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Rabindra Sangeet exponent Suchitra dead

Kolkata: Rabindra Sangeet legend Suchitra Mitra, whose songs enthralled music lovers for six decades, died at her South Kolkata residence here Monday following cardiac arrest, family sources said. She was 86, and is survived by a son.

The end came around 1.30 p.m. while she was having lunch, plunging the state into gloom as her innumerable students - many of them now leading singers, writers, actors, elocutionists and other cultural personalities - rushed to her place.

Many of them were in tears, stunned in shock. Old-timers recalled how her rendition of Bangladesh`s national anthem "Amar Sonar Bangla" during the country`s independence struggle in 1971 had touched a deep chord among millions.

In the evening, her body was taken to a mortuary, as her admirers - both star singers and masses - sang those Tagore compositions which have become synonymous with Mitra`s voice.

The last journey would start Tuesday morning. First her body would be taken to the Rabindra Bharati University, where Mitra was for long a professor and the Head of `Rabindra Sangeet Department`, and then kept at Rabindra Sadan for the public to pay their tributes. The last rites would be performed at the Keoratala crematorium in the afternoon.

Widely feted for her talent, Mitra received Tagore Hymn Prize in 1945 from London Tagore Hymn Society, the Padmashree in 1973 and the Sangeet Natak Academy award in 1986, besides the HMV Golden Disc.

She also visited several countries - the US, Canada, the erstwhile Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia, East Germany as also Australia, Hungary and Poland, besides Bangladesh - leaving the audience spell bound with her songs or leading troupes of Tagore dance dramas.

Condoling Mitra`s death, Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said: "Not only Bengalis, the entire world was in love with her singing". Veteran Rabindra Sangeet artiste Dwijen Mukhopadhyay said: "It`s a big loss. The void will never be filled".

"We have grown up listening to her songs. The more we heard, the more we loved her, her songs. She was an institution," said Sahitya Academy chief and noted writer Sunil Gangopadhyay.

"She was like a guardian to us," said singer Purba Dam.

Born in 1924 in a moving train, Suchitra Mitra was known for her elegant and mellifluous rendition of Tagore songs, delivered with a refined diction and a voice rich in clarity and powerful. Her records and CDs top the popularity ratings even today.

Equally adept in performing the bard`s songs of ecstasy as well as sadness or soulful, Suchitra Mitra could bring out the innermost feelings of Tagore compositions - known for their depth.

Daughter of litterateur Saurindra Mohan Mukherjee, a great admirer of Tagore, Suchitra Mitra was brought up in a cultural environment with great writers, actors and directors being regular visitors to her father.

In school, she received music lessons from eminent singers like Amita Sen and Anadikumar Dastidar before going to Santiniketan in 1941 - 20 days after Tagore`s death - with a scholarship.

For the next five years, her singing skills were sharpened under the guidance of experts like Shantidev Ghosh and Shailajaranjan Mazumdar in Santiketan - which she called her real home. The Viswabhharati University housed in Santiniketan later presented her its highest award Desikottama.

During the same time, Suchitra Mitra joined the Indian People`s Theatre Association, a forum of leftist artistes and theatres, before making her first recording in 1945.

Her singing of Tagore compositions like "Gramchara oi Ranga Matir Path", "Krishnakali", "Hridayer ekul okul du kul bheshe jai", "Sarthaka Janamo Mago", "Bajra manik diye gatha" and "Tar bidaybelar malakhani amar gale re", "Maran re tuhu momo shyama saman" have fascinated music lovers for decades.