Escapades of a Conservator : Calcutta Chapter

Avinibesh Sharma

1) 77 B Golf Club Road
Tracking down the place where the world renowned folk singer and one of South Asia’s finest cultural ambassadors, Dr. Bhupen Hazarika lived and worked for more than three decades was not at difficult at all. Everyone knows him here – street vendors, washermen and Mr. Chaudhury – who grew up in the house located just opposite to Hazarika’s former residence. After authorities of Gauhati University humiliated Hazarika by dismissing him from his lectureship for a flimsy reason, it was the city of Calcutta that embraced him and gave him his much deserved recognition. It was not easy making a mark in the cultural sphere of this city, but Hazarika’s musical talents and his affable personality turned him into a “Gono Silpi” (People’s Artist). He became a prominent cultural figure in the City of Joy. Everyone is aware that the Calcuttians fondly called him “Amader Bhupen da” (our very own Bhupen da).
Bhupen da lived here initially on rent, eventually purchasing it in the late 70s and then finally disposing it off to a chartered accountant. He wrote and composed some of his evergreen melodies at this house, which was frequented by musical maestros like Hemant Kumar, Lata Mangeshkar, Hemango Biswas, Salil Choudhury, Ritwik Ghatak and, of course, the legendary painter, M.F. Hussain. Bhupen da wrote in his memoir that ‘Mahanayak’ Uttam Kumar was one of his closest friends. When the language riots happened in Assam, and the Assamese living in Calcutta were in constant fear that there would be a severe backlash in Calcutta (especially after the incident of S. Bora and Hareswar Goswami), Uttam Kumar phoned Bhupen da, and said – “Bhupen, rogues galore. Don’t be afraid of the scoundrels. You should know that you have a brother here in Calcutta. My door is always open.”
Mr. Choudhury was standing on the veranda of his spacious bungalow when he saw me gazing at the dilapidated building, the top floor of which was integral to the golden period of Bengali cinema and music. He called me inside and shared some interesting tidbits. He fondly recalled Bhupen da, Kalpana Lajmi and Naseeruddin Shah’s having long chats sitting on the steps of the veranda. Also, Jayanta Hazarika’s wedding – “I remember Rana da’s wedding. The groom went from this house to the bridegroom’s place which is located nearby.” He further said, “When I was small, I remember Bhupen da coming to our house, chatting with my father and chewing paan prepared by my mother, whom he called, “Boudi”. He did not put on airs; a simple hearted and affable man loved by everyone who came to his association.”
2) 1/1 Bishop Lefroy Road
I finally made it to the place where auteur Satyajit Ray spent the last two decades of his life. One can see his legendary study, located on the top floor, from the lane below. Ray was most comfortable in 3, Temple Road where his creativity blossomed, but this house was no less important. He spent the last twenty years of his life in the aforesaid building (Flat No. 8) and it is this one that housed his airy, well-lit and cheerful study. The lanky Ray used to spread out his legs on a tool and spend time either penning down a script or scribbling something. Several dignitaries visited him at his study. Some of his famous interviews were also conducted here. Hope to meet Sandip Ray someday and see his father’s famous study first hand.
The neighbourhood got a face lift recently – stroll through a charming Victorian-era neighbourhood and soak in some Ray nostalgia surrounded by posters of “Pather Panchali”, “Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne”, “Nayok”, “Mohanogor” and other iconic films by Satyajit Ray

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