Manjuara: Playback Singer
One of the women to have done a great deal for the culture of the region is Manjuara Goswami, a woman aged about 60. She has been a familiar face in Mymensingh as a playback singer since 1966 and is still active.
Manjuara Goswami, also known as Manju De in Mymensingh, was born in the village of Barai Chira in Mohanganj in Netrokona district on Magh 20, 1350 of the Bengali Year. Daughter of the late Horendra Goswami and the late Bakul Bala Goswami, Manju lost her father before her birth. After completing her education up to class eight in Mohanganj, she got admitted to Radha Sundari Girls' High School and passed her SSC examination from the school in 1966. But Manju could not continue her study as she was busy with professional playback singing. Later she was married off to Subash Chandra Bhattacharya, a lawyer's assistant at Mymensingh Judge Court.
Inspired by her late mother, Manju started singing in her childhood. She quickly became well known. She regularly performed at the local cultural functions in her area and in her school. At the age of 12 she started taking lessons in classical music. “I took my first lesson from my cousin Paritosh Majumder who inspired me most to go forward with my mission” said Manju. Later she took lessons from Ustad Rajani Kanta Sarker and Ustad Anil Talukder in Mohanganj. After shifting to Mymensingh town for education, she came close to some prominent classical masters of Mymensingh. They were Ustad Bijoy Krishna Bhattacharya, Ustad Badal Chandra, Ustad Bipin Das and eminent folk singer of greater Mymensingh Ustad Abdur Rashid Miah. She mentioned Haider Ali Khan, a performer who helped her make it.
She has worked in more than 250 stage dramas as a playback singer. Some of them are <i>Mahua, Malua, Kajal Rekha, Sonai Madab, Siraj-ud-dullah, Panipath, Tipu Sultan, Kedar Roy</i> and <i>Mishore Kumari</i>. She was involved with the Mymensingh cultural arena before and just after liberation.
During the pre-Liberation days, she was in good demand and paid Tk. 1000 to Tk. 1500 for working in every play. She recalls that she had to sing five to ten songs for every play. She worked with people like Subol Das and Mafizul Islam from Dhaka, Saany Nandi from Chittagong, as well as Raja Hossain Khan, Molay Ganguli , Ustad Badrul Huda and Motahar Hossain Bachchu.
She was the lead singer at the program organized by Bangladesh Betar at Paltan Maidan in 1975 marking the World Youth Day. She also performed at the National Folklore Celebration at the Shilpakala Academy in 1975, 1977 and in 1993 which made her pretty popular.
Manju says that the cultural field has changed and now it can be quite difficult to work with younger artistes. She says that the once-rich cultural arena of Mymensingh is now desolate.
Currently she is engaged with two cultural organizations: Rangchita Sangskritik Academy and Anirban Sangskritik Academy in the district town as a teacher. She has been awarded by various cultural organizations of Mymensingh on different occasions. Greater Mymensingh Cultural Forum awarded her in 2006.
Manjuara Goswami, mother of two sons, Raju Bhattacharya and Shuvra Bhattarchaya and a daughter Snighdha Bhattarcharya, resides at Amlapara in the district town. She is still eager about performing and likes getting offers. However, she regrets that things are no longer like they were before. Nevertheless, she says that she is happy with her life. “Now I have no financial problems, and I live a simple, happy life with my family,” she said.
(R) thedailystar.net 2007