Geeta has uttered an eternal truth when it said - Jatasyahi Dhruva Mrityu - Once born, one must die. So it has just happened with Anil Biswas, the famous Music Director. But he chose a wrong date when he left for his mortal frame on the 31st May. Which was cruel coincidence that it was my birthday also. But I can aver that to me he is immortal. The incidents narrated will prove it.
It was a queer and cruel coincidence that my birthday was the same on which he passed away. People know that we were close friends, though in different fields. Naturally, they expected me to tell something not much known. We were both born at Barisal, now in Bangladesh in 1914. We joined school at the same time but in different schools. Before passing the Matriculation Examination, we had joined a group of young revolutionaries. It was known as Tarun Sangha, a splinter of Yugantar Party. But even earlier, we had been to jail for a week for picketing at the College gate. It was a part of the Civil Disobedience Movement. We were lodged in the same jail in its first floor, shared also by ordinary criminals. Here started Anil's musical career. The large room had only one gate, with big iron bars. Anil would hold them tight and sing a well-known Nazrul Islam's song- Lathi Mar Bhangrey Tala, Jatosab, Bandishala, Agun Jala Agun Jala - kick hard on the prison and break its lock and burn them all. What inspiring moments! Other criminals would sing in a chorus and the whole town would reverberate. The government would tremble.
The eye of the police fell on Anil and it played a dirty game. One Shishupal, a notorious C. I. D. inspector, tried to pressurise the mother to make the son a spy under him. She was a poor lady burdened with two sons, Anil and Sunil, and a much younger daughter, Parul, later married to Pannalal Ghosh, the famous flute player. Parul became the first playback singer. Not knowing what to do, Anil decided to leave Barisal for Calcutta. Every one was kept guessing. Shishupal missed his chance. On reaching the Metropolis, he took shelter at the house of a distant relative. Through him and his friends, he got an obscure job of washing utensils at a Pice Hotel, a term not understood by many outside Calcutta. People of the lower middle class used to go there for regular meals sold by pice, not even an anna. Anil would wash the utensils and hum some music, all for his own self-expression.
One gentleman observed him. He asked Anil about his humming of music and came to know that he got it from his mother, who was a famous singer of religious songs, bhajans and keertans. He got interested in him and was highly impressed. One day he took young Anil along with him to the house of an aristocrat, Aghor Adhikaro, where top-musicians of Bengal used to assemble. They were surprised to see the small boy, who was a complete out of sort. The gentleman of the Pice Hotel explained. At the end of the function one Gyan Prakash Ghosh, a top-notch ustad and a very big critic, asked Anil if he would like to sing before the high and mighty in the field of music in Bengal. The tiny boy readily agreed and sang a few full-throated songs of his own choice. All were impressed and Gyan Prakash offered to teach him real music. Here opened, most unexpectedly, the real road to his stardom to be the top music director.
Thereafter, Anil and I lost touch with one another. I used to hear stories about his success when, one day, I read in the Tribune of Lahore in the advertising column that Anil was there for a week to recruit playback artistes. I immediately wrote a post card. A telegram came in reply. A long lost friend was found. I was keen to meet him in Bombay. I found an occasion to visit him. Myself, I was in M.P. teaching Political Science. It was about the time of the Naval Mutiny in February 1946. I sent him a telegram to receive me at the V.T. station. He came in spite of the curfew. We reached Anil's seaside bungalow, Tulsi Villa, at Dadar. To me it was an all time experience of astonishment, from Anil of Barisal jail to Anil, the top-most music director.
He has been a social person, having friends of a variety. But even in this my relation with him has been sui generis a Latin phrase, which in English means one of its own kind i.e. unique. His life has been so long and varied and my relation with him has been equally long and varied. I can write pages on Anil but the sword of Damocles hangs on my head. All media have their limit of space. I hope that the incidents narrated above will throw sufficient light on Anil. What a multi faceted person he was…. A man I knew, and the country has lost.