Dwijendralal Roy [1863-1943] during his lifetime was one of Bengal’s best known poet-musician-dramatists, and his lyrical songs and comic poetry which captured the imagination of the people were used in historical and social dramas and satires of the period. His songs [called Dwijendra-geeti] combined Western music styles with sophisticated lyrics in Bengali and in doing so marked a breakthrough in the Indian music tradition. Dwijendralal skilfully used historical memory in his plays to highlight values that he considered crucial for the creation of an ideal India nation, based on compassion and integrity. His groundbreaking use of humour and satire to highlight the injustices that bedevilled society in late nineteenth-early twentieth century India won him innumerable admirers. His immense contribution to music and literature notwithstanding, his rich oeuvre has suffered has suffered monumental neglect, and there is an appalling lack of awareness about the man and his work. This volume attempts to put that right by documenting as well as undertaking a serious study of the creative genius of this artist.
Sarvani Gooptu is Professor of Asian Literary and Cultural Studies at the Netaji Institute for Asian Studies, Kolkata. Her main area of research is nationalism and culture in colonial and post-colonial India. She has researched and written on the minority communities of Kolkata, the intellectual and literary history of Bengal and the history of music. Her book The Actress in the Public Theatres of Calcutta was published in 2015. She has co-edited with Ishita Banerjee-Dube On Modern Indian Sensibilities: Culture, Politics, History . Her current book project Knowing Asia, Being Asian is based on a study of the vernacular journals of Bengal during the period 1840-1940.
My intimacy with Dwijendralal Roy started many years back when after completing my classical training - I was debating which branch of Bengali music I should pursue. Given the wide range of interest in music prevailing in my family, I chose to go against the more common choice of Rabindra Sangeet training and decided to learn Dwijendrageeti, Atul Prasadi and Rajanikanta Sen’s songs that my maternal grandmother Ramola Bose used to hum. I have never regretted my decision.
A few years into the training I realized how little academic research had been done on these poet-composers and very few people of my generation had even heard their names. Gradually, when I was ready to choose my own subject of research, in the discipline of History, I felt that this was my subject of research, in the discipline of History. I felt that this was my opportunity to try to do justice to at least one of them. Out of the three, my choice of Dwijendralal Roy was also a conscious one. He was a multifaceted writer and his lyrical songs, comic songs and plays were more known among the cultured Bengalis though his famed ‘quarrel’ with Rabindranath Tagore was the inevitable connection drawn. The large amount of patriotic literature he had to his credit showed his close connection with the evolving history of nationalism in Bengal. It therefore seemed imperative that the sources and interpretations of his writings be probed for a better understanding of the rise of nationalism in early twentieth century.
Dwijendralal Roy [1863-1913] was an important figure in the growth of cultural nationalism at the dawn of the twentieth century in Bengal. Born to a cultured family of Krishnanagar, Dwijendrarlal experimented with different genres of literature, poetry and songs [romantic, patriotic and comic] in tunes which were distinctive for that era; and also drama, satire and essays to make a difference to Bengali mentalities on the path to nationalism. Dwijendralal was one of the few among his companions in the field of literature and arts, who realized that it was the Indian mind and beliefs that needed to be formed and reconstructed. It was his belief that true freedom could come only if flaws in the national life could be removed and a new nation created through the inculcation of values which were universal and therefore free from all narrowness of race, religion and nationality. The new nation had to be strong in values, in culture, and in economy. Only then could Indians compete with their colonizers and regain their lost position in the world. He used different branches of literature to identify such ailments and eradicate them. In an era, when nationalism was widespread and unrestrained in Bengali writing highlighting the communitarian and racial uniqueness of the Bengali people, one notices in Dwijendralal, a difference in tone. His celebration of the Matribhumi encapsulated memories and events that had an extra-Bengali character so that Bharat and Banga were juxtaposed in a fluid matter, when referring to the motherland. In his earliest writings one notices another aspect of Dwijendralal’s writing: an appeal to universal values and a moderate, cosmopolitan tone—a conscious awareness of his role as an educator and entertainer.
Dwijendralal’s essays express his views clearly and one can, through a critical appreciation of his creative work perceive his stand. He was a prolific writer and though he lived for only fifty years, the range of his creative talent may be evaluated by its popularity in his lifetime and even today. His style was so new and different that every work was greeted with accolades or criticism as soon as it was published. His songs and plays played an important part in arousing the patriotic spirit during the Swadeshi Movement against the Partition of Bengal in 1905. His vigorous writing, the novelty of his humour and his satirical verses and farces, the ‘newness’ of his musical compositions, and above all, the flamboyant way be engaged in literary in social debate in the periodicals of the time made him the talk of the town. Unfortunately, they did not win him a continued following after his untimely death.
That Dwijendralal has been misjudged by posterity, is exposed in the lack of discussion about his writing in the century and a half following his death. Though, he came from one of the most respected families of Bengal and was in constant touch with the famous personalities and leading intellectuals of the day in his father’s home, Dwijendralal did not really have the strong backing of any group, institution or powerful friends who would keep his memory alive through circulation of his work. It is the immense popularity of his patriotic and comic songs, and successful performances of his plays that kept Dwijendralal alive in people’s mind. His experimentation could have been continued by his talented son Dilip Kumar Roy, who was very young at the time of Dwijendralal’s untimely death but had from a very young age achieved a deep understanding of the blending of the best of east and west that his father represented. Dilip became internationally renowned for his musical compositions and his writing on music and musicians, and he acknowledged his artistic debt to his father Dwijendralal, where he discussed the poet-dramatist’s creativity through a critical and artistic lens. But Dilip Kumar alone had the capability of bringing his father’s work to the public. After Dwijendralal’s untimely death, but had from a very young age achieved a deep understanding of the blending of the best of east and west that his father represented. Dilip became internationally renowned for his musical compositions and his writing on music and musicians, and he acknowledged his artistic debt to his father Dwijendralal, where he discussed the poet-dramatist’s creativity through a critical and artistic lens. But Dilip was always attracted to spirituality, which ended his wanderings musical and otherwise, and led to his retirement to the Aurobindo Ashram. That was another tragedy, as Dilip Kumar alone had the capability of bringing his father’s work to the public.
**Book's Contents and Sample Pages**
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