Updated: Aug 19
One fine morning in the late 1920s, a man appeared for Voice Audition at ‘Indian Broadcasting Company’. Soon after completing studies from Scottish Church College, the man had started working in the British India Railways; But He always wanted to do something independently or rather something which would be close to his, a Bengali’s, heart. Off course He didn’t had the nag for nine-to-five jobs, and hence appeared for the audition. But as expected His voice got cancelled, just because it was too cracked to appear for the radio. Back in the childhood days, He had suffered from diphtheria; the doctor-in-charge had said that His life could be saved, but He would lose the sweetness & tenderness of His voice. Hence, He could hardly help, but had to accept the result of the audition. But one of the board members suddenly realized that his voice could be used as that of an ogre. And this decision started a new era in the world of Bengali radio.
Soon after His first broadcast the audience response was such that the ogre was the central character of the play. And that’s when Birendra Krishna Bhadra came to public light. Resigning His first job, He permanently joined All India Radio. From sports commentary to singing, recitation, news reporting; organizing funeral tributes of Rabindranath Tagore, Bidhan Chandra Roy, Mahanayak Uttam Kumar; from writing scripts to training people; Birendra Krishna Bhadra was a polymath of Bengali Radio. There was no contemporary means of entertainment to radio at that time and this man did more than whatever was possible to reach the zenith. The AIR broadcasting station happened to be at 1, Garrison Place, Kolkata and Bhadra used to spend almost all the day researching new methods of broadcasting there. Neither Early Mornings nor Late Nights were able to tire Him. One evening it was raining heavily. All other radio speakers had failed to reach the broadcasting station. Sitting all alone at Garrison Place, Bhadra kept on entertaining the listeners one after the other: first poem recitation, followed by singing of Rabindra Sangeet and finally playing the piano. Despite the minimum salary He used to receive and the negligible post-retirement benefits he had enjoyed, Birendra Krishna Bhadra kept on serving the All India Radio with His own zeal. Even in 1930 when the financial condition of Indian Broadcasting company worsened, He used to spend the cold winter nights standing on the road selling magazines. He had started a special program for the women named “Mahila Majlish”. Also the chief magazine of Akashvani Kolkata, “Betar Jagat”, had him in the Editorial Board.
Apart from all this, what today has made Him immortal (or rather He has made it immortal) is the landmark program of Akashvani Kolkata – the Mahisasura Mardini. Started back in 1931 this continues to be the longest running program of Indian Radio till date. In the calm Autumn morning of Mahalaya when even the lazy Bengalis tune into their radio sharp at the Godly hour of 4am, the voice of Birendra Krishna Bhadra emerges from the old radios of Kolkata & abroad, all of which are either in non-functioning system or have lost their speakers or perhaps have a broken antenna due to their age. It is hard to believe that the rejected voice of an ogre is welcoming the arrival of Bengalis biggest festival still today in such a grand manner that no one has the audacity to ignore Bengali culture. If Bengalis had any cultural authenticity after Rabindranath Tagore, that is Mahisasura Mardini. This program happens to be the brainchild of two great personalities – Bani Kumar and Pankaj Kumar Mullick. Supported by the choir ‘Satarupa’ and eminent personalities like Raichand Boral, Nripen Mazumdar and Premankur Atorthy, this is a unique compilation of songs and stotras, done in such a way that is addicting to the listeners and engages them for a lengthy period of 1hour 27minutes. All that brings life to the program is the magical voice of Birendra Krishna Bhadra which reverberates into our lives and makes us feel proud of our culture.
But apart from His “আশ্বিনের শারদপ্রাতে, বেজে উঠেছে আলকমঞ্জীর” the rest of His life and works remains largely forgotten beyond research work. Most of His radio programs are lost today and the rest remains largely underrated. His house at Ramdhan Mitra Lane remains unnoticed apart from the news reporters and bloggers only on the day of Mahalaya. The rest remains in the hands of the very few people who actually Has interest in Him and unconditionally loves to hear Him throughout the year. Hope this number increase in the future years.
Forward Media Group pays humble tribute to this maestro on His 117th Birth Anniversary.