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Pocha ojha rises like a phoenix from the ashes

Topo Singha

Ojha Brajakumar Sinha, fondly called as Pocha Ojha by his fans, rose like a phoenix from the ashes. The credit goes to Jolly Productions that made its maiden appearance at Shilpgram, Guwahati on April 26, 2014 when an audio and two video CDs on the performances of the late singer were released.

The audio CD, a cultural showdown (fangna) between Pocha Ojha and Ojha Chandramohan Sinha, was released by nonagenarian Srimati Githanak Devi, mother of the man behind Jolly Productions, SP Pratap Sinha. The ceremony was quite simple yet redolent of the profound love and respect to a mother whose tender love and care are too important to be without for the all-round development of a child. While the video CD, Manshiksha, was released by none other than Srimati Pramila Sinha, widow of Pocha Ojha, the other video CD, Gosthalila, was released by public prosecutor Bhimsen Sinha. The function on the release of the three CDs and the discussion on rasakirtan were presided over by Dr. Sushil Sinha, Gauhati Univerity.

As spelt out by Pratap Sinha in his welcome address on behalf of Jolly Productions, the extravaganza had twin goals of capturing the live performances of the great singer and making them available for the posterity, and holding a socio-cultural get-together in the New Year. “The lack of professional touch is glaring in this endeavour as commercial success wasn’t the motive behind. Out of sheer love for our culture and the live performances of Pocha Ojha, number 1 rasakirtan singer in Bishnupriya Manapuri, I had to capture the performances in the film of camera. A babble of voices as usual in our mandaps smacks of rawness in the endeavour.” Making such a statement, the SP wanted to bring home that if documentation and mapping memory have anything to go by the expensive and arduous work is worth every penny.

Getting the discussion into gear, advocate Bhimsen Sinha gave a detailed account on various genres of Bishnupriya Manipuri culture – right from arati in Durga Puja to Naukabilas by Bidhumukhi. He showered praise on Prabhas Kanti Sinha of LL Productions and his sibling Pratap Sinha of nascent Jolly Productions for their endeavour towards the development and preservation of Bishnupriya Manipuri culture. “Over the past four decades Bishnupriya Manipuri modern songs did make great strides. All-time great numbers like ‘punya tirtha Manipur mati, ima tor banapani hujanir sale, satgo tengarai bereya those hunar Manipur’ and the like with notations of most of them given by Pundit Motilal Sinha have been reverberating in our community in the melodious voice of Beli, Usharani and others. All these songs and their tunes, if tapped properly, could be great stuff in Mumbai (Bollywood),” he said, and added that despite ‘our’ difference on diction with Dr. KP Sinha, he did agree that Dr. Sinha’s songs with notation given by Pundit Motilal Sinha had scaled a height.

Dr. Nalini Sinha said that most of the genres of the Bishnupriya Manipuri culture had Gostholila in their own ways. According to him, first Bishnupriya Manipuri padkirtani Late Tanu Singha of Mashughat had a distinct gostholila. The kirtani, however, Dr. Sinha said, never performed gostholila because of the timing of his performances. It deserves a special mention that padkirtans are usually performed in the afternoon or evening by the Bishnupriya Manipuris. Dr. Sinha’s deliberation on rasakirtan was excellent.

Reminding the audience of an audio CD from KS Films comprising songs of Pocha Ojha, BMDC Chairman Kartik Sena Sinha showered praise on Jolly Productions for its endeavour. He said that the BMDC had many a project in mind – a Bishnupriya Manipuri museum near the Mundamala in Patharkandi, a Bishnupriya Manipuri Bhavan in Guwahati, and others. “In the recent meeting between All India Congress Committee (AICC) leader Rahul Gandhi and the chairpersons of the development councils in Assam, I have submitted schemes worth Rs 760 crore. The schemes have already been sent to the ministries concerned that have sent them back to Dispur,” he said, and added: “Quota in MBBS and Engineering is a must for our students. We have a lot to do, and to make that happen we need to come closer and know each other better.”

Cine star Rabi Sinha showered praise on LL Productions and Jolly Productions that came out from the same family for their endeavour to develop and preserve Bishnupriya Manipuri traditional and modern songs. He, however, rued the dismal CD and book marketing scenario in the community. “Even if the cost of production could be collected as returns this industry can survive. The ground reality is dismal. Those who are in the job have to bear the brunt of loss. It’s their sheer interest for the development of our culture that makes them spend their hared-earned money,” he rued.

Overwhelmed at the project, Bishnupriya Manipuri Writers’ Forum (BMWF) president DILS Lakshmindra Sinha said: “We all respect Gokulananda Gitiswami for what he did for the community. Ojha Brajakumar is next to Gitiswami. A 17-year-old Brajakumar used to walk in streets in 1954 in Kehurgaon singing Bishnuriya Manipuri songs with a monochord (ektara) in hand. Thoroughly mesmerized at the songs and love of the youth for his language and culture, Ukil Kamini Mohan Sinha had to reward him with a hefty amount.”
A nostalgic DILS Sinha further said: “The vaishnavite literary works of Pocha Ojha are yet to be evaluated…Ojha Bijoy, one of the Manipur-return ojhas at that time, initiated Brajakumar as an esulpa at a tender age. Ojha Bijoy was the first to spot the talent latent in Brajakumar. The renowned ojha gave everything he had acquired on kirtanango while in Manipur to Brajakumar. While breathing his last, Ojha Bijoy landed his feet on the chest of Brajakumar, a rare achievement for a disciple, depriving others like Ojha Kalasena Rajkumar, Ojha Gopichand, Ojha Krishnadhan, Ojha Hari Narayan and others of the extreme mercy.”

According to DILS Sinha, Ojha Brokumar could successfully added a special style in the vaishnab bandana (prayer to vaishnabs), and that the current trend of vaishnab bandana has much to do with Ojha Brajakumar. “In 1967, the management of Fagu, a little magazine that contributed a lot towards the development of Bishnupriya Manipuri language and literature, held a showdown (fangna) of esulpas singing in Bishnupriya Manipuri. Ojha Brajakumar was adjudged the first in the competition,” he said, and added: “His was a cultural movement. The effect of the movement was so much so that a section of youth had to skip cinema to enjoy the performances of Pocha Ojha.”

Prasenjit Sinha, guardian (eldest brother) of Pratap Sinha, said: “Our father, late Prafulla Kumar Sinha, was a culture vulture. He was interested both in rasakirtan songs and literature. My two siblings – Prabhas and Pratap – were inclined to baba in accordance with their respective choices. Pratap was a back-up singer (kholpangpa) of baba. The outcome is that while the former does a great deal of literary works, the latter does a lot for the development and preservation of our rasakirtan songs. The CDs released today are for the posterity.

This part of the programme ended with the thanks giving by Pratap Sinha and a speech by the president.
It was followed by a cultural programme that began with a remarkable vaishnab bandana by Pradip Mukharjee. He was followed by Devyani Sinha whose deep timbre spoke of her vocal power and melody. She sang a number of Pocha ojha in which Srimati Radhika is a nayika in utkontha.
DILS LK Sinha and party sang two numbers, both of Pocha Ojha. Niranjan-Jontu jugalbandi scaled a new height of the day. Sorojini Sinha also sang a number of the late singer. The cultural nite got a befitting conclusion with Pratap Sinha of Jolly Productions singing a number of songs that led the audience break into rapturous applause.


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