Indian singer, composer and exponent of the work of Rabindranath Tagore
Suchitra Mitra's name will forever be bound up with that of Rabindranath Tagore, the great Bengali poet, playwright and musician who, in 1913, was the first non-European to win the Nobel prize for literature. Mitra would have had little quarrel with such pigeonholing; promoting and disseminating Tagore's words, music and dance were her life's passion. Many believe that Mitra's death, in the 150th anniversary year of Tagore's birth, marks the end of an era.
Mitra was born when her mother was on a train rattling through pre-partition Bengal, hence the vagueness of her birthplace. Her father, Sourindra Mohan Mukhopadhyay, knew the Tagore family, an Anglicisation of Thakur, from Jorasanko, north of Calcutta. The Tagores were torchbearers of the Bengali renaissance, a social, artistic and political reform movement during the 19th and early 20th centuries. It is no coincidence that Tagore penned two national anthems - those of India and Bangladesh.
Mitra grew up with the words and melodies of a uniquely Bengali song form - Rabindra sangeet - ringing in her head. "Rabindra song" is an eloquent, literary, light classical song-form named after its creator, Rabindranath Tagore, and rippled with allusions to classical, devotional and folk songs.
In 1941, she was awarded a scholarship to study at Sangeet Bhavan in Shantiniketan - Tagore's "abode of peace" - where she received tuition from the best. After graduation in 1945 she returned to Calcutta, and in that year her first 78rpm record of two Tagore songs came out. …