Salil Chowdhury - The Writer and the Poet
Not many people are aware that Salil was an exceptional writer. Even in Bengal,
majority of the Bengalees do not know that he was a writer and a poet besides
being a composer. When he composed a song in Bengali, he almost always wrote the
lyrics. During the '40s and '50s his Bengali songs expressed his anti-colonial
feelings, his love for the people of his country and the poor and oppressed landless
peasants. His songs were revolutionary. After the independence, his lyrics very
often expressed his deep feelings about the social injustice and the unfairness
present in our society. He never wrote the typical romantic Bengali lyrics which
were quite common in those days. One of his close friends was the then famous
poet 'Sukanto Bhattyacharya'. Salil set some of his poems to music. These songs,
like 'Runner' and 'Abaak Prithibi' have become part of the Bengali culture.
Different situations and events prompted him to write poems. During the 300
years celebration of Calcutta he wrote a poem which questioned and challenged
the festivities. It was controversial to say the least. None of the magazines
would publish it ! After his death 'The poems of Salil Chowdhury' was published
by Sabita Chowdhury. Unfortunately, this book doesn't have all his poems and sadly it is long out of print.
When he wrote his first Bengali short story 'Dressing Table', it caused a sensation. Since then he wrote several short stories and plays. His other famous short story 'Sunya Puron' was about a midget's fight to overcome his shortness. His first staged play was 'ChaalChore'. Unfortunately the scripts of two of his later plays 'Janaantik'(1948) and 'Sanket'(1949) can't be traced. Salil also translated the well-known Irish play 'At the rising of the Moon' in Bengali. It was called 'Orunodoyer Pathey'. After 23 years he wrote 'Aapni key ? Aapni Ki karen? Apni Ki korte chaan?' - literally meaning 'Who are you ? What do you do ? What would you like to do ?' This was staged by 'Theater Unit' of Calcutta and was directed by the late Shekhar Chattyopadhaay in 1972 at the 'Rangana' stage.
Salil wrote for films as well. His first film script was 'Rikshawaalaa' in
Bengali. He met Bimal Roy during one of his trips to Kolkata and Bimal Roy read this story. He was so impressed that he wanted to make a film based on this story and Salil was invited by Bimal Roy to Bombay, where he
wrote it's Hindi version 'Do Bighaa Zameen'. Later he wrote the stories for 'Pinjre
Ki Panchhi', 'Parakh' and 'Minoo' . The Kannad film 'Chinna Ninna Muddaduwe' was
later filmed based on one of his stories. In the late '70s he wrote the story
of a Bengali film 'Ei Ritur Ak Din' and was about to direct it himself. Unfortunately,
that didn't happen.