Protagonists in iconic Bengali song ‘Coffee House’ are all fictional, says composer Ghosh

  • Saimum Saad, bdnews24.com
    Published: 2020-08-02 10:15:20 BdST

Just as Nikhilesh does not live in Paris, reporter Moidul of Dhaka does not exist in reality; guitarist D’Souza or Amol, the one with a poet-like appearance—all these characters are imaginary.

The protagonists in the legendary Bengali song who have ruled the hearts of Bengali listeners for generations can never be found in reality, says Suparnakanti Ghosh, a musician.

In 1983, singer Manna Dey immortalised the nostalgic song ‘Coffee Houser Shei Addata Aaj Aar Nei’, roughly translated to ‘That hangout in the coffee house is no more’, which was written by lyricist Gouri Prasanna Majumder. The melancholic song has the same appeal even today, after about four decades.

Listeners in West Bengal and Bangladesh humming the song forever have searched the characters — Nikhilesh, Moidul, Sujata, D’Souza, Roma Roy and Amol in reality.

Some media outlets presented to the Bangladeshi listeners that the late journalist and sports writer Nur Ahmed Moidul was indeed the 'reporter Moidul' of the song.

Suparnakanti Ghosh, who had composed the song, however, asserted that let alone Moidul, none of the characters mentioned in the song are real.

“What can I do if someone claims to be Donald Trump or Sunil Gavaskar? These are all lies. All characters in the song are fictional,” he said in an interview with bdnews24.com.

Suparnakanti Ghosh with Manna Dey. Photo taken from Ghosh’s collection.

Suparnakanti Ghosh with Manna Dey. Photo taken from Ghosh’s collection.

Moidul, born on Jan 13, 1936 in West Bengal’s North 24 Parganas district, left Kolkata with his family for Dhaka during the riot in 1968. An accomplished sportsman in Kolkata, Moidul played badminton and football for clubs in Dhaka.

He began writing about sports in 1966. He wrote regularly in the Dainik Azad, the Daily Ittefaq, the Dainik Bangla, the Inqilab, the Sangbad, the Banglar Bani and the Dainik Purbodesh.

When Moidul died in 2014 at the age of 78, many newspapers claimed he was the character in the Coffee House song.

During his lifetime, Moidul claimed himself to be the same character as in the song; he said he had hung out with Roma Roy and Sujata. In many interviews, Moidul claimed to have met singer Manna Dey in his teens and were friends with him.

So, was he the same Moidul portrayed as one of the seven people (including the narrator) hanging out in the Coffee House?

Ghosh brushed aside the claim. “There are so many people in Kolkata going by the name Moidul. What shall I say if all of them claim to be the character in the song!”

Not only Moidul, a lot of people in Kolkata as well claimed themselves to be the characters in the song which created many “embarrassing” situations, said the musician.

“The song is so popular even after 40 years that every day someone is making a parody of it. Someone is claiming to be Sujata while some say they were the waiters at the Coffee House! I really don’t know what to say.”

The song, penned by Gouri Prasanna Majumder, names six characters; while the seventh is their unnamed friend who becomes nostalgic reminiscing about his friends.

Suparnakanti Ghosh also composed the popular song ‘Shey Amar Chhoto Bon’ sung by Manna Dey.

Suparnakanti Ghosh also composed the popular song ‘Shey Amar Chhoto Bon’ sung by Manna Dey.

The namesakes of the characters claim themselves to be those. “I have a friend called Sujata Chatterjee; a teacher living in Howrah. Shall I say that the song was based on her?”

“One can’t claim to be a character in the song just because they have the same name. And why would they claim so when all those characters are imaginary?”

In fact, many people find similarities between the stories in their lives and those of the song, which push them to look for the characters in real life, according to Ghosh.

For a long time, Indian Coffee House, also called College Street Coffee House sitting opposite Presidency University on College Street in North Kolkata, was known as the popular hangout for the up and coming intellectuals and cultural activists.

But none of the creators of the magnificent song—lyricist Majumder, composer Ghosh and singer Dey—had visited the place before they gave life to the number in 1983.

“Gouri Kaka (uncle) wrote the first stanza of the song from his imagination while at our place; the idea was mine, not from hanging out at Coffee House,” said Ghosh.

He visited Coffee House after the song was released; he had attended an event there sometime ago as well.

HOW THE LEGENDARY SONG CAME INTO BEING

Ghosh, the son of famed music director Nachiketa Ghosh, had just begun his career then. In 1978, Manna Dey sang the first song directed by Suparnakanti Ghosh, ‘Shey Amar Chhoto Bon,’ and the young music director burst onto the stage.

Lyricist Majumder used to tutor his sister in their home at New Alipore, said Ghosh, adding he used to call Majumder uncle.

One day, Majumder called Ghosh asking what he was doing and whether he was just hanging out.

The popular Coffee House at College Street in Kolkata.

The popular Coffee House at College Street in Kolkata.

During their conversation that day, Ghosh suggested Majumder write a song on casual hangouts by people.

“Is it possible to write a song in Bengali on the subject of 'hangout'?” Majumder responded.

Ghosh still tried to persuade him saying many people hang out at Coffee House, unlike him.

It was then that Majumder penned the first stanza of the song ‘Coffee Houser Shei Addata Aaj Aar Nei.’

Ghosh added the tune to the initial stanza of the song right away. Majumder finished writing most parts of the song that night, but it took one and a half months to finish it.

The last stanza, the most appealing one was written much later. It says ‘Shei Saat Jon Nei Ajo Table Ta Tobu Achhe Saat Ti Peyala Ajo Khali Nei…’ roughly meaning “those seven are gone today but the table and cups are not empty…’.

“I forced Gouri uncle to pen down that stanza. The words came to him on his way to Chennai for medical treatment. He wrote it on a pack of cigarettes and sent it to me through someone. There was no mobile phone in those days,” said Ghosh.

The six-minute song was released finally and after three more years, in 1986, Majumder died from cancer.

Manna Dey, a singing great of the Indian sub-continent, died from lung disease in 2013 at the age of 94.

Ghosh was a young man of 25 when the immortal song was made. He is now 62 and continuing his journey as a musician.

He has put the tune to two latest lyrics on cyclone Amphan and the coronavirus, he told bdnews24.com.