No kidding anymore

Updated: May 30, 2019, 07:25 IST | Shunashir Sen |

Listen to a Kolkata outfit that started off as a bunch of pre-teens playing together in the '90s, before becoming one of the most relevant Bengali rock bands of their time

(From left) John Paul, Rajiv Mitra, Debaditya Chaudhury, Gaurab Chatterjee, Bodhisattwa Ghosh and Sanket Bhattacharya of Lakkhichhara. The band also counts lyricist Anirvan Mazumder as member
(From left) John Paul, Rajiv Mitra, Debaditya Chaudhury, Gaurab Chatterjee, Bodhisattwa Ghosh and Sanket Bhattacharya of Lakkhichhara. The band also counts lyricist Anirvan Mazumder as member

The Kolkata Book Fair is - or at least was, before the venue was shifted to a smaller area - the most important event in the city's packed cultural calendar. But something special took place there in 1995. That was the year that Moheener Ghoraguli, arguably the greatest ever independent Bengali band, released their seminal album, Abar Bochhor Kuri Pore. It was intended as a soft launch. The plan was to sell copies of the record at a bookstall with the band members and a few friends sitting right outside surrounded by a throng of bibliophiles, singing songs to introduce the music to the public. The people included the legendary Gautam Chattopadhyay, founder of Moheener Ghoraguli, and Neil Mukherjee and Bonnie Chakraborty of Krosswindz, another local act. There was also a group of pre-teens, who Chattopadhyay had bunched together as an outfit called Lakkhichhara since he wanted children to play a particular track in the album, a heart-warming ditty called Porashonay Jolanjoli. So all these people performed an acoustic set for an entire evening, and the audience numbers picked up so significantly by the end of it that when the musicians got up and started the long walk towards the exit gate while playing their biggest hit, Prithibita Naki, a whole procession of people started following them and singing along. So much so, that it seemed as if the Left Front government of the time had organised yet another one of their innumerable political rallies.

Abar Bochhor Kuri Pore eventually became one of the most loved Bengali albums of all time. But Chattopadhyay, unfortunately, passed away four years later. The sort of legacy he left behind, however, has fuelled the musical pursuits of generations of Bengalis after his demise. Take Lakkhichhara as an example. The band was formed in Chattopadhyay's living room under his tutelage and comprised his son, Gaurab Chatterjee, and five other children who were all friends. He even inadvertently gave the outfit its name, since he'd lovingly refer to the kids as "lakkhichhara", meaning "naughty". And such was their progress that by 1999, the teenagers were ready to make their stage debut as a band playing an original set of music, though it's a tragedy that Chattopadhyay missed this gig since he died days before the performance.

Then, in 2001, Lakkhichhara released their first full-fledged album, Meghe Mollar. A couple of the songs, especially Care Kori Na, did get a fair amount of airplay. But overall, the outfit was still a bit too raw to get adequate critical acclaim. That changed in 2003, with Jibon Chaichhe Aro Beshi. It cemented the band's reputation as one of the most promising acts of their generation. Keep in mind that this was a decade when the star of Bengali rock — or Bangla rock — was rising like never before. The musical genre with its roots in the early '90s had picked up such steam that entire auditoriums were packed with youngsters having a wild time. Engineering colleges especially — where students were otherwise struggling to cope with intense academic pressure — became hotbeds for Bangla rock bands to ply their trade. And Lakkhichhara rode this wave to release two more albums before the end of the decade, making them household names in the city.

But after that, the predominance of film music and a bunch of line-up changes meant that there was a dip in the music they released. Chatterjee tells us that it's in fact been seven years since the band launched a new song. "But from 2015 onwards, we have been trying to regroup; the current line-up is more than three years old now, so it feels like a band again. It has that vibe. More importantly, we aren't just people playing music. We are friends as well. That's in fact always been a major factor for Lakkhichhara. Right from the outset, we have been a bunch of friends making music collectively," the drummer says, adding that they will finally come out with a new track in about two months, and that a concert this weekend in Mumbai will involve their greatest hits with a few Moheener Ghoraguli tracks thrown in, though the child-like innocence of Porashonay Jolanjoli is, of course, lost in the sands of time now that the pre-teens are full-grown men in their late 30s.

On: May 31, 2.30 pm
At: Bombay Exhibition Centre, NESCO, Goregaon East.
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