Lata Dinanath Mangeshkar Gramophone Record Museum : A National Heritage Made by Shri Suman Chaurasiya
- Gajendra Khanna
The Malwa region holds a special place in the varied culture of India. Malwa’s folk songs, language, good food, standard of living, history and the simplicity of its people is well known. It is in the heart of this reason that the area popularly called “Shab-e-Malwa” (Night of Malwa). It is now known as a cultural, commercial and educational center also. It is also called Ahilyanagari after its erstwhile ruler Ahilyabai Holkar. Yes, I am talking about Indore.
In addition to the above things, Indore is also known for its contributions to the world of music. If we talk about classical music, the name of Ustad Amir Khan immediately comes to mind. This great singer was born on August 15, 1912 in Ujjain. His father Shahmir Khan was a singer in the court of the Holkars and his grandfather Change Khan had also been a singer in the court of Bahadurshah Zafar. Amir Khan Sahab is also known as the founder of the Indore Gharana. The court of the Holkars had many big artists in it. Dance also was an important part of the court. Long after the end of their rules, Indore’s Bombay Bazar area used to have many congregations.
Many theatre groups also used to visit the region. It is perhaps as part of such a group that Dinanath ji had visited Indore in 1929. He was such an esteemed name in Marathi theatre that the King of Theatre Bal Gandharv had on one occasion said that if Dinanath were to come to his Theatre, He would welcome him with a carpet made of rupee coins (A rupee was a big denomination in those days). Although, the family surname was Hardikar, He had adopted the name Mangeshkar after his ancestral place. It was here that a daughter named Hema was born to him and his wife. He however started calling her Latika after his daughter who had deceased few years back. This little girl whom he used to lovingly call Latika went on to make her name in the field of playback singing by the name Lata Mangeshkar. Her name shall always be associated with Light music.
There is no dirth of lovers of Light Music in Indore. During the Ganeshotsav, in stall everywhere, film songs can be heard. Its obvious that the children of the colonies mostly play songs of new films which their elders sometimes in jest dismiss as “noise”. Its obvious that music changes with time but the appeal of old music remains as it is. Unfortunately, many of these songs have become rare over the years. If one listens to the radio or visits a music shop, one finds the same selected songs repeatedly.
During most of the twentieth century, the sources for listening to music were not CDs or cassettes but Gramophone records. The initial records were made of a fragile material named shellacs and called 78 rpms after the mean speed they were played at. There used to be a song each on both sides of these records and typically had a play time of around three minutes. Around 1960, LP records also became available in the market which had 4-5 songs on each side. Many songs of these decades were released only on records. The movies themselves are lost, some due to studio fires or other reasons like neglect. The only remaining traces of these movies are now left in the records.
Keeping these fragile records carefully is very important. One cannot even estimate how many records would have got damaged due to neglect in houses. Numerous records also ended up with scrap dealers as people no longer cared for them. Many people even threw away or burnt records they owned. In this scenario where our heritage in the form of records was fast disappearing , only the few private record collections have been a source of respite. Among these, Shri Suman Chaurasiya’s name is taken with deep respect by lovers of old music. Suman ji is a resident of the Pigdamber village of Indore. Born in an ordinary family, Suman ji has created an extraordinary museum.
He was quite fond of listening to songs since childhood and this fondness gradually became his passion. On one hand, he used to support his family by running a tea shop near Indore’s railway station and on the other he used to spend a majority of his income on buying records. He did not let his limited resources stop him from nurturing his passion. He not only bought rare records from all over the country but also preserved them. Being very fond of Lata Mangeshkar’s songs, He searched wide and far for her recordings. He is the proud owner of most of her songs in an estimated over 6000 records. In 2008, on the singer’s 82nd Birthday, He founded the “Lata Dinanath Mangeshkar Gramophone Record Museum” in Pigdamber (which comes under Indore’s Mhow tehsil). An estimated over 28000 records are on display in this museum cum record library.
The museum is now famous all over India. I was very keen to visit the museum when I visited Indore recently. When I contacted him, I came to know that he is in Bombay in search of some records. On my request, he got me in touch with his song Ankush and I was able to visit the museum. Pigdamber village is now known for housing two institutions – the Institute of Management (IIM), Indore and the second being this museum run by Suman ji. The road on which this museum is situated is named as the Lata Mangeshkar Marg by the administration.
Ankush took me to the museum which is housed on the second floor of the building. The view of the museum can make any music lover emotional. On one side is a poster with a huge photo of Lata Mangeshkar with the caption “Lata Dinanath Mangeshkar Gramophone Record Museum, Pigdamber welcomes you”. In over 1600 square feet area, records kept all around beautifully can be seen. Above the records, many pictures related to Lata Mangeshkar (her profiles, photos with various composers, pictures of recordings) can be seen. In one corner there is a horn gramophone and in another many cassettes can be seen. In the centre of the room, a boy was playing a rare non-film song. Ankush introduced him as his cousin Shubham. On inquiry, Shubham informed that he is studying in High school now. Shubham helps in the digitization of songs and wants to pursue a sound engineer’s course in the future.
Both enthusiastically showed me around the museum. The records have been kept in a very organized manner by Suman ji. The records have been kept in covers to protect them from dust. The film songs have been kept alphabetically according to name of the film and all the records of each film are kept together. I could see 78 rpms, EPS and LPs in the collection. There was a section of non-film songs also. The songs of Lata Mangeshkar and many other singers could be seen. Records beginning from 1902 till date are housed in the museum. This biggest museum of records in India is like a pilgrimage for avid music lovers.
In one rack hundreds of audio cassettes were kept. Earlier, Suman ji used to put songs from records to cassettes for music lovers. These days he is working on digitization of all the songs so that they are available for the future generations. In view of the fragile nature of records, I feel this is an excellent initiative undertaken by him. The proof of his hard work is visible and I hope that He will be able to complete this onerous task soon.
Lata Mangeshkar herself has appreciated this effort. The congratulatory message sent by her for the museum is kept in a frame and has her Pedder Road Bungalow’s address on it. It reads as follows:-
My Greetings to the people of Indore.
I was born in Indore. I used to visit Indore often earlier but the frequency of my visits has reduced over the years.
I am grateful that you have collected my songs in the Lata Dinanath Mangeshkar Gramophone Record Library.
I am happy that the classical music exponent Khan Saheb Amir Khan belonged to Malwa and was also my brother Hridaynath’s Guru. I had also learnt music for some time from Khan Saheb Amanat Ali Khan in 1946.
I convey my best wishes and congratulations on beginning of the Library initiative.
- Lata Mangeshkar
Suman ji has had the honour of meeting Lata ji personally many times. This initiative has been appreciated by other artists as well as common citizens who praise it immensely.
I was surprised to see that Suman ji has preserved records of songs not only in Hindi but also in many other languages including Urdu, Punjabi and Bengali. Songs of many well known artists like Shamshad Begum, Geeta Dutt, Lata, Asha, Rafi and Kishore, Begum Akhtar, Bade Ghulam Ali find pride place along with forgotten artists like Rajkumari, Durrani, Meena Kapoor and Afzal Lahori as one browses through the collection.
Suman ji has many rare songs, some of which even the recording company HMV does not have. The company has many time requested Suman ji’s help for sourcing songs for their commemoratives. On my request, for example, Shubham showed me a rare record of the film Piya Ghar Aaja (1948) which has a song sung by actress Meena Kumari herself. Her name “Meena” can be seen on the record’s picture taken by me.
In addition to record collection, Suman ji has contributed to other aspects related to music. He has shared songs and information for various listening programmes which have been appreciated by old listeners and also attracted the new generation of listeners. He has also helped in conducting various programmes dedicated to various artists.
Another big initiative taken by Suman ji is the publication of books. Taking the help of some other music lovers, He has publishes a few books. The first book that came out was “Babul Teri Son Chiraiya” in which eighty songs of Lata Mangeshkar have been beautifully analysed by R S Yadav alias Ajatshatru. Its popularity can be gauged from the fact that very few copies of the book are now available. The names and pictures of many music lovers found in the book are an indicator of how many music lovers have joined hands with the hard work of Suman ji. A second book titled “Sadiyon Mein Ek Asha” also written by Ajatshatru ji was published by Suman ji in 2009 and analyses 177 selected songs sung by Asha Bhosle. A third book “Lata and Partners of Her Journey” discusses her various partnerships.
Another unique book commemorating hundred years of Indian cinema was published in 2012. It is called “Beete Kal Ke Sitaare”. In this awesome book, information of many singers, actors, directors and producers who laid the foundation of Indian cinema has been shared. All this has been presented in a simple and elegant language. Many names like Pandhri Bai and Nalini Tarkhud were heard for the first time by me. An appendix also covers short information on many totally forgotten names like Babulal Chaukhani, Gulaab and Jillo. This book is a lovely effort.
Some months ago Suman ji has published a Hindi Film Database of songs of the 1980s. This database has been put together and edited by Jagdish Purohit and Ghulam Qureshi. This compendium shall prove valuable to fans of the songs of the decade. In this details of songs of almost all (1650+) films including singers, composers and lyricists is listed out. Information on record numbers, directors, producers and the cast has been given in the book.
After this huge effort, Suman ji is also working on another compendium “Lata Samagra” which shall come out this summer. Seeing the fruits of Suman ji’s labour gives a lot of joy. With the wish that his efforts become more strong and successful, I took leave from the museum and Suman ji’s family. This museum is a national heritage and it was a privilege visiting it.
In the next visit, I was able to interview Suman ji which will also appear on this website soon.