin Bose, Bimal Rai, Hrishikesh Mukharjee and Tapan Sinha became directors and made classics of India Cinema.

New Theatres had stars like Prithvi Raj Kapoor, Durga Das Banarjee, Kundan Lal Saigal, Pahari Sanyal, Jagdish Sethi, KN Singh, Trilok Kapoor, Asit Sen, Durga Khote, Uma Shashi, Kanan Bala (Devi), Jamuna, Raj Kumari and Bharti Devi. The distinct feature of the New Theaters was its music. It had the trinity of Rai Chandra Boral, Pankaj Mullick and Timir Baran as the composers who gave unforgettable melodies to the music lovers. Famous composer Khemchand Prakash was an assistant to Timir Baran.

When Timir Baran came to Calcutta he was introduced by Jitendra Nath Mitra to Barua. He asked Barua to take Timir Baran as the composer for his classic film Devdas. Devdas was earlier made in Bangla in which Barua played the lead role and directed the film. The music of the Bangla version was given by RC Boral. Barua took Timir Baran for the Hindi version which had star casts of KL Saigal as Devdas, Jamuna as Paro and RajKumari as Chandramukhi. Kidar Sharma wrote the lyrics and dialogues of the film. Devdas was super-duper hit and Saigal became India's first superstar overnight.

The hallmark of Devdas was Timir Baran's music. Saigal sang his unforgettable numbers in this movie. Lyricist Kidar Sharma (who later turned producer/director) told me during the shooting of a documentary on him that two songs, Balam aye baso more man mein and Dukh ke din ab bitat nahi, were composed by Saigal himself. All other songs were composed by Timir Baran. During the recording of these songs, Timir Baran used beautiful pieces of Sarod in Balam aan baso and beautiful pieces of violin in Thumri, Piya bin naahi aawat chain (KL Saigal). Other unforgettable numbers were two Ghazals in the voice of Pahari Sanyal: Roshan hai tere dum se and Chhute aseer to badla hua zamaana tha.

Same year Timir Baran did a Bangla film of New Theatres, Bijenya. In 1936, another Saigal starrer, Pujaran, was released. It had very popular songs in Saigal's magical voice – Piye jaa aur piye ja and Jo beet chuki so beet chuki. In 1938, Timir Baran used Rabindra Sangeet in the film Adhikaar and made pleasing compositions – Suhaag ki raat aaaiye sajni (Phari Sanyal), Barkha ki raat aaiye and a duet Aankhon mein noor tera dil mein suroor tera (Pankaj Mullick/ Pahari Sanyal). In the Bangla version of Adhikar, Timir Baran used one Hindi song that drew Barua's immediate attention.

Timir's contribution was unmatched. He also did a Telugu film, Dhram Patni (1940). He also gave music in many other films including Deepak, Lakshmi and Suhaag. He also composed music for the Wadia Brothers. He did two films for his friend Madhu Bose – Kumkum (1940) and Raaz Nartaki (1941). He made unforgettable compositions for the film which included Shyam se nain mila ayi and Aaj raas rachai banwari (Suprwa Ghosh). Raaz Nartaki was also made in Bangla and English.

Timir Baran left New Theatres and toured all over India with Madhu Bose and his wife Sadhna Bose – composing music for their ballets. He will also be remembered for his composition of Vande Mataram in chorus style on the request of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose which was broadcasted on Radio Singapore.

He also worked for All India Radio where he orchestrated Tagore's Suditpashan (Hungry Stones). In 1949, he returned to films once again and worked with Usha Productions on Calcutta Samaptti (based on Tagore story) where he recorded two songs in Talat Mehmood's voice: Man ki maina bol rahi hai and Hay ye maine kya kiya. In 1954, he gave music to Phani Majumdar's Baadbaan with SK Pal. Timir Baran composed his iconic numbers, Kaise koi jiye jahar hai zindgi (Geeta Dutt), Aaya toofan kaise koi jiye (Hemant Kumar) and Dekho chanchal hai mera jiya ho (Asha Bhonsle). During the freedom struggle of Bangladesh, he composed a symphony Mukti Sangram in 1971.

In his last few years, he was at Shanti Niketan in its music department. His last album was released in 1979.

A brilliant Sarod player and a master of symphony and Ballet music. Timir Baran passed at the age of 83 away on March 29, 1987, leaving behind a legacy.

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