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Guru Krushna Goswami: Where the lyre and the lyric meet

Author: V.V.Shukla

Poet, lyrict and music composer Guru Krushna Goswami is a flamboyant personality in the field of Oriya literature, film and music. Born in the year 1934 near Baripada to Gokulachandra Goswami and Sraddhabati Goswami, he has over 1600 folk,devotional and modern songs to his credit. He is the celebrated lyricist of over 30 Oriya feature films, from Maa (1958) to Ranabhumi (1994).

His name evokes fond memories of a galaxy ofevergreen songs such as Mu Je Janena Kaha Bata, Phulei Rani Sajaphula, E Banara Chhayi, Antare Kande Bahare Hase Mu, Sei Chuna Chuna Taraphule, etc. His poetry books include E Mana Chorapathe (1967), Samuduni Mor Juhar Janiba (1967), Abanigandha (1998), Jagadihudi (1998), Namami Janmabhumi (1999), Champakbarani (2002) and a collection of Hindi devotional songs on Lord Jagannath, He Jagannath Tujhe Pranam (2006) which has already been released by T-Series in 2 cassettes – Jay Jagadish Hare and Jay Jagannath. He is also the story-writer of Arundhati (1968) and dialogue-writer of Suryamukhi (1963).
He has coveted several prestigious awards including the Best Lyricist Award (1996), Bhaktakabi Salbeg Award (2000), Orissa Sangeet Natak Akademi Award (2000) and many more.

Excerpts from an interview with Guru Krushna Goswami:

Q. You have acquired over 50 years of vast experience as a poet, lyricist and music composer for All India Radio, Cuttack. How do you juxtapose Oriya film and music of yesterday and today?

A. Present day Oriya films are passing through a Stygian strait as they do not conform to the socio-cultural heritage of Orissa. Contemptuously, only the film is in Oriya and rest everything is non-Oriya. If the story of a film don’t pay obeisance to our glorious heritage, it is simply an act of sacrilege. Some years ago, I had gone
with my family to watch a newly released film in a local theatre. We thoroughly enjoyed it. However, after some days, a friend of mine rang me up and told me to watch a Marathi film on Doordarshan. To my surprise, the Oriya film we had watched was nothing but a discourteous remake of the Marathi film. Really, ignorance is bliss.
Regarding Oriya film music, let me narrate another anecdote. Few days ago, a producer approached an upcoming and promising music director to score music for his next film. An appointment was made at a star hotel. To his utter consternation, he was offered liquor as refreshment. He begged for pardon. Soon after, the producer arrived with a dozen cassettes and a discography and started giving instructions on the music required for the film. He went like this:

‘The sthayi of the first song of our film will be lifted from the antara of the second song on side one of this particular cassette and the antara will be lifted from the sthayi of the first song on the other side of the same cassette, and so and so. The prelude and interlude will be copied from these sets of cassettes…’

He then asked the music director to go ahead and start composing music for the film from that auspicious day. The music director remarked, “Sir, already the music has been graciously composed. I wonder the role of a music director in your project. Only you need to deploy a lyricist to pen down words on the metre.” Perspiring heavily, he beseeched to be excused and allowed to take leave. He could only heave a sigh of relief back home. So, if such kind of grotesque and horrendous modus operandi prevails in our film industry, how can one expect of good quality film and music?

Q. You are considered as one of the innovators in the field of Oriya film and music. What was your driving force?

A. Truly speaking, we had a very pious, selfless and grandiose objective: Rise and Development of Oriya films. All those associated with film-making during that time were guided by this devout objective and strived as altruists to their level best, because till 1960, while already thousands of Hindi films and hundreds of Bengali
films had been churned out successfully, only 12 Oriya films had been made in Orissa by that time. It was really a matter of grave concern. So we pledged to form a team work in order to elevate our position in the Indian film industry.

These 12 films, released till 1960, are Sita Bibah (1934), Lalita (1949), Sri Jagannath (1050), Roll 28 (1950), Saptasajya (1951), Amari Gaan Jhia (1953), Kedar Gouri (1954), Bhai Bhai (1955), Maa (1958), Mahalaxmi Puja (1958), Sri Lokanath (1960) and Parinam (1960). I have seen all these films except Sita Bibah. I made my entry into Oriya films by writing lyrics for two songs for the film Maa (1958). I didn’t ask for any remuneration from the producer, Gour Ghosh. But I received 50 rupees compulsively for the next film ‘Nua Bou’ by Panchasakha Pictures. I am mentioning this only to reflect that none of us had any commercial interest, rather we had a dedicated and collaborative spirit to churn out the best.

Q. What, according to you, should be the theme of lyrics and poetry?

A. Poetry/ lyrics should be written in an introspective, contemplative, spiritual and philosophical mood. Not that it should be written professionally to gain fortune and popularity. It is a very sacred pursuit. In poetry, empirical philosophy of the poet should metamorphose into soul-elevating and soul-emancipating lyrics in simple, common man’s language. If this is not followed, it will cause immense harm to the readers/ listeners as well as to the poet himself. I don’t wish to elaborate further as it will only smirch my tongue. It’s the job of a film/music critic. They should spread the awareness. Why should I interfere?

In fact, the answer to your query has already been conveyed in a poem ‘Kabita Go…’ from my first poetry collection ‘E Mana Chora Pathe (1967)’. The song was aired from All India Radio’s ‘Sajaphula’ programme in 1965-66, composed by Late Bhubaneswar Mishra and sung by Atish Kumar Mazumder.

Q. How did you start writing poetry? How did you gain confidence in the profession?

A. I started writing poetry since 1952 when I was 19 or 20 and studying in college. Since a tender age, I had a very keen interest in music and literature. I was ambitiously dreaming of being a poet and a lyricist for All India Radio, Cuttack and also penning lyrics for Oriya feature films. At that time, I came in contact with eminent music director Shantanu Mohapatra who asked me to write a song for him. I worked hard for 2 months to pen it. The song, ‘Katha Geeti Dhara Ma’ was an instant hit and I never looked back.

Needless to mention, our combination as music director and lyricist helped churning out some of the epoch-making evergreen Oriya film songs. After writing just over 50 songs, I got appointment as a staff lyricist for All India Radio in 1956. It was a great achievement for me and I strived very hard to prove myself by penning songs on
variegated themes. In fact, my professional success helped me build my self-confidence. It was not built in a day or two—it took several years.

Q. Do you feel the demand for commercially-rewarding songs is detrimental to good, soulful compositions?

A. Verily yes. No need to ask such a question. But in All India Radio there is no commercial obligation, so the staff lyricists should take their own time and mood to create good, memorable songs. Compositions for radio are totally different from those meant for films/ albums.

Q. Please let us know some of your best compositions till date.

A. To be true, this is a very difficult query as it is applicable for a poet who has written only 10 or 50 songs and not for a poet like me who has over 1600 poems/ lyrics to his credit. Also, it does not necessarily mean that a song will be liked by all indisputably. Choices and favourites differ from person to person. Let me narrate
an anecdote in this context: Once I had composed a song “Tumei to mor kalira konarka, E katha jani mu murkha…” (please don’t laugh) for Akashvani’s Sajaphula programme which was sung by Chitta Jena. The song was highly appreciated because those were my heydays but one day while at the All India Radio (Cuttack) premises, comedian Late Dinabandhu Das (Tima Bhai) summoned and reprimanded me for writing such an absurd song. He argued that I mustn’t enjoy my popularity by writing such bizarre songs at fancy and get unprecedented acclamation. I submissively admitted that everyday in an artist’s life can’t be a day of joy.

Q. The glorious days of Oriya films when music equally dominated the scene are a myth today. Why it is that such films are not seen these days?

A. Well, let me repeat again. Earlier, music in films was resplendent and exuberant with melodic, artistic and aesthetic elements and played greater role in the film’s success because during music sittings, the producer, director, music composer, lyricist and singer all assembled together for unending hours and collaborated arduously to make music by bringing the best out of them unless and until complete satisfaction was achieved. Therefore, those timeless classics are appreciated and treasured even to this day. But sadly, today music composition is a complete farce – a clinical manifestation of stark insanity! There is no time for rehearsal or interaction even! The composer sends the dummy to the singer and instructs him/her to come prepared so as to finish dubbing in the minimum amount of time. From this you can judge the output. Sometimes, if a producer likes a recent hit song of a blockbuster Hindi film, he instructs the music director to straightaway lift the tune without any inhibition.

Q. These days loud, cacophonic orchestra dominates the singer’s voice owing to which the emotion/ message to be conveyed through the song is lost. Isn’t it a disturbing trend?

A. I am fully optimistic this trend will soon pass away. You must have noticed how an electric bulb sparkles for a second before fusing off dead. These so-called, self-acclaimed musicians will also meet the same fate. The darkest hour of the night is just before dawn. Therefore, that day is not far off when Oriya film music will revert
to its original stature. There will be no more hysterical music and perverted lyrics. This is my prophecy.

Q. Please enumerate your favourite songs.

A. My favourites written by other poets:
1. Sabuthiru Banchita Kari by Kantakabi Laxmikanta
2. Asa Jiba Dhana Mora Pakhala Kansa by Kabichandra
3. Bhalapai Sakhi Jalibani Kar Parane Alibha Chita by Narasingha Mohapatra
4. Baga Udijaye Dure Baguli Jharaye Luha by Parsuram Patnaik
5. Aji Mu Srabani by Jibanananda Pani
6. Jharijaye Golapa Go by Akshaya Mohanty
7. Manara Manisha Jadi Sapana Tikiye Dei by Narayan Prasad Singh
8. Ei Kala Mor Kalanka by Binodini Debi
9. Sanyasini Mu Champaka Kali by Jibanananda Pani

My own favourites:
1. Bedana Sagara Tire (Maa)
2. Sei Chuna Chuna Taraphule (Suryamukhi)
3. Duniyare Samayara Nai (Suryamukhi)
4. Antare Kande Bahare Hanse (Suryamukhi)
5. Tumaku Paruni Ta Bhuli (Arundhati)
6. Ae Chhota Kathati Bhulana (Arundhati)
7. Phulei Rani Sajaphula (Kie Kahara)
8. Mu Je Janena Kaha Bata (Gapa Hele Bi Sata)
9. E Banara Chhayi (Gapa Hele Bi Sata)
10. Mu Khojibule Jare (Agni Parikshya)

About Editor in chief

Ashok Palit has completed his graduation from Upendranath College Soro, Balasore and post graduation from Utkal University in Odia Language and literture.. He has also carved out a niche for himself as a scribe of eminence after joining the profession in 1988. He is also an independent media production professional. He brings loads of experience to Advanced Media, Ashok Palit as a cineaste has been active in film criticism for over three decades. As a film society activist, he soared to eminence for his profound commitment to the art film appreciation and aesthetics of cinema. His mode of discourse is often erudite but always lucid and comprehensible marked by a perfect acumen so rare in the field. A film aesthete with an immense fond of critical sensibilities, he wrote about growth and development of odia cinema in New Indian Express, The Times of India, The Hindustan Times, The Asian Age and Screen. He has been working as an Editor for Cine Samaya from 2002-2004.. He had made solid contribution on cinema in many odia Dailies and weekly such as Samaj, Prajatantra, Dharatri, Samaya, Satabadi, and weekly Samaya.

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