Op-Ed: Every Lover Boy’s Favourite Singer

For a whole generation of Odias growing up in the seventies and eighties, Chitta Jena’s was the voice of the ultimate romantic. While other stalwarts of the era like Akshay Mohanty, Sikandar Alam and Pranab Patnaik were all versatile singers, there was something in the voice of Chitta Jena that made him special for anyone in love.

Writing on her Facebook page today, Lipsa Panda, a Hyderabad based techie and an emerging writer, said; “Every time I listened to ‘Roopa Hoithiba Laabanyabati’, I used to get ecstatic thinking someone somewhere has sung this song only for me. Why just me? I am sure every girl must have imagined herself as the heroine of this song at some point of time. That was the kind of magic your voice cast.”

My own Chitta Jena favourites were ‘Dekhi se Bana Malli’ (‘Mamata’) and ‘Mo Priya Tharu Kie Adhika Sundara’ (‘Sindura Bindu’). As a fledgling, wannabe singer in my teens, I remember getting countless requests to sing ‘Mo Priya Tharu’ from friends and relativesbat get togethers. At a marriage ceremony a couple of years ago, I was stunned when a Hindi speaking aunt, who had heard me singing the song in my school and college days decades back (though I doubt if she has ever heard the original), to sing it. I had to oblige though the singer in me was long dead and buried.

And to think that Chitta Jena was crestfallen after coming to know it was the only song allotted to him in the film ‘Mamata’ while all other songs were shared by Pranab Patnaik and Sikandar Alam! “I felt cheated. Will such a ‘slow’ song in Odissi chhanda – and that too a duet – ever become a hit? I flatly refused to sing the song, but relented and recorded the song reluctantly at the insistence of Dhira Bhai (Dhira Biswal) and Prasanta Nanda. The song was recorded in one take. I never imagined the song would become such a hit after ‘Mamata’ and its music disc were released,” Chitta Jena was to recollect years later.

Like the legendary Kishore Kumar, Chitta Jena was not a trained singer. But he was convinced since his childhood that he was born to be a singer. Defying the diktat of his businessman father, who wanted him to follow in his footsteps, he strayed into singing with nothing more in his armoury than a sweet voice and boundless love for music. It was at All India Radio, Cuttack that he learnt the nuances of singing from famous composer Pandit Bhubaneswar Mishra, who was a producer in AIR when Chitta got his break as a singer. The rest, as they say, is history.

All through the seventies, the Prasanta Nanda-Prafulla Kar-Chitta Jena triumvirate churned out hit after romantic hit. Though he lent his voice to many actors, no one suited Prasanta Nanda better than Chitta Jena. It was as if he was born to sing for the legendary actor-producer-director – just the way Mukesh was born to sing for Raj Kapoor or Kishore Kumar for Rajesh Khanna! And some of the finest songs of this singer with the velvet voice were composed by Kar, who once remarked that “His voice is so sweet, I often feel ants would converge on his neck if he lies down on the floor!” Hyperbole, for sure, but it certainly gives an idea of the love and admiration that one of our finest composers had for his protégé. Prafulla Kar made his debut as a composer with ‘Mamata’ in 1975 .By then, Chitta Jena had already become a playback singer, having sung ‘Mora Kaniaan, Suna Paanian’) in ‘Mana Akasha’ (his debut song) and ‘Pirati Tora Duru Juhar’ in ‘Dharitri’. But the Prafulla Kar-Chitta Jena duo became one of the most durable and rewarding composer-singer combinations in Odia films.

Given the kind of songs he got, it was only natural that Chitta Jena would be slotted as a ‘lover’s singer’. But he reveled in all kinds of ‘love’ songs, both temporal and spiritual. Songs like “Kaahin Gale Shyamaghana’, ‘Putra Snehe Helu Bai Go Jashoda’, ‘Kahai Mana Are Mo Bola Kar’ and ‘Dhaali Dia Dharanire’ stand testimony to the fact that the singer with the golden voice could switch from the temporal to the devotional with effortless ease.

But for better or for worse, Chitta Jena would always be remembered as every lover boy’s singer!

[With sincere gratitude to journalists Kedar Mishra and Surya Deo for some of the inputs used in the write up.]

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same)