Once upon a time, there was a pretty little girl who was rather shy and introvert. Having no playmates or siblings she would keep herself occupied with reading story books meant for children alongside academics and a smattering of music. Fast forward to many years later… the little one (transformed into a lovely lady) is now Chandrabali Rudra Dutta a renowned vocalist with keen interest and calibre in a medley of styles and forms. Hers is a familiar face on major Kolkata-based (read Bangla) television channels.

On a personal note, I have been steadily tracking her TV performances for many years now. Sometimes you see her singing Shyama Sangeet (paeans in praise of the formidable deity  Maa Kaali) at others vigorous, inspiring patriotic songs, and yet on other occasions songs based on lyrics penned by five luminary poets (aka Pancha Kobi) of Bengali 

language and literature. The list comprises Tagore, Nazrul Islam, Atulprasad, Rajanikanta and Dwijendralal). Since I happen to be an avid fan, I was extremely delighted she finally agreed to be interviewed by this reporter. 

Singer Chandrabali has a pleasing, rather impressive appearance. The beauty of a radiant face, a pair of huge eyes, and frizzy coiffure (uncannily like Hollywood’s iconic ‘Sadhna cut’) are unmistakable. And add to these, the enchanting voice like sparkling champagne being poured into a goblet…She is all this and more. I was astonished to learn how she had forsaken a flourishing career as a Chartered Accountant and plunged headlong into music the prime passion of her life.

Delving into her early life one discovers that Chandrabali took to music just as a duckling takes to water. For the simple reason that her mother Bithika Rudra – an accomplished singer and dancer – was a child of Santiniketan (Tagore’s brainchild). It was Tagore himself had selected the name for her. Her Papa Bhabani Bhushan, though not a singer himself was an avid listener and enjoyed music heartily. Summing up, there was music in the home environment and as a natural corollary her mama was her first guru (mentor).

Slowly as the years passed by, Chandrabali decided to spread her wings and glean knowledge of music from divergent sources and other maestros. So, who were her gurus, I ask? With a breezy laugh she replies, “There were 14 in all…for instance, I was trained in Hindustani classical– the backbone of all forms of Indian vocal music – by Pt Sunil Bose followed by Sh Dhiren Das much later, Puratani (vintage Bangla songs) by Sh Chandidas Mal, Nazrul’s songs by veterans viz Biman Mukhopadhyay, Sukumar Mitra and Samaresh Ray, Aadhunik (contemporary) by none other than the legendary Sh Jatileshwar Mukhopadhyay.”

As for the remainder, three poets (out of five outstanding ones mentioned earlier) got training from noted singers e.g., Dilip Ray and Sushil Chattopadhyay.

The conversation now veers towards Tagore. She discloses she picked up Tagore music under the tutelage of Sailajaranjan Majumdar,(a stalwart of the original Santinketan School of music) Sh PrasadSen, Sh Subhash Chowdhury among others. What are her views about Tagore the versatile gem? I ask. Pat comes the reply “Tagore is the ultimate music to me. His creations are reflections of all the emotions that we go through in our lives. He is a part of our lives.”

About her best performances Chandrabali recalls her participation in the Tagore & Philharmonic group that staged a series of scintillating performances across the country some years ago. When asked about her albums and discs published so far, she whips up a staggering list of names (most in Bengali though). Parichay (Sagarika) Sur Diyecho Tumi (Bhavna record & cassettes) Krishnakoli Kobi O Sanyasi figure on the list. Among her favourite singers, she mentions Lata Mangeshkar, her sibling Asha Bhonsle, Suman Kalyanpur, Vani Jairam  and Arati Mukherji.

After a fairly long innings in the arena of music, Chandrabali now wants to rest on her oars. She says she is thankful to the Almighty for steering her into the profession closest to her heart.

With an eye on the future, she is grooming her only child Deepavali to don her musical mantle. The latter is a protégé of Pt Ajay Chakrabarty one of the finest contemporary maestros of Hindustani Classical vocals. The dutiful daughter Deepavali, an engineering graduate-turned MBA is mulling over music as a full-time career! Do we have a sense of déjà vu?!