Suprabha Sarkar - Zeal, Zest and a rare Aplomb!

Written by Sounak Gupta
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Eminent actress Leela Desai takes a little girl along with, as she goes for her shooting to the studios of New Theatres, “I would like to lip synch to her vocals, for my new film”, she expresses her wish to director Nitin Bose. He replies, ‘‘No, this girl isn’t mature enough to sing for your character - she wouldn’t be singing.’’ Leela Desai is obstinate. The little girl too looks up with hope. After a lot of pleading, Nitin Bose agrees and the girl gets to sing a song ‘Kobhu Je Ashay, Kobhu Nirashay’ in the new film, ‘Jibon Moron’, starring K.L.Saigal and Leela Desai. The song turns out to be an instant hit! Suprabha Ghosh, the little girl, manages to create a niche for herself in the world of playback singing.  That was 1938.

 

Leela Desai

 

- LEELA DESAI

 

RECORD NUMBER - H 777

FILM - JIBON MORON (1938)

SONG - KOBHU JE ASHAY KOBHU NIRASHAY

LYRICIST - AJOY BHATTACHARJEE

COMPOSER - PANKAJ KUMAR MULLICK

ARTISTE - KUMARI SUPRABHA GHOSH

 

 

Suprabha Sarkar I

 

- SUPRABHA SARKAR (GHOSH)

 

Hearing about Suprabha’s fine singing, music directors from New Theatres begin to call her now and then for rendering snippets and singing in chorus. Thus she gets to sing in films like ‘Bhagyachakra’ (1935), ‘Didi’ (1937), ‘Mukti’ (1937). In those days, films took four to five years to complete - although Suprabha’s first singing was for ‘Jibon Moron’, these films saw the light of the day earlier. Through ‘Bhagyachakra’, Indian films went a leap ahead. Suprabha Ghosh, Parul Choudhuri and Miss Harimati (in another opinion, Umasashi) sang a chorus for a group of dancers, “Mora Pulak Jachi, Sukh Na Maani”, which turned out to be the first instance of playback singing in India. ‘Dhoop Chhaon’ (1935), the Hindi version of ‘Bhagyachakra’, too had had the trio singing a chorus, ‘Main Khush Hona Chahoon’ in the same sequence.

 

RECORD NUMBER - N/A

FILM - DHOOP CHHAON (1935)

SONG - MAIN KHUSH HONA CHAHOON

LYRICIST - AJOY BHATTACHARJEE

COMPOSER - RAICHAND BORAL

ARTISTES - SUPRABHA, PARUL, HARIMATI (OR UMASASHI)

 

 

Suprabha Ghosh had cut her first record under Nitai Ghatak, from Senola in 1936. The disc featured ‘Aalor Desher Bondhu He Mor’ and ‘Jodi Swapan Bhange Aaji’. After the release of a few of her discs from the concerned company, she joined Hindusthan Musical Products - the recording institution which had begun its journey in 1932, recording Tagore’s voice. 1938 saw the release of Suprabha’s first record for Hindusthan, featuring ‘Jakhoni Cholinu Eka’ and ‘Tomar Smritir Alo’. Suprabha’s ease at singing had been worth notice right from her first record - these songs were no exception. 

 

RECORD NUMBER - H 619

RELEASE - 1938

SONG - JAKHONI CHOLINU EKA

LYRICIST - NIHARBINDU SEN

COMPOSER - HARIPADA CHATTERJEE

ARTISTE - KUMARI SUPRABHA GHOSH

  

 

RECORD NUMBER - H 619

RELEASE - 1938

SONG - TOMAR SMRITIR ALO

LYRICIST - NIHARBINDU SEN

COMPOSER - HARIPADA CHATTERJEE

ARTISTE - KUMARI SUPRABHA GHOSH

 

 

Krishna Chandra Dey

 

- KRISHNA CHANDRA DEY

 

Fame often brings in unwanted jealousy, sorrow - Suprabha’s growing name was no exception. Once in the rehearsal room of Hindusthan while she was learning a composition, ‘Pantho Pakhir Klanto Paksha Sama’ from her trainer, Krishna Chandra Dey - an eminent artiste of the era (Suprabha had herself not named the artist, as a sign of respect to her deceased soul, while she had recollected the incident) commented, ‘You’re uselessly wasting time on Suprabha, Keshto Da - she’ll not be able to render the finer nuances of this song.’ Fortunately, Kazi Nazrul Islam had overheard the comment. He at once said, ‘Why hurt someone? Never pass pessimistic comments - that spoils the mood.’ Coming close to Suprabha, wiping her tears out, he said, ‘Give her a just reply through your singing!’ The song was undoubtedly appreciated by the listeners. This was Suprabha’s second record from Hindusthan Records.

 

RECORD NUMBER - H 696

RELEASE - 1939

SONG - PANTHO PAKHIR KLANTO PAKSHA SAMA

LYRICIST - SHAILEN ROY

COMPOSER - KRISHNA CHANDRA DEY

ARTISTE - KUMARI SUPRABHA GHOSH

 

 

Suprabha Sarkar had never been less sentimental. Once she had had a misunderstanding with an eminent music director, (once again, she had never named the person) as a result of which she decided that she wouldn’t sing for him. Jamini Motilal, the manager of the recording company affectionately said, “Don’t get that touchy. You’re our elder sister, why don’t you pardon?” It was from then, Suprabha recalled later, that contemporary artistes who were younger to her began calling her ‘Bardi’ (elder sister) in place of the general ‘Suprabha Di’ (sister Suprabha). She had always been called the same by the younger generation of singers (with least exceptions) and all others associated with the playback industry!

 

Kazi Nazrul Islam

 

- KAZI NAZRUL ISLAM

 

Kazi Nazrul Islam had certainly been one of Suprabha Ghosh’s greatest well wishers. The latter too had had deep respect for Kazi Sahab. One of Suprabha’s favourite compositions of Nazrul had been ‘Kaberi Nadijale Ke Go Balika’, a composition based on Carnatic Raga Samanta, which she had rendered under his training in a programme of the radio. It was on Suprabha’s insistence that Kazi Sahab arranged for releasing Suprabha’s rendition of the same on record. In 1941, her first songs for Kazi Nazrul Islam saw the light of the day. The record was an instant hit and ‘Kaberi Nadijale Ke Go Balika’ incidentally turned out to be the song Suprabha Ghosh has been most remembered for.

 

RECORD NUMBER - H 876

RELEASE - 1941

SONG - KABERI NADIJALE KE GO BALIKA

LYRICIST - KAZI NAZRUL ISLAM

COMPOSER - KAZI NAZRUL ISLAM

ARTISTE - KUMARI SUPRABHA GHOSH

 

 

Tarapada Chakraborty

 

- TARAPADA CHAKRABORTY

 

Where had Suprabha Ghosh been taking lessons in music these days? Eminent artiste and teacher Tarapada Chakraborty had been her teacher. Suprabha once recalled, “On the way to school, I had to pass by Guruji’s house. He would be giving musical lessons to his students - I would stand outside and listen. I missed my first period at school on a regular basis! The headmaster complained to my mother - Suprabha doesn’t attend classes. One day while I was standing outside Guruji’s house, he saw me and asked what I did. I replied that I stand there and listen to his songs. He asked, ‘Can you sing?’ I answered, ‘Yes, I may sing before you the last song you were teaching, if you please.’ I then sang ‘Itana Jovana Damana Na Kariye’ - Raga Bhupali. That was what he had been teaching.” That was the beginning - must have been sometime in the thirties! Suprabha Ghosh got wedded to advocate Sudhir Chandra Sarkar in 1942, to become Suprabha Sarkar. She had been a mother to two sons.

 

Himangshu Dutta had been one of the greatest music composers ever. Even though he passed away at the early age of thirty six, he had no doubt left an indelible mark in the history of Indian Music. Himangshu Dutt’s composition ‘Chand Bhole Nai Chamelire Hay’ has been one of Suprabha Sarkar’s best renditions.

 

RECORD NUMBER - H 1008

RELEASE - 1942

SONG - CHAND BHOLE NAI CHAMELIRE HAY

LYRICIST - NABENDUSUNDAR

COMPOSER - HIMANGSHU DUTTA

ARTISTE - SUPRABHA SARKAR

 

 

If ‘Kaberi Nadijale Ke Go Balika’ is the song Suprbha Sarkar is known most for, the second song should be ‘E Pothe Jakhoni Jaabe’. Penned by Anil Bhattacharjee and put to tune by his brother Nirmal Bhattacharjee, this song has turned out to be a classic!

 

RECORD NUMBER - H 1161

RELEASE - 1945

SONG - E POTHE JAKHONI JAABE

LYRICIST - ANIL BHATTACHARJEE

COMPOSER - NIRMAL BHATTACHARJEE

ARTISTE - SUPRABHA SARKAR

 

 

Shaila Devi

 

- SHAILA DEVI

 

Besides recording these non-film numbers for the Hindusthan Company, Suprabha had been getting regular opportunities to sing in films. In the early 40s, she, along with Shaila Devi, another bright name (who had stepped into the world of professional singing in 1939) had been the most wanted playback singers for any film. In 1944, Shaila Devi died a premature death and it was entirely Suprabha’s time! Ila Ghosh too had sung for a few films in those days, but her output was surely not as large as Suprabha’s. 1940 saw the release of Pramathesh Barua’s ‘Shaapmukti’. Suprabha Sarkar, then Suprabha Ghosh had sung gloriously with Shaila Devi and actor-singer Robin Majumdar in the film. Anupam Ghatak’s musical composition, ‘Banglar Bodhu’ had been a hit.

 

RECORD NUMBER - H 859

FILM - SHAAPMUKTI (1940)

SONG - BANGLAR BODHU (PART – I)

LYRICIST - AJOY BHATTACHARJEE

COMPOSER - ANUPAM GHATAK

ARTISTES - SUPRABHA GHOSH, SHAILA DEVI, ROBIN MAJUMDAR

 

 

RECORD NUMBER - H 859

FILM - SHAAPMUKTI (1940)

SONG - BANGLAR BODHU (PART – II)

LYRICIST - AJOY BHATTACHARJEE

COMPOSER - ANUPAM GHATAK

ARTISTES - SUPRABHA GHOSH, SHAILA DEVI, ROBIN MAJUMDAR

 

 

Suprabha continued to sing in films like ‘Shuktara’ (1940), ‘Nimai Sanyas’ (1941), ‘Rajnartaki’ (1941), ‘Ahuti’ (1942), ‘Aparadh’ (1942). ‘Nimai Sanyas’ had been the film where Hemanta Mukherjee got his breakthrough, singing for Hariprasanna Das. ‘My Sister’, titled ‘Meri Behen’ in Hindi introduced us to Utpala Sen (then Ghosh) for the first time. The film had wonderful songs in Suprabha Sarkar’s voice too, ‘Yeh Matlab Ka Sansar’ - had been immensely popular!

 

RECORD NUMBER - H 1140

FILM - MY SISTER (1945)

SONG - YEH MATLAB KA SANSAR

LYRICIST - PANDIT BHUSHAN

COMPOSER - PANKAJ KUMAR MULLICK

ARTISTES - SUPRABHA SARKAR

 

 

Sandhyarani

 

- SANDHYARANI

 

As India became independent, new successes had been waiting for Suprabha. M.P.Productions’ film ‘Swapna O Sadhana’ got screened at 15th August, 1947, midnight! Suprabha sang Robin Chatterjee’s composition, ‘Gaaner Sure Jwalbo Tarar Deepguli’, which fetched her, her first BFJA Award! Filmed on Sandhyarani, this is undoubtedly one of Suprabha Sarkar’s most remembered film songs.

 

RECORD NUMBER - H 1259

FILM - SWAPNA O SADHANA (1947)

SONG - GAANER SURE JWALBO TARAR DEEPGULI

LYRICIST - SHAILEN ROY

COMPOSER - ROBIN CHATTERJEE

ARTISTES - SUPRABHA SARKAR

 

 

The same year saw the release of ‘Swayamsiddha’. Suprabha’s songs for Deepti Roy in the film were all hits! Songs like ‘Jaago Shib Aaji’, were a rage those days.

 

RECORD NUMBER - H 1286

FILM - SWAYAMSIDDHA (1947)

SONG - JAAGO SHIB AAJI

LYRICIST - AJOY BHATTACHARJEE

COMPOSER - NITAI MOTILAL

ARTISTES - SUPRABHA SARKAR

 

 

Suprabha Sarkar, by now, had had over a decade long musical experience - it was time for her inherent talent in music composition to manifest. For the first time, in 1949, we had Suprabha Sarkar singing her own compositions. Who would forget Manik Bose’s lyric ‘Jibone Amar Na Bola Sob’ that Suprabha herself composed and sang?

 

RECORD NUMBER - H 1402

RELEASE - 1949

SONG - JIBONE AMAR NA BOLA SOB

LYRICIST - MANIK BOSE

COMPOSER - SUPRABHA SARKAR

ARTISTES - SUPRABHA SARKAR

 

 

Rabindranath

 

- RABINDRANATH TAGORE

 

The same year, Suprabha Sarkar gifted her listeners an excellent rendition of Tagore’s ‘Aji Jharo Jharo Mukharo Badol Dine’ in ‘Bisher Dhonwa’. This was the second time that her song was released from The Gramophone Company of India Limited (after the ‘Rajnartaki’ numbers).  The same film had a duet of hers with Utpala Sen.

 

RECORD NUMBER - N 31123

FILM - BISHER DHONWA (1949)

SONG - AJI JHARO JHARO MUKHARO BADOLO DINE

LYRICIST - RABINDRANATH TAGORE

COMPOSER - RABINDRANATH TAGORE

ARTISTES - SUPRABHA SARKAR

 

 

After having cut over a hundred and fifty discs from Hindusthan Records, Suprabha Sarkar joined as an artiste of the Gramophone Company of India Limited in 1953, cutting a non-film disc under Hemanta Mukherjee and Dilip Sarkar’s training. Sadly, her output suddenly decreased after this. Till the time she was an artiste of the Hindusthan Company, listeners had got basic records from her each year, besides film songs. The HMV story was of course, not the same. By then there were artistes, much ahead of Suprabha in fame - of course, the next generation of singers had taken over. The only other disc bearing Suprabha Sarkar’s songs that HMV released was under Shyamal Mitra’s direction. Shyamal Mitra had been one of the exceptions - one who never called Suprabha ‘Bardi’ (elder sister) as most others did. In place, he called her ‘Maa’ (mother) out of love, respect, trust (and all that’s needed to call someone ‘mother’!) The compositions had been good - Suprabha Sarkar had given a fine rendition - somehow those couldn’t be super hits and HMV didn’t record her songs any further.

 

Shyamal Mitra

 

 

- SHYAMAL MITRA

 

RECORD NUMBER - N 82634

RELEASE - 1955

SONG - PARANER SUR JAAGE

LYRICIST - SHAILEN ROY

COMPOSER - SHYAMAL MITRA

ARTISTES - SUPRABHA SARKAR

 

 

In 1959, Suprabha joined the Megaphone Company, recording under Robin Chatterjee’s training - ‘Hoyto Takhon Raat Sesh Raat Hobe’. That was again, a huge success! Unfortunately, Suprabha Sarkar cut just one more disc from Megaphone the next year, under Nikhil Chatterjee’s training - that was the end of her relation with the Megaphone Company.

 

RECORD NUMBER - JNG 6047

RELEASE - 1959

SONG - HOYTO TAKHON RAAT SESH RAAT HOBE

LYRICIST - GOURIPRASANNA MAJUMDAR

COMPOSER - ROBIN CHATTERJEE

ARTISTES - SUPRABHA SARKAR

 

 

Robin Chatterjee

 

- ROBIN CHATTERJEE

 

Suprabha Sarkar had always loved to be a keen student. At her forty, she had joined the Rabindrabharati University as a student and in the same year when she last recorded for Megaphone, she ranked first in Indian Classical Music, in her university! This was certainly a great achievement, that too, at the age she is qualifying! Suprabha Sarkar had been a successful teacher too. She had regularly given music lessons at the ‘Nazrulgeeti Sikkhar Asor’ programme on the radio, besides training numerous students in her classes.

 

Suprabha had been a regular artiste of the All India Radio since the thirties. She had been an integral part of the prestigious programme, ‘Mahisasuramardini’ that was broadcast live each year, on the dawn of Mahalaya, under the music direction of Pankaj Kumar Mullick. Birendra Krishna Bhadra had been the narrator and concatenated the programme, scripted by Banikumar. Harishchandra Bali’s composition on Desi Todi, ‘Akhilo Bimane Tabo Jayogane’, which Suprabha rendered in ‘Mahisasuramardini’ each year, had become inseparable from her name since the forties. Sadly, by the mid-fifties, Suprabha Sarkar was no more a part of the programme.

 

Pankaj Kumar Mullick

 

 

- PANKAJ KUMAR MULLICK

 

In the seventies, Hindusthan Musical Products had released a similar oratorio named ‘Sri Sri Devi Chandika’, under Ramkumar Chatterjee’s music direction, where senior singer Suprabha Sarkar had been invited to sing. Birendra Krishna Bhadra here had played the same role that he played in ‘Mahisasuramardini’. A comparison of these two programmes can never be just, leaving the judgmental part apart - that we at least hear Suprabha’s song in the sequence of Birendra Krishna’s narration is valuable. The singer’s voice isn’t the same as it was in the 40s and 50s, Birendra Krishna too is by then nearly seventy, yet one may get a feel how Suprabha would have sung in ‘Mahisasuramardini’ in the sequence of Birendra Krishna’s narration, over two decades before the concerned recording took place!

 

RECORD NUMBER - LHX 9

RELEASE - 1972

SONG - MAMA MANASH-MUKULE MAGO

LYRICIST - BIRENDRA KRISHNA BHADRA

COMPOSER - RAMKUMAR CHATTERJEE

ARTISTES - SUPRABHA SARKAR

(A PART OF BIRENDRA KRISHNA BHADRA’S RECITAL INCLUDED)

 

 

To the pleasure of her listeners, Suprabha Sarkar had come back to the recording scene in the latter half of the 70s. Kazi Nazrul Islam, one of her greatest well wishers in the early years, had just passed away. This time Suprabha was back only to record Kazi Sahab’s compositions. Hindusthan Records had then released a handful of extended play records and a long playing disc, all containing Nazrulgeetis.

 

RECORD NUMBER - 3424-0001 A

RELEASE - 1977

SONG - RUM JHUM RUM JHUM

LYRICIST - KAZI NAZRUL ISLAM

COMPOSER - KAZI NAZRUL ISLAM

ARTISTES - SUPRABHA SARKAR

 

 

This was the last time Suprabha Sarkar sang on record. Sometime in the eighties she had been interviewed on Doordarshan by eminent lyricist Pulak Banerjee, in which she had sung various songs in her usual confident manner. Her chemistry with rhythm and control over breath, even in her late sixties, was worth notice!

 

Suprabha Sarkar II

 

- SUPRABHA SARKAR (GHOSH)

 

It’s now quarter a century that Suprabha Sarkar has left the mortal world, yet a little girl keeps floating down Champa and Shefali flowers in the waters of the Cauvery… Her bangles tingle… Her coiffure opens up and the garland of Kabari flowers that had held the coiffure now begins to play with the wind… The Sun rises in the eastern horizon… And the girl (or her beloved?) goes on singing the notes of Carnatic Raga Samanta… ‘Kaberi Nadijale Ke Go Baalika’!

 

RECORD NUMBER - 3424-0001 A

RELEASE - 1977

SONG - KABERI NADIJALE KE GO BALIKA

LYRICIST - KAZI NAZRUL ISLAM

COMPOSER - KAZI NAZRUL ISLAM

ARTISTES - SUPRABHA SARKAR

 

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