The Songstress is backhttps://indianexpress.com/article/entertainment/screen/the-songstress-is-back/

The Songstress is back

Asha Bhosle returns to playback in Bengali films with Parapar

Rituparna Sengupta and Ahmed Rubel in a still from Parapar
Rituparna Sengupta and Ahmed Rubel in a still from Parapar

By Shoma A. Chatterji

In March this year, Asha Bhosle met up with music directors Sourendro, an excellent pianist and vocalist Soumyojit to discuss a song she was to playback for them for their debut music in Bengali films. The film is Parapar, directed by Sanjoy Nag who had earlier bagged the National Award for the Best Feature Film in English for his first film Memories in March. Nag’s second film Parapar, based on noted novelist, late Moti Nandi’s Poober Janala (The Window to the East) translated by Sanjoy as “The Churning Within” has one of the most brilliant musical scores heard recently in the Bengali cinema scenario.
Ashaji, at 81, retains the same sweetness in her voice, the melodious pitch and tone that does not miss a single note, the enriching synchroisation with the harmonium that she began with as a small girl in their ancestral village in Goa. “I remember that first day we sat together. We were to elaborate on the music design, the rhythmic patterns and the raga and lyrics of the song clearly because it will remain etched in our memory forever,” says Soumyojit.
As they sat on either side of Ashaji, there was a harmonium covered with a milk white dhoti. A sandal paste teeka decorated the wooden panel of the harmonium. It belonged to late R.D. Burman and Ashaji felt the song would be blessed if the two young composers used it to make her pick up the tunes and the lyrics. “Even at 81, recognised as one of the most outstanding voices in India, Ashaji is willing to learn. She requested us to sing the first four lines along with her. It was extremely humbling and a learning experience for us at a time when we were just beginning our career in films,” they say.
The lyrics of the song that captures the soul of the film has been penned by Sreejato, a rising young star in the world of poetry and lyrics in Bengali literature and cinema today. This versatility and the richness it is embedded with comes across in the eight song in the film sung by eminent singers skilled, talented and as versatile as the compositions they gave voice to. There is a jatra song number sung by Ashtam Mandal, an original jatra performer himself. Chandrani Banerjee has belted out a wonderful keertana number while Subhamita has sung a slightly improvised and tweaked Tagore song. Other equally talented voices are those of Koushiki Chakraborty-Desikan, Papon and Suchismita Chakraborty.These two young musicians have gathered a global team that includes a song strongly underscored by Jazz recorded in Germany, and performers ranging from legendary pop star Stefan Stoppok from Germany, Jazz pianist Martin Keubert and Jazz trombone player Achim Fink
Trained musicians Soumyojit and Sourendro have been performing across the globe under their name You & i for more than a decade. But Parapar is their first film so they decided to give as much creativity, aesthetics, music, rhythm and versatility as they possibly could. Ashaji’s song has a beautiful prelude, interlude and closure sung by a 30-member strong vocal choir that takes the song onto a different plane altogether.
“The first time we called her up, the phone kept ringing. The second time we sent her an SMS and she called up to ask what the subject of the song was and asked us to send her the track. She liked the track so much that she agreed to sing for us,” say the talented duo. The lyrics carry the pain of separation, of wanting to touch and see if a fragmented relationship can be mended again. “Stretch your hand my friend, let me see if I can hold it like I could before” she sings, soaking in the soul of the story of the film. It has a beautifully synchronised chorus in the backdrop.

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