It is often told that Bengalis find expression for all their emotional travelogues (Calcutta to Howrah!) in Tagore’s songs. That Dadu has given words for all our emotions, upheavals and more is something I dare not debate. As a quintessential Bengali, I very well know the effect “Aaj Jyotsna Rate Sobai Geche Boney” coupled with “Old Monk” had on my friendly neighbourhood dada- umm, let’s call him Poltu da, after a painful break up with the “Shundori” (Beautiful) girlfriend who did not think twice about trading his undying love for the MBBS husband. Ah! that typical bong fascination for “lyengi”.
Lyengi is actually an art in Bengal. One that has given rise to so many poets and singers who wrote odes to their lady loves with moist eyes and good old “Old Monk”. But then again, the 90’s Bengali men and women who decided to not to remain unaffected by the changes that globalisation was gradually doing to their friendly “chayer thek” wanted a more vocal alternative for their everyday being. Be it love, politics or just being Bengali. Everything which a Bengali loves.
And then came Chandrobindoo. The rest they say is history.
As a Bengali girl growing up in a South Calcutta neighbourhood in 1990’s, remaining unaffected by the Bangla band scenario was impossible. I liked Bhoomi and some works of Cactus, but it was Chandrobindoo who made those overtures of Poltu Da during Durga Pujo bhashan or the continuous efforts that he made to appease the snob daughter of Mr. Chatterjee in our neighbourhood, utterly believable. Their first album had a song called “Sweetheart” and it was more than true that Chatterjee uncle’s daughter had, while introducing her NRI fiance to us, had taken a special exception for Poltu da and called him- “Oh! Sujoy, meet Poltu…he is like my brother you know…he stays just opposite our house”. This was 1999. NRI husband meant the big ticket to fame and she did just the same. While the above mentioned song described the Bengali woman’s fascination for their “Pistuto” brothers (“cousins”), we saw more of the rakhi brother game being played just in front of our eyes. That was the first pillar of truth Chandrobindoo established for me, even though I heard the song much later but I could make an instant connection 🙂
To say that Chandrobindoo only gave voice to a heart broken lover’s whims will be such an insult. If there was anybody who brought “humour” and “sarcasm” to the already cluttered Bangla band scene, it was them. Chandrobindoo appealed to all those Bengalis across the world who could understand our shortcomings as a race. Their song “Aamra Bangali Jaati” came during a time when we had just started jostling for our space in the world map post the globalisation. Calcutta as a city was waking up to the changing times. The times they had understood that those days of brutally romantic 70’s and 80’s were over. If we had to survive and make the city tick, we had to fight…but! there is always a but in a Bengali’s life….the fact that we as an ‘intellectual’ race had to rub our shoulders with “Paanjabis” and “Meros” was completely unacceptable to us. The stiff upper lipped uncle in my neighbourhood often discarded the overwhelmingly popular Information Technology revolution and the predominance of “Made in America” in our lives as a ‘Capitalist conspiracy’ and that actual “Bilet” was always London and never New York! So when Chandrobindoo decided to poke fun about our stake to intellectual supremacy via the Nobel laureates that only Bengal seems to have produced, it never sounded odd. We all do that. Period. We all say “Marwaris have no kaaalturrr” and then share social space with them in Calcutta Club as we have to accept a hardworking race’s claim to economic supremacy. It is even ironical that we Bengali often claim to be the “most modern, secular minded and non communal” beings. Yes! even after those ‘Paaiya’ and ‘Mero’ jokes.
This is where I feel Chandrobindoo touched the perfect chord with our generation. Their lyrics, penned by the oh! so charming Anindya and the one and only Chandril, reflected the story of our lives. My father always thought Rabindranath is the best thing to happen to literature (and I still think Sourav Ganguly is the best thing to happen to Cricket), but I also understand that the definition of what is best can never be decided in societal terms. More so when, today we are waking up to the rise of the entrepreneurial risk loving Bengali who does not mind opening their own start ups.
If that last paragraph made you think that Chandrobindoo was supposed to make light hearted music, when did it become so heavy on us….relax! For me and for everybody of my generation, Chandrobindoo will be the ones who made those expressions of love and falling out of love so easy, so gentle and so believable. I sometimes wonder whether it was the fact that the very cute Upal and the very charming Anindya in front of the microphone that made those words so believable. Anindya will probably be the only bearded man in the history of this mankind that I had a very special soft corner for. Apart from Robi Thakur that is. (That bit is always understood. I am a Bengali :P)
I met Anindya once in the Calcutta Book fair. I took his autograph and conveyed to him about how much I liked his songs. All along, I gushed like a school girl. My husband was standing besides me and he could not believe it was the same me who was still sometime ago fighting with the very obnoxious Calcutta taxi driver for a ten Rupee change!
Well! to think of what made the romantic songs, the ones I consider among the many of their songs to be my favourite, tick and stand out is a question that cannot be answered without a reference to the city which makes all of us “fall in love”. The city that has “Ei shohor janey amar prothom sobkichu” written all over, for (admit it) many of us. (That is a Kabir Sumon song. Just for the uninitiated.)
Calcutta, has been a character in many of Chandrbindoo’s songs. I cannot imagine the innocence of giving up everything for love or as the way the love of out lives wished happening in any other city in this world apart from Calcutta. May be it is my imagination, but in this world of everyday rush from our pigeonhole apartments in Borivali, New York, Gurgaon or Rajarhat to our air conditioned office spaces anywhere in this world- can any place offer the solace, the peace, the warmth and the love of a life long forgotten in the meandering lanes of North Calcutta?
The answer will be an overwhelming No! We all crave for that life that we left behind. I have never lived in North Calcutta. I have never lived continuously in the house I prefer calling “Home” situated in a South Calcutta neighbourhood since I was seventeen. But still, most of my memories of the life I so much loved/love, still belongs to that place. The times when the neighbourhood Poltu da sang “tomake shonabo Joy Goshayi/ Tomar babake meshomoshayi“ to woo the girl of her dreams which often turned out to be every girl who crossed his path! His efforts to say “Tumi amar CPM/ Tumi amar ATM/Tumi amar series premer seshta” was commendable though! 😛
I am sure there were Poltu Das’ aplenty in all our lives. All of whose “Modhyobitto bhiru prem” (the faint hearted middleclass love) never came true 🙂
But does that stop us from falling in love? No! Because Chandrobindoo’s music often celebrates the quirkiness of the unachievable. Be it love or be it the need of societal approval (again!) or the celebration of the only thing that remains constant in a Bengali’s life- the long standing companion which we often prefer calling “paashbalish“.
As Chandrabinoo celebrates twenty fifth year of their existence, let’s raise a toast to the ones who made our growing up years the most memorable ones. The years that have often turned out to be the “bhindeshi tara” of our lives. But for the men who made the journey memorable (staring from the time I was introduced to their music by the humble(?) “Duniya DotCom” by two classmates), all I want to say is please keep making the wonderful music. Some people say that the unique humour that we associate with Chandrobindoo’s songs have waned, but I think if you do not make songs like “Bola Baron” or “Muhurtora” now, then may be the musical journey of our generation will not mature. Officially, “Aparajita Tumi” it is not a Chandrobindoo album, but the overwhelming presence of the two Chandrobindoo front men makes me include the song.
The later is just an overwhelming culmination of the journey that we have all undertaken in our lives.
As they say “Muhurtora, Muhurter kache wrini”, we all have those memories and those moments which makes this incredible celebration of life possible and an amazingly beautiful journey. As an ardent fan, I am happy the maturity in their music shows. Please keep on giving the background music and lyrics for all our everyday struggles in our lives….for those forlorn nights which are made memorable by the whisper of those long forgotten memories 🙂
P.S.- I was in two minds about writing this post in English. Things which are close to heart, like Chandrobindoo and their songs, deserve the beauty of expression in Bengali, my mother tongue and the language the band had chosen as a medium of their creative expression. But I decided to stick to English primarily because if there are any non Bengali speaking reader of my blog (I presume that people read my blog…I am a bit self obsessed you see :P), they deserve to know the beautiful music Chandrobindoo makes. Secondly, the inherent Bengali-ness of their songs make them ethereal and universal. Do you spot the incoherence and dichotomy? That is what marks the journey of the maverick music makers of my youth and an entire generation of Bengalis special. Happy Birthday!