Mrityu gosoki ana joy jini..., those immortal lines of Rupkonwar Jyotiprasad were indeed the most appropriate for the musical feature staged at the Rabindra Bhawan, Guwahati, on the evening of September 9, 2008, to commemorate and recapture on stage the golden moments of the Indian freedom movement. The occasion was organised by All India Radio Guwahati to celebrate sixty years of its formation.
The words of the station director Dinesh Ch Das succinctly outlined the true essence and motivation behind the creation of this feature:
“This musical feature is not a historical recreation of the Indian freedom movement, nor is it a research oriented recital of the history of the freedom movement. It is an attempt at recapturing certain golden moments of the movement through the medium of the performing arts. The musical feature recaptures Assam’s contribution to and participation in the national freedom struggle. In this task, our resources have been the archives of the AIR, which supply us with the creative works of the poets, lyricists, musicians and dramatists contributing to the freedom movement... We salute all the freedom fighters, great and small. Jai Hind.”
It was the perfect combination of three mediums: the script, the music and the performance, which made the musical feature on the evening of Tuesday, September 9, an unforgettable and uplifting experience. The script by noted lyricist and poet-dramatist Kirti Kamal Bhuyan, formerly of AIR, was replete with all significant details of the freedom movement, particularly of Assam, combining nostalgic romanticism and tragic intensity. In the process, the writer effortlessly recaptured the triumphs and the tragedies of that bygone era.
The narrator, Abani Borah, with his deep mellifluous voice and suitable modulations, created just the right atmosphere, enhancing the haunting mood created by the script. Lines like: Na August! Bharotor swadhinata ronor itihasor ek swanomondit din... kimbadontir rup lowa... gana uthanor subha susanar din! awakened the mood of patriotism in most people.
The ethos and essence of the feature was the music by the famous music director Ramen Chowdhury. Chowdhury’s music made the most effective use of the compositions of the stalwarts of Assam’s musical scene, from Jyotiprasad, Bishnu Rabha, Ambikagiri, Nalinibala Devi and a host of others, reflecting both the gentle refined romanticism of the Assamese ethos, as well as the fervour of the independent spirit.
The songs sung by some of the leading artistes of the State, like Pulak Banerjee, Bibhuranjan Chowdhury, Ashimjyoti Barua, Monoranjan Gogoi, Rupam Bhuyan, Hemanta Deka and Nityananda Deka, and the female singers like Shanta Uzir, Sangeeta Barthakur, Queen Das, Joyashree Devi, Bhaswati Deka, Jinti Das and Antara Das, were of course, the high point of the show. The songs and the music showcased Assam’s rich musical tradition, all the while recreating the past of betrayal, victimisation, patriotism and triumph. The harmonious combination of words and soul-stirring music, transported the audience to that bygone age of sacrifice and dedication, and kept them totally spellbound for the length of two hours.
Particular mention must be made of the stirring rendition of the choral songs Bondo ki chandare, Assama, Susama, Nirupama, and the solo Ekbaar bidai of Pulak Banerjee, as every song was rendered with such depth and flawless technique by the entire group of singers.
A very special effect created during the musical evening, serving as a prop to the script, was the recitation by Anupjyoti Chowdhury, rendering poems like Jaag Deka Tej Jaag and Jaag, Jaag, Jaag in his deep, resonant voice. This, and the dramatic inputs from the classic dramatic Assamese masterpieces like Piyoli Phukan, Moniram Dewan and Lavita (Pakeeza Begum), brought to life those precious moments of great sacrifice for the cause of the motherland.
Over and above, the whole musical feature was a learning experience for many like me in the audience. A most significant factor of the show was the acknowledgement of the common rural folk to the freedom movement in Assam. The description of the series of peasants’ revolutions — Krishak Biplab of Assam, from the famous Phulogurir Dhewa and Patharughator Ran to the lesser known uprisings in Rangiya, Bajali, Nalbari, Barama, etc were brought to vivid life by Anupjyoti’s voice in local dialect, voicing those simple poems and ditties by the simple peasant folk like Dolipuranon Geet and O Aai Edun Dhan (Bahuboli Kaibartya). This highlighted the democratic character of the Assamese society, where social and religious differences were almost unknown and when ordinary folk were stirred to great acts of valour. Kudos to the scriptwriter Bhuyan, for highlighting such lesser known facets of Assam’s freedom movement. It was indeed valuable for both the young and the old, to hear those stilled voices of victimised people.
The whole production spoke of individual and collective professionalism, sincere zeal and co-operation, apparent in the smooth and effortless synchronisation of the different mediums. Many in the audience, including some connoisseurs of art and music, opined that shows such as these should be taken to other parts of the State and the country, to a larger audience. After all, it is not everyday that we get a chance to catch a glimpse of the glorious past from such a close range.