SHANTANU………Romancing the stones…..with music ……..
Shri Shantanu Mohapatra, is a legendary, multi-faceted personality of Odisha. A true artiste in every sense of the term, he is one of the most respected names in the Odia music industry, with which he has been associated for over five decades. Born in 1936 to Late Ramesh Chandra and Soudamini Mohapatra of Baripada in Mayurbhanj, he exhibited his prodigious talent, very early in his childhood, by singing and winning many awards in Hindustani classical music, under the very able tutorship and guidance of his “Aadi Guru”, the Late Banchhanidhi Panda.
But music composition was his calling and he got an opportunity to further hone his skills during his undergraduate years, in Ashutosh College, Kolkata, where he came in contact with the legendary music director Late Salil Choudhury. Shantanu had joined Salil Da’s revolutionary organization the IPTA (Indian Peoples’ Theatre Association). He was so influenced by the style of Salil Da that, many of his compositions carried the trademark style of jumping notes composition of the great maestro. Inspired by Salil’da, Shantanu went on to compose the first Ballad in Odia, i.e. the “Konarka Gatha”, sung by another legend of Odisha, the Late Akshay Mohanty, way back in 1960.
Shantanu has many firsts to his credit in the field of Odia Modern/Light music. He composed the first ballad, the first lullaby, the first qawwali, the first bhangra tune, the first fusion composition (Classical+Western). He also has the unique distinction of being the first to get Hindi film greats like, Lata Mangeshkar, Mohd. Rafi, Manna Dey and Usha Mangeshkar to sing in Odia films, when he debuted as a music director in a film called ‘Surymukhi” in 1963 and again in “Arundhati” in 1967. The music was recorded in Mumbai for the first time and brought a freshness into Odia film music, hitherto unknown, with the introduction of Mumbai-style orchestra. All this is in the 60’s when these artistes were at their peak. Thereafter, Lataji and Rafi Sahib have not lent their voice for Odia songs. It certainly was a generous stroke of luck for the Odia music industry. In later years he also tried experimenting Odia rendition by other greats like, Usha Uthup, Kavita Krishnamurthy, Anuradha Paudwal, etc.
Shantanu Mohapatra went on to compose music for over 50 odd films, features, tele & documentaries, including National Award winning Hindi films in the Best film category, like, “Shodh” ,directed by Late Biplab Roy Choudhury and “Bagh Bahadur” by Buddhadeb Das Gupta. His total compositions, both film and non-film, of all genres are over 1900 in number. He has also received the most number of awards and accolades of any music director in Odisha, totalling over 80.
A Geologist by profession, he did his B.Tech in Geology & Geophysics from IIT, Kharagpur in 1957. In his early years as a Geologist in the field, braving all odds, when he was roaming the dense forests and mountain ranges of Odisha looking for minerals, his only companion was a harmonium. And when he came back to the tent after a day’s tiring work, he continued his romance with the stones…. with music on his harmonium. Some of his most memorable compositions are from those times.
Recognising his life-time contribution to the Odia culture, the Utkal University of Culture conferred an honorary D.Litt. on Shantanu Mohapatra in 2011, a fitting tribute to his ceaseless and untiring effort in promoting Odisha’s culture and music for over half a century.