Award-winning singer and composer Dwijen Mukhopadhyay died on 24 December 2018 at his home. He was 91.
One of the foremost exponents of Rabindra sangeet and modern Bengali song, Mukhopadhyay attained legendary status with his rendition of ‘Jago Durga’ on Mahisasuramardini, the iconic radio programme that has been broadcast for the past 60 years on the day of Mahalaya before Durga Puja.
Mukhopadhyay was awarded the Padma Bhushan by the government of India in 2010 and the Banga Bibhushan by the government of West Bengal in 2011 for his contribution to the growth of modern Bengali music.
Mukhopadhyay took music lessons from stalwarts like Pankaj Mullick, Susanto Lahiri, Santidev Ghosh, Santosh Sengupta, Anadi Ghosh Dastidar and Niharbindu Sen. He recorded his first modern Bengali song with the noted composer Nachiketa Ghosh at the age of 17.
Mukhopadhyay auditioned for Rabindra sangeet on All India Radio and started singing as a professional as well. Soon, under Hemanta Kumar Mukherjee’s guidance, he got the opportunity to record ‘Jago Durga’ for Pankaj Mullick’s Mahisasuramardini, and his popularity shot up.
He came in touch with Salil Chowdhury through the Indian People’s Theatre Association in the late 1940s and was exposed to folk and various other arenas of music through the maestro.
Tabla player Dipankar Acharya, who accompanied Mukhopadhyay at concerts in and outside the country and who also assisted Chowdhury, said, “I knew him [Mukhopadhyay] since childhood as he was my father’s friend. Though he was almost my father’s age, I used to call him Dada. Salilda and Dwijenda had a close friendship.”
Mukhopadhyay sang ‘Shyamal Barani Ogo Kanya’, ‘Klanti Name Go’, ‘Ekdin Phire Jabo Chole’, ‘Pallabini Go Sancharini’ and many other non-film songs with Chowdhury.
His only Hindi film songs were also with Chowdhury. He sang one song, ‘Tan Jale Man Jalta Rahe’, for Madhumati (1958) and recorded duets with Lata Mangeshkar for Honeymoon (1960), Maya (1961), and Sapan Suhane (1961).
“He also worked with Sudhin Dasgupta, Rabin Chatterjee, and Anupam Ghatak and composed many non-film songs himself,” recounted Acharya. “He won the first BFJA [Bengal Film Journalists’ Association] award for his rendition of ‘Ore Amar Mon Bole’ for Sonar Khancha (1973). The next year, he received the same award for his songs in Bonpolashir Podaboli. He was also a close friend of Uttam Kumar.”
Acharya said Mukhopadhyay was a gentleman and extremely disciplined. “He had a lot of devotion within him and he used to perform puja for an hour and a half every day,” he said. He was equally popular in Rabindra sangeet and modern Bengali song. He recorded almost 1,500 songs and had a gramophone record collection of 800 Rabindra sangeet numbers as well.
Mukhopadhyay was appointed a member of the experts committee and selections committee at the Visva Bharati Music Board in Kolkata. He also served on the experts committee of All India Radio, New Delhi, and as external examiner for the post-graduate course in Visva Bharati university, Santiniketan. In 1956, he was invited to entertain the Indian army with his songs in Ladakh.
“He had a house in Santiniketan where he would go and spend time,” said Acharya. “I never saw him engage in any indulgence and he had no bad habits. He had an extremely regulated life. He was not in a position to sing this year. But he was fit enough to sing last year. He used to treat me as his child and would also share a lot as a friend.”
Until three months before his death, Mukhopadhyay apparently showed no sign of frailty. “Due to his extremely disciplined lifestyle, he could be seen walking straight till three months before he got bedridden. He lived with his usual dignity till the end,” added the artiste.
Apart from singing before several dignitaries, Mukhopadhyay had toured several countries as a member of Indian cultural delegations and received numerous awards, including the Indira Gandhi award (1991), Rajiv Gandhi award (1992), Uttam Kumar award (2002), DLitt (Hon) from Kalyani university, West Bengal, and Sangeet Natak Akademi award (2010).