The singer with the baritone that conveyed myriad emotions, Shyamal Mitra is one of the most significant music personalities of the golden era of Bengali music. In the Bengali industry, he composed music for films such as Joy Maa Kali Boarding (1955), Jamalaye Jibonto Manush (1958), Bhranti Bilash (1963), Trishna (1965), Hotath Dekha (1967), Samantaral (1970), and many more. He also rendered popular playback songs including Ami cheye cheye dekhi saradin and Jiban khatar proti patay (Deya Neya, 1963), Amar swapne dekha rajkanya (Sagarika, 1957), E jeno ajana ek path (Rajkanya, 1965), Ami tomar kachei phire asbo (Baluchari, 1968), Aha mori mori (Bonpalashir Padabali, 1973), and Ki naame deke bolbo tomake. Joining Salil Chowdhury in Bombay, he worked on Hindi films such as Naukri (1954), Biraj Bahu (1954), and Musafir (1957). He also worked in films like Mamta (1966), Amanush (1975), Anand Ashram (1977), Safed Jhoot (1977), and Bandie (1978). He turned producer with Deya Neya (1963), followed by other productions such as Rajkanya (1965), Kheya (1967), Ami Se O Sakha (1975), and Garh Nasimpur (1968), which he also distributed. Mitra also acted in the Bengali films Sharey Chuattar (1953) and Saapmochan (1955). Mitra rendered playback for more than a hundred Bengali films, as well as Hindi, Assamese and Oriya language films.
Born in Naihati, a city near Calcutta, on 14 January, 1929, he was the son of the reputed Dr Sadhan Kumar Mitra. Members of the Indian Peoples Theatre Association (IPTA) who were friends of his father’s would visit their residence. This is how young Shyamal met and was influenced by music director Salil Chowdhury as well as local singer Mrinal Kanti Ghosh. Pursuing graduate studies at the Hooghly Mohsin College, he was inspired by modern musician Satinath Mukhopadhyay, followed by Sudhirlal Chackraborty whom he met in Calcutta. His first break as a playback singer came with Sunandar Biye (1951). He recorded his first basic songs from H.M.V. under the supervision of Sudhirlal Chackraborty.
His career in Hindi films teed off when he came to the city in the early 50s with Salil Chowdhury. Returning to Bombay in the 70s, he worked in Shakti Samanta's Amanush, Anand Ashram, Alo Sircar's Bandie, Basu Chatterjee's Safed Jhooth, and Mamta. He continued to work in Calcutta, creating hit songs in film and non-film categories. As a music composer, he worked with several key singers such as Hemanta Kumar Mukhopadhyay, Tarun Bandyopadhyay, Dhananjay Bhattacharya, Pratima Bandyopadhyay, Sandhya Mukhopadhyay, Satinath Mukhopadhyay, Ila Basu, Supriti Ghosh, Gayatri Basu, Utpala Sen, Alpana Bandyopadhyay, Manabendra Mukhopadhyay, Talat Mahmood and Kishore Kumar.
Among his most popular Bengali songs are Tomar samadhi phule phule dhaka, Gaane bhubon bhoriye debe, and Naam rakhechi bonolata. His long association with All India Radio saw him perform the song Subhra sankha robe with co-artists Arati Mukherjee and Ashima Mukherjee, in the Mahisasura Mardini programme. He also worked in a jatra called Bibi Anondomoyee. Outside cinema, Mitra worked with other forms of Bengali music including Rabindrasangeet, Nazrul Geeti, Atul Prasadi and children’s songs.
Married to Protima Mitra, the couple had two sons Saibal Mitra and Saikat Mitra, and a daughter Monobina. Saikat Mitra became a Bengali singer rendering Shyamal Mitra's songs.
Shyamal Mitra passed away on 15 November, 1987.
Image Courtesy: shyamalmitra.weebly.com