The golden era of Bengali music lost yet another jewel as noted singer Banashree Sengupta breathed her last on Sunday morning.
She passed away at the state-run SSKM Hospital at 11.30 am after a prolonged illness. She was suffering from lung-infection. Her brother, Surjya Sengupta, said, “She was admitted at the hospital around 10 days ago with lung-related problems. She left us today at 11.30 am.”
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee expressed her condolences through her Twitter handle. She wrote, “Deeply saddened at the passing of legendary singer Banashree Sengupta. My condolences to her family and fans.”
Minister of State for Information and Cultural Affairs Indranil Sen visited SSKM hospital to pay tribute.
The body of the singer was taken to Rabindra Sadan, where singers and her fans paid their last respects to the iconic singer. From Rabindra Sadan, her body was taken to her house in south Kolkata. She was cremated at Keoratola Crematorium on Sunday evening.
Rabindra Sangeet singer Swagatalakshmi Dasgupta termed it a personal loss. “She was very close to her husband, Shanti Sengupta, who died some time ago. Since then, she had been feeling low,” said Dasgupta.
Another Rabindra Sangeet exponent Srikanto Acharya said Sengupta was simple in nature.
Sengupta recorded a large number of evergreen romantic songs since 1966 in Bengali, Hindi, Assamese and Odiya films. Some of her noted Bengali songs are, “Aaj bikeler daake tomar chithi pelam”, “Chi chi chi”, “Amar onge jwale rongmashal”, “Moynamotir pother dhare”, “Dur akashe tomar sur”, “Andhakarke bhoy kori”, “Sundorboner sundori gaach” etc.
This 73-year-old singer had worked with greats like Sudhin Dasgupta, Nachiketa Ghosh, Salil Chowdhury, Hemanta Mukhopadhyay, Abhijit Bandopadhyay, Prabir Mazumdar and Ajoy Das.
According to veteran composer Abhijit Bandopadhyay, her simplicity was infectious. He said, “Till the last days of her life, her voice quality remained the same. Despite being a simple person, she would properly express matured thoughts through her songs.” “What’s best about Banashree was that she was equally good in singing sentimental, folk and even cabaret numbers,” he added.
Describing Sengupta as a “talented, caring and a simple-hearted person”, veteran singer Arati Mukherjee said that she enjoyed singing duets with her.
“She joined the industry a few years after me. I loved her songs and must say that she was very popular at shows too. She would often come down to my house. I too would visit her. I think, the death of her husband, Shanti Dasgupta, took a huge toll on her. He used to take meticulous care of her. She’d cry whenever I met her in recent times while I’d ask her to take recourse in music. I had even suggested that she come and stay with me in Mumbai to come to terms with grief,” Mukherjee said.
For singers who were junior to her, Sengupta was a big inspiration. Said Subhamita, “During her heydays, both film songs and basic numbers were equally appreciated. She showed us how to leave behind an impression by singing basic numbers. From her, I learnt that if we can sing a good song from the heart, it will connect with the audience. Through her rendition, she showed the power of music’s emotional connect.”
Banashree Sengupta was bought up in a musician family. Her father, the late Sailendranath Roy, was a musician and classical singer, and taught her how to sing. She later learned from the famous composer Sudhin Dasgupta, and moved to Kolkata after marrying Santi Sengupta. The singer was a regular presence on Akashvani and Doordarshan from her teenage days, and on HMV (Saregama HMV) from 1966.
In recognition of her contribution to the music, the West Bengal government bestowed the Sangeet Samman and the Mahasangeet Samman on Sengupta in 2012 and 2013, respectively.