"Santosh Ghosh will come after Nilanjana's program is over". This dialogue is from the renowned dramatist Bratya Basu's Bengali play "Ruddhasangeet". Set in the 70's and based on real life characters, this dialogue refers to "Santosh Ghosh" and "Nilanjana". Imagine the effect "Nilanjana" had on the intelligentsia of that time to become immortal in Bratya Basu's Play. Who was "Santosh Ghosh" ? Who or what was "Nilanjana" ? Santosh Ghosh was the Editor of Ananda Bazar Patrika. "Nilanjana" was the name of a music school run by none other than Sumitra Chattopadhyay, then Sumitra Bose, sometime around 1970~75.
Sumitra Chattopadhyay was born to Asit Kumar Ghosh and Kalyani on 24th August 1943 in Calcutta. She received early Music lessons from her mother Kalyani Ghosh.
While studying in 3rd or 4th standard of her school she surprised all by singing the song "Phul Bole Dhonyo Aami", one of Tagore's songs.
At a very early age, while studying in 7th or 8th standard of Bramho Girls School, she started taking lessons in Classical Indian Vocal from Anjali Sur, a student of Nirmalendu Choudhury.
At that time she had been participating regularly in various music competitions in Calcutta. These events witnessed a close competition between Sumitra Chattopadhyay(Ghosh) and Arati Mukherjee.
She also took music lessons from music teacher Ramesh Chandra Bandyopadhyay, who was the Dean of Music at Rabindra Bharati Society (which later on became the Rabindra Bharati University) and son of Gopeshwar Bandyopadhyay of the Bishnupur Gharana of Indian Classical Music.
After finishing her schooling she graduated in Arts with 1st Class 1st from Scottish Church College under Calcutta University with Honors in Music in 1962. This period witnessed a close competition between Sumitra Chattopadhyay(Ghosh), Suprobha Sarkar and Pratibha Kapur in various Music competitions in Calcutta.
In 1962 Sumitra Chattopadhyay joined Rabindra Bharati Academy under Rabindra Bharati Society (which later on became the Rabindra Bharati University) in Senior Diploma in Music. This was recogonised as equivalant to Master's Degree at that time. Here she again passed as 1st Class 1st with highest marks in Bangla Gaan (Bengali Vocal). During this time she had been elected as the General Secretary of the Student's Union of the Rabindra Bharati University.
She was a key member of both Calcutta University as well as Rabindra Bharati University cultural teams that organised and participated in various Youth Festivals. During this time she had the honour of meeting many of India's eminent personalities.
She also took lessons in Puratani Bangla Gaan from Kirtaniya Rathin Ghosh and Nazrul Geeti (Songs of Kazi Nazrul Islam) from Purabi Dutta.
In 1965 she passed out from Robitirtha, the school for Rabindra Sangeet of the legendary Exponent of Rabindra Sangeet - Suchitra Mitra. Sumitra belonged to the 1st Batch of Rabitirtha. Sumitra Chattopadhyay took Suchtra Mitra to be her final Guru in her life and carrier of Music.
In 1968 She got married. Her name Changed to Sumitra Bose. It was a very unhappy chapter of her life. During this marriage she had to struggle to make both ends meet. She had to take up innumerable music tuitions for a living. This contributed to undue hardships which cast a shadow on her carrier as a Singer. She neither had a happy family life, which she longed for nor did she have a flourishing carrier in music, which she rightfully deserved. She says that she found refuge and solace in Rabindra Sangeet at that time. The pain and agony Tagore encountered in his life had flowed through his pen and music in the form Rabindra Sangeet. Finally after 12 unhappy and painful years, she got a divorce in 1980.
In 1981 She started her own Music School "Korak". This school has established a name for itself in the Rabindra Sangeet scenario of Kolkata. Many of her students have also established them selves as Rabindra Sangeet singers of repute.
In 1984 Sumitra joined the Rabindra Bharati University as a Lecturer.
In 1986 Sumitra met renowned Gynaecologist Dr.Mihir Chattopadhyay, whose wife had died of Cancer leaving behind son Mayukh aged 8 and daughter Monidipa aged 6. Gradually she became closer to this family and the children grew very fond of her. Sumitra and Dr Mihir Chttopadhyay married in 1987. The children found their mother and she found the loving family she craved. Sumitra's second marriage gave her everything she had missed before. Now she whole heartedly concentrated in being the Home-maker. Ironically this did not help her carrier in Music. In fact in her urge to be the home-maker, she gradually reduced singing at functions and concerts. Both her son and daughter are well established today.
RADIO In 1960 Sumtra passed the Audition test of the All India Radio and her songs (Rabindra Sangeet, Bhajan, Kirtan and Puratani Bangla Gaan) started being broadcast on a regular basis.
RECORDS Her first Gramophone Record (45RPM Extended Play) was published in 1968 by The Gramophone Company of India Ltd. This Record of Sumitra Chattopadhyay was recorded in her maiden name Sumitra Ghosh. We have been able to get only one of her Records. It had two of her songs "Prane Gaan Nai Michhe Tai" and "Ke Debe Chad Tomay Dola". Sagar Sen's "Aami Jene Shune Bish Korechhi Paan" & "Sakhi Bohe Gelo Bela" were on the reverse side of this record.
Many more Rabindra Sangeets were recorded after this by various Companies. Her Last Song was recorded by Sound Wing in a Cessette along with Abhijit Guha 1981-82.
Besides Songs she was also one of the artists of Musicals like "Basanta" and "Jaye Din Shrabon Din Jaye" by The Gramophone Company of India.
PLAY BACK She lent her voice as a play back singer in the Bengali Movies "Nader Nimai", "Brindaban Lila", "Nrityero Taley Taley" etc under trainer Rathin Ghosh. She also lent her voice as a Play back singer in Bengali TV Serials "Taskar" and "Brityer Charidhare".
TV She has been performing for the Door Darshan of the National TV Network right from its inception in Calcutta in 1973.
RECITALS & CONCERTS Her first Solo Rabindra Sangeet recital was held at prestigious Sisir Mancha in Calcutta on 25th June 1975. But Lady Luck wasn't pleased! From the morning, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had declared Internal Emergency in India. The Government came down heavily on the Press from that very day. As a result, even though Sumitra's program was in the first half, the Press could not be present.
However she went on to become a very popular Rabindra Sangeet Artiste and used to be invited to programs from all over the state and even from places outside West Bengal.
She had the honour of performing with many renowned singers of that time including Dhananjay Bhattacharjee.
AWARDS She had been winning Awards in Music right from her childhood days. The photographs from her albums bear testimony to that. The Organisation "Shruti" awarded her with "The Best Singer of South Calcutta Award" which was presented to her by Dr Rama Choudhury, the Principal of Lady Brabourne College, in the presence of the famous Radio personality Debdulal Bandyopadhyay.
MEMORABLE MOMENTS At one of her recordings, at The Gramophone Company's Studio in DumDum, Pt. Ravi Shankar, who had come for another recording, listened to her song. After the recording was over he had approached her and showered praises and gave her his card for future contacts.
. ---This article was written after an interview with Sumitra Chattopadhyay on 10 July 2010---