Beholding Nation Through Music
Promiti Prova Chowdhury
Photos: Kazi Tahsin Agaz Apurbo
Prithwi Raj, experimenting with music at his Jilapee Studios.
Prithwi Raj is an emerging name in the music industry of Bangladesh today. Though often perceived as an Indian, Prithwi is actually the offspring of none other than Durba R Chowdhury and Dada Tapan Kanti Baidya, well established name in the field of classical music in Bangladesh. This 26 year old musician or, more precisely, a background scorer (this is how he likes to introduce himself) envisions beholding Bangladesh to the international standard through his music. For that, apparently, the very first step has already been taken. How? 'Peddlers,' an Indian movie directed by Vasan Bala and produced by Anurag Kashyap, was screened at the Cannes International Critics' Week 2012, the background score of which was done by Karan Kulkarni with the assistance of Prithwi Raj.
Let's hear the story in Prithwi's own words. “I was born in Calcutta in 1986. In 1998, we came back to Dhaka. I did my SSC from Junior Laboratory School and HSC from Notre Dame College. Then I got the ICCR SAARC Scholarship and went to study Mathematical Economics at Ferguson College in Pune, India. I got a diploma on Sound Engineering from Film and Television Institute of India (FTII). Pune is very enriched when it comes to culture and music. Every night, there are shows held on theatre, music of different genres, from pure classical to jazz, fusion, everything! Plus, the influence of Bombay is felt every moment there,” describes Prithwi.
“Then I met this band 'Khadki Junction Blues' where Karan Kulkarni used to be the bass guitarist, and Bhrigu Sahani, a composer, used to play guitar, while, I used to sing, compose and write lyrics. Then, however, the band dissolved because Bhrigu went to Barclay's School of Music to study guitar and Karan went to Brisbane to study music production. Then in 2007, I shifted to Bombay and started working as a sound engineer. Till 2009 I was there and, during this period, I made around 500 jingles for TV commercials which included Bingo Mad Angles, Pepsi, Microsoft, Reebok, Tata Indicom, Parachute, Snickers, Airtel etc. Then after eight months I realised that I should be in front of the microphone and not behind. I got an offer to assist Amit Trivedi to do the background music of the movie Dev D and that was my first entry in commercial films of Bollywood,” continues Prithwi.
A glimpse of the Jilapee Studios.
So how the project of Peddlers got started? Raj narrates, “In April of 2009, I came back to Dhaka. Though the band was not there, three of us were always in touch through facebook, skype, email, phone and all possible means. So, when Karan got this offer from Vasan Bala, he told me to help him in the beginning of this year and I joined in. All of our work was done through internet. For example, Karan was sending me a 20 minute long clipping and telling me,'Add something over here.' Then I was adding something and also omitting parts which I didn't like and sending it back to him. In this way, we were improvising. I did go to Bombay after a while because I had to supervise the whole work.”
Prithwi adds, “The movie is not theatrically released yet but it was shown in Cannes five months ago. 'Peddlers' is a film about drug dealers. It showcases the kind of problems that occur in a relationship because of drugs. We made a total of eighteen sound tracks for this movie. It is not a commercial film. So working on such an intense subject was a challenge. There were mixed languages-Bangla, Hindi, English. But our hard work paid off and, with honour I would like to say that, this is the first movie with a Bangladeshi background scorer involved, that hit the Cannes. It proves that we, Bangladeshis, can actually do wonders and we have that potential.”
With a view like that, Prithwi has made a website called www.ajkergaan.com. The uniqueness of this website is that one can listen to all the songs sung and composed by Prithwi Raj. If you like the song, you can donate and all the donations will go to a fund for underprivileged kids' education in Bangladesh. His latest album named 'ajkergaan' was released right before eid which is going to be a series. Prithwi encourages everyone to buy the album as 50 percent of the royalty will be used for the same cause. All the albums under the banner of 'ajkergaan' will be uploaded in the website so you can donate online as well.
Prithwi says, “There are many semi-government schools which get closed down due to lack of funding. I want these schools to run because education is the backbone of a nation. I know it might not cause a drastic change but I want to do my best.”
Under the guidance of Pandit Ajoy Chakrabarty, Prithwi specialised in the 'patiala gharana' of Indian Classical music. “I will keep on making music in Bangla in whichever part of the world I am. I would like to suggest all other musicians of Bangladesh to make music within a very confined area. It is very easy to get frustrated sometimes. Just think big and never lose hope.”