If you are anywhere near a Bengali Kali Puja celebration, which coincides with Diwali tomorrow, chances are you will hear “Chirodini tumi je amar” — You are mine forever — sung by Kishore Kumar and Asha Bhosle, in their respective versions, and composed by Bappi Lahiri, blaring from the loudspeakers.
It can be part of a recorded playlist or a live performance, but the title track of the 1986 Bengali superhit film Amar Sangi, starring Prosenjit Chatterjee and Vijayta Pandit in lead roles, has helped this rich-boy-falls-in-love-with-poor-girl story survive in popular memory for decades. It has become something of a puja pandal trademark for Bengalis.
You hear it during Durga Puja, Kali Puja and Saraswati Puja, which is often referred to as the Bengali Valentine’s Day as young women in sarees and men in kurtas fill the air with the budding possibility of romance.
“Chirodini is an iconic song, which has far outlived its shelf-life because of the many beautiful moments in it. Whenever we heard the song blaring on loudspeakers, we knew there was a puja or a soiree being held somewhere,” says singer-politician Babul Supriyo who, in later years, has sung many songs for Prosenjit. He has also sung Chirodini at Mumbai’s puja pandals many times, he adds.
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It’s just not convincing enough
I have always found the expression of eternal love in the song a bit out of place in a society that dances to Breakup Songfrom Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (2016), whose lyrics go like this: “Dil pe patthar rakhke munh pe makeup kar liya…mere saiyaan ji se aaj maine breakup kar liya (With a heavy heart, I applied makeup…Today, I broke up with my partner).”
For me, Chirodini belongs more to the Maine Pyar Kiya (1989) genre — a blockbuster that comes across as dated if you watch it today. I have always been uncomfortable with the 18-year-old Bhagyashree (the age of her character in the film) drawing her saree pallu demurely on her head, singing of her ‘sajna ka angan’ (her husband’s courtyard) in the song Dil deewana. ‘Why isn’t she filing college applications,’ my brain screams every time I see her.
But I am digressing.
I haven’t watched Amar Sangi, but for me, its title track reeks of the same dated idea of romance.
Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against love. But Chirodini is what we call nyaka — a Bengali expression that loosely translates to ‘affected’. One of the lines from the song “Tumi chhara emon apon amar je aar keu nayi… ami ki tomake chhere eka eka thakte pari (I don’t have anyone who is as close to me, how can I live alone without you)” makes me want to ask the protagonist what they’d do if they were in a long-distance relationship. Such an all-consuming passion, I am convinced, is exhausting and more likely to burn out sooner — though the song talks of their hearts continuing to beat for each other even in subsequent lives.
You need some ‘me space’, friends, parents in your life too, I am tempted to say.
Nostalgia, I feel, best explains the Chirodini fixation at pandals.
It was a Facebook post by a friend several years ago that first made me aware of how this song pops up at festival venues without fail, even though I must have been hearing it at pandals all my life.
“Para (neighbourhood) pandal blaring Chirodini tumi je amar… pujo is here,” she posted on a Durga Puja, if I remember correctly.
Ever since, I have been acutely aware of the song being played across pandals not just in Kolkata but also in the national capital.
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Eternal love or eternal nostalgia?
Music and pujas have traditionally gone hand-in-hand for Bengalis. While Durga Puja is traditionally the time for agomonis – singing of Durga visiting her paternal house – the festival also saw many artistes releasing new albums, a practice that has dwindled over the years. It was a time when entertainment retailer HMV would release a catalogue before Durga Puja, detailing all the festival releases.
Similarly, Shyama Sangeet – in praise of goddess Kali – are sung and played by many around Kali Puja.
Pandal playlists, however, often have more film and popular numbers than devotional songs.
And while the odd Mago tui ashbi bole (from the 2019 film Durgeshgorer Guptadhon) and Dugga ma (from the 2017 release Bolo Dugga Mai Ki), or turn-of-the-century Bangla band songs like the Bhoomi hit Barandaye roddur or songs by Cactus and Chandrabindoo have started finding their place in playlists, the set is usually made up more of yesteryear classics.
Many Kishore Kumar, R.D. Burman songs and other popular items such as O go Nirupama and Ruby Roy form part of the permutation combination, but chances are Chirodini will not be missed.
“I first heard the song 20-30 years back at Kali Puja celebrations in C.R. Park, and I still most often hear it at pandals,” says Sayan Acharya, a Delhi resident.
Subir Ghosh, who has been associated with the C-Block Kali Puja in C.R. Park in Delhi for over 25 years, says the generation that remembers the film identifies most with the song. Subir Datta, who is a part of the organising committee of the Cooperative Ground Durga and Kali Pujas in C.R.Park and the C.R. Park Kali Mandir Society, recalls two participants singing the song at a music competition organised by the temple society ahead of this year’s Durga Puja.
“It was also part of a programme at Cooperative,” he said, adding “I also hear many participants at television talent hunts singing Chirodini“. Acharya has seen the song being used in Facebook reels too.
Singer Kumar Bappa, who will be performing at the C-Block Kali Puja in C.R. Park tomorrow, says the song can make people happy.
Sayantan Bhattacharjee, a member of the Durga Puja and Kali Puja committee at Behala Club in Kolkata is also full of praise for the song.“You start hearing it at Vishwakarma Puja (which is celebrated in September) and feel that the festive spirit has arrived.”
Views are personal.
(Edited by Humra Laeeq)