Last night in a moving programme homage was paid by Zee Bangla to Kalika Prasad Bhattacharya, a distinguished folk artist of Bengal. Bhattacharya’s suffered an untimely demise in a highway accident in which his vehicle was hit from behind by a speeding truck. The truck driver unwittingly snuffed out a life that had just started blooming in the area of folk art and folk music of Bengal.
Zee Bangla was closely associated with Kalika Prasad in its superb musical reality show called “sa re ga ma pa” which is currently running and is heading for a closure for the year sometime in the near future. The programme of an hour and a half was of grief expressed through pure music – sombre and mournful. Some of the singers were in tears while performing on the stage. Even the anchor, popular Bengali cine actor Jisshu Sen Gupta, couldn’t help hiding his face from the audience as tears welled up in his eyes.
Kalika Prasad Bhattacharya was a relentless worker in the field of folk music, particularly of Bengal. On his initiative “sa re ga ma pa”, possibly the best musical reality TV show in India, included folk music and competitors were entertained who were specifically inclined towards folk songs. He was kind of an encyclopaedia of folk music and whenever a number would be sung he would step out of the shadows and explain the song and its nuances for the benefit of the audience. His was an enviable fund of knowledge on not only folk music of Bengal but also of various traditional genres of Bengali music. He once openly confessed on the stage of “sa re ga ma pa” that he had never imagined that Bengali ‘kirtan” would one day find its way into television prorammes. He was too modest to claim that it all had happened because of his own relentless efforts. He would say “kirtan” was the “adi Bengali sangit’ (original Bengali music), sort of, mother of all other genres.
His biggest achievement was perhaps to bring out up front on the television the talents that have been lying hidden and untapped in the remote recesses of the state. He brought them, their folk music and even their basic or, to use an unsavoury word, crude instruments including those of percussion to the television studios offering to the world the rich cultural heritage of the state and its hitherto anonymous practitioners. Some of them trekked all the way to Kolkata to be present in the programme to pay homage to Kalika, their benefactor. Even the Santhals of tribal Bengal of Purulia, Medinipur, etc. were able to display their folk music, folk dance etc. over the wires because of him. A group that was Kalika’s find sang last night in chorus a Santhali number for the occasion, the tune of which was adopted by Tagore for one of his compositions.
A word about the programme “sa re ga ma pa” is necessary. Zee TV is running similar programmes in their several language channels. Even some other channels like from Soni stable have attempted to cash in on the rising popularity of such programmes. So many such programmes are being run that sometimes one feels that the whole country does not have much to do except singing or participating in music contests. But among such a huge assortment of more or less similar programmes Zee Bangla’s “sa re ga ma pa” easily walks away with the cake. Facilitated by sound advice from those who sit on judgment the standards of performance have steadily climbed higher and higher. In fact, over the years I have myself felt that the standard of competition has only risen with the singers stepping out in the wide world to find immediate takers for their talents. What is more, the standards of production have improved tremendously, each item being well planned, well executed and with excellent props. The entire experience that one gets is visually pleasant and the sound of music is immensely pleasurable.
*Photo of Kalika Prasad Bhattacharya is from internet
15th March 2017