“Through our songs, we were able to keep the dream of independence alive” -- Bipul Bhattacharya
The Liberation War was the outcome of a mass effort to acquire an independent Bangladesh. The war was fought both in the cultural arena as well as on the battlefield. Our literature, poems and songs were a major source of inspiration to the valiant freedom fighters who took up arms against the Pakistani military.
Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra, the radio broadcasting centre set up by the Bangladesh government in exile, was at the hub of this momentous epoch. Noted folk artiste, Bipul Bhattacharya, was among those who used their creative abilities to inspire the nation during the war. This cultural personality recently conversed with The Daily Star and shared his experiences and opinions on a range of issues.
Bipul embarked on the interview by talking about his experience as a lead vocalist of the troupe 'Bangladesh Mukti Shangrami Shilpi Shangstha.'
"Led by noted Tagore exponent Sanjida Khatun, the troupe's main intention was to raise funds for the guerrillas and alleviate the misery of the countless refugees who lived in camps set up in India. We travelled to the border areas and in this regard. We were so driven by our mission that we hardly bothered about sleeping and eating. We saw at close quarters how the war affected people who had nothing left, but still dreamt of an independent country. Through our songs, we embodied the dreams. We were 'Shabdo Shainik' (warrior of words) with only one dream: a liberated Bangladesh. In between, we participated in the programmes of Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra."
The troupe's journey was documented on film by American filmmaker Lear Levin. Twenty-five years later, Tareque and Catherine Masud recovered the footage from Levin's basement and used it in their award-winning Film "Muktir Gaan." The success of the documentary once more put Bipul Bhattacharya and his comrades in the limelight.
"I didn't participate in the travelling troupe to gain anything; it was my mission as an artiste. Even when Bangladesh was freed, I never shared my war-experiences. Nor did any of us think that Levin's footage would be used in such a wonderful film. After the war, people started to recognise me and wanted to hear those patriotic songs. I found it a challenge to popularise these songs among the post-war generations," said the artiste. Now, however, he is convinced that these generations that have not seen the war, are showing interest in the history of the Liberation War.
"Though this generation didn't witness the war, they are keen to learn about this period in our history. After almost four decades, the renewed interest in Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra songs demonstrates that. In my opinion, this popularity will further increase," the artiste says.
As a music producer of Bangladesh Betar, Bipul now leads a musical organisation called 'Mallika Sangeet Shamaroho.' Also a talented classical and Nazrul artiste, Bipul regards folk songs as his forte and says that he has discovered his roots in this genre. His recent music album, which is underway, will feature several new folk songs aimed at contemporary listeners.