On 18th December, 2022, the esteemed singer Iman Chakraborty performed at the AMI Arts Festival 2022. Here’s an exclusive interview of Iman.
KCC: Do you feel that the removal of the copyright on the original Rabindra sangeet compositions is helping the new generation to preserve the culture or diluting it?
Iman Chakraborty: Like two sides of a coin, there are two sides to every story. The same can be said when it comes to the copyright on Rabindra Sangeet. The copyright which was previously there, was extremely rigid, and it hindered the creative faculties of the creators. A constant fear always prevailed among them when Visva-Bharati would censor their work. So, there was always a dilemma. When the copyright was lifted, people were extremely happy.
But now, in many cases, people are misutilizing this – using the songs in a way that was never intended by Gurudev. It is my opinion that Tagore is, at the end of the day, an individual. We do not have any right to ruin an individual’s creations. If we work with any of his creations, we should pay respect to his work, and keep the true essence and message of his work intact.
So, yes, there are two sides to the lifting of copyright but nowadays, the negative side has become more prevalent and it is really disappointing.
KCC: Do you feel that it helps the present generation, which is maybe losing touch with its roots, to interpret the songs in their own way and thus, helping perpetuate and preserve our culture? Or are we somehow losing our folk traditions as the present generation is more or less aloof?
Iman: If any race is not rooted to their culture, then that race, after a while, faces extinction. Bengalis are not exactly on the path to destruction, but they are losing touch with their roots, even if it is in a minuscule proportion and we are responsible for our own predicament.
When I see “Happy Poila Baisakh”, or “Happy Vijayadashami”, it pains me. As a traveller I have been fortunate to visit many countries outside India, as well as many states outside West Bengal. For example, in Tamil Nadu, the store hoardings are in their own language, or if we visit France for instance, the French do not speak in English and they always prefer to speak in their own language.
I have nothing against English-speaking people, but we must always learn our mother tongue properly, otherwise no country in the world will respect us. Whenever they see that we are disrespecting our own language, our roots, our culture, when we go outside the borders of our own nation, that same disrespect will come back to us. Hence, we should always respect our own culture and roots.
My mother who taught at Don Bosco made me attend a Bengali medium school so that I could learn the language properly and I believe I have learnt it properly enough and hence, it is easy for me to sing in my own language and I’m very comfortable with it.
KCC: According to you, what can be done to engage the next generation in folk traditions?
Iman: Parenting is very important in this case. We have no right to blame the next generation. It depends on what your parents are showing you, and for this to happen, our parents also need to see the right things. If they are carried away, then naturally the next generation will get carried away as well.
If I consider someone who is 10 years younger to me to be the next generation, then I feel that the next generation is very conscious. I have students who come to me to learn Bengali music and they are extremely sincere about their culture and traditions in spite of attending an English medium school.
It depends on how you are being brought up. Your upbringing is very important and the most important thing.
KCC: AMI Arts Festival is a melange of performances, open for all, where everyone can enjoy your music. What are your thoughts on this festival?
Iman: I am very happy that the organizers have come up with a unique concept such as this festival. India is such a country where a multiplicity of cultures and languages exist. In different districts of West Bengal, different cultures exist. If we visit states like Gujarat, Tamil Nadu or Maharashtra, it feels like we’re in a different country altogether. That is the beauty of this country.
What AMI Arts Festival has done is commendable. It has brought different cultures together and promoted their individual uniqueness. We belong to different cultures, but ultimately we belong to this country.
For example, if someone asks you where you come from, your reply would probably be something like, ‘I am a Bengali’. Until and unless we are outside the borders of this country, that we say we are Indians first. After being a part of this festival, I feel more rooted to my culture and I’m proud to be an Indian.
When I visit other countries in this world and say that I am from India, the reaction that I receive is always the same. People feel ecstatic when they hear that I am from a culturally rich country. I feel that one of the strongest aspects of our country is our culture, our music and our various art forms, and the fact that I am a small part of this, makes me very happy.
KCC: What is the future of Rabindra Sangeet in your opinion?
Iman: The future of Rabindra Sangeet is very bright. There is no other option for Indians or for Bengalis. When it comes to Tagore’s music, it is so scientific, that we cannot do anything outside this. Everything is present in this subject. I am very optimistic about it’s future. Rabindra Sangeet was there in the past, it is the present and it will continue to prevail in the future.
*Feature image is of Iman Chakraborty performing at AMI Arts Festival 2022
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Iman Chakraborty is an Indian (Bengali, to be specific) singer and actress. Chakraborty won the National Film Award for Best Female Playback Singer in 2017 for her Bengali song "Tumi Jaake Bhalobasho" from Praktan. She is one of the few singers to have won a national award for her debut film song in India. She practises Rabindra Sangeet and her renditions of the same are sought after by many. The genres of her music include Bengali film songs, folk music of Bengal and Rabindra Sangeet.