Shri Shantanu Mohapatra, is a legendary, multi-faceted and multi-talented personality of Odisha. A true artiste in every sense of the term, he is one of the most respected names in the Odia film industry, with which he has been associated for over five decades. Music, which was in his genes, was his passion, and he had exhibited this brilliance even as a child, by singing and winning many awards in Hindustani classical music during his growing years, under the very able tutorship and guidance of his “Aadi Guru”, the Late Banchhanidhi Panda.
Shantanu Mohapatra or Babuanna as he is fondly known, had music in his genes, having been born to Late Ramesh Chandra and Soudamini Mohapatra of Baripada in Mayurbhanj. It is a well established fact that Mayurbhanj has a very rich cultural tradition, and can boast of having produced the maximum number of celebrity performers in the domain of Dance(Late Sanjukta Panigrahi), Music and film stars. The list would be rather long and it is common public knowledge, that Babuanna has been leading the Music Direction field, as Bijoy Mohanty and Uttam have been in acting, among many others. Likewise, Late Jiban Pani, Late Sibabrata Das, Sh. Gurukrushna Goswami in the Poet & Lyricist groups.
But music composition was his calling and he got an opportunity to further hone his skills , during his undergraduate years, in Asutosh College, Kolkata, where he came in contact with the legendary music director Late Salil Choudhury, whose revolutionary organization the IPTA(Indian Peoples’ Theatre Association), he had joined. 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. One of his chorus compositions, “Mauni Shila Bijana Bela”, written on the child prodigy, Dharmapada, who had to sacrifice his life after completing the construction of the Konark Temple, also won the First Prize in the National Youth Festival in 1958.
Babuanna has many firsts to his credit in the field of Odia Modern/Light music. His music has a “wholesome” quality to it, much like the Sanskrit meaningof his name. He composed the first ballad, the first lullaby, the first qawwali, the first bhangra tune, the first fusion composition(Classical+Western) in Odia. He also has the unique distinction of being the first to get the Hindi film greats like, Lata Mangeshkar, Mohd. Rafi, Manna Dey and Usha Mangeshkar to sing in Odia films, where he was the Music Director. All this is in the 60’s when these artistes were at their peak.
He brought a distinct freshness into Odia film music in 1963, when he composed the music for the film “Suryamukhi”, recording some of the songs in Mumbai with Lataji, Manna Dey and Usha Mangeshkar. The Bombay-syle orchestra was the first to be brought into Odia film music. He again repeated this in 1967, when he got the great Mohd.Rafi to sing two songs in the film “Arundhati”, along with one by Lataji. He also started another trend in Odia film music in “Arundhati” in 1967. The lyrics of two songs, one by Mohd. Rafi and another by Lata Mangeshkar was written by another legend Late Jiwan Pani, on the tune already set by Shantanu. This was also a first, and on the lines of what was done in Hindi films. The music composition of these two films is still considered to be milestones in Odia film music.
Shantanu Mohapatra went on to compose music for over 50 odd films, feature, tele & documentary. His experimental compositions for the art film genre were particularly distinctive, worthy of mention being the National Award winning Hindi films, in the Best film category, “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 2000 in number.
He has also received the most number of awards and accolades of any music director in Odisha, totaling over 75. He has inspired the opening of many musical institutes, the most notable being the Bhubaneswar Kala Kendra which has been nurtured by him for the last 50 years. He has been the President of the Odisha Sangeet Natak Academy, and has been part of many committees on Odia Culture, both Govt. and non-govt.
A Geologist by profession, he did his B.Tech in Geology & Geophysics from IIT, Kharagpur in 1957, among the second batch of graduates from the esteemed institute. He then joined the Mining & Geology Deptt. of the Govt. of Odisha and went on to become the Diretor, Mining & Geology, before retiring in 1994. After joining the Govt. of Odisha in 1958, Shantanu was assigned the job of prospecting the Bauxite deposits of Koraput Panchpatmali mountain ranges. It is his pioneering work in the beginning of his career, which ultimately led to NALCO being set up in Koraput. Perhaps in recognition of his pioneering efforts, he was posted as the Liasion Officer of NALCO, to coordinate between the Govt. of Odisha and the newly formed NALCO, for smooth implementation of the project, a job he carried out with utmost devotion, sincerity and integrity and now it is there for everyone to see, what NALCO has grown into.
During those difficult years in the field, braving all odds, when he was roaming the dense forests of Koraput & Kalahandi districts, 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…only this time with his music on the 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.
Today, at the age of 78, he is still full of life, his energetic conversations belying his age. He still can sing for hours on end. Still has a child-like enthusiasm and a burning desire for doing more, feeling that he has not been able to do much for and in Music. Even now when he composes music, one can feel the melody coming through vibrantly. Moreover, in keeping with his multi faceted personality, he continues to be on the board , as independent Director, in two well known corporate bodies, of renowned business groups.
In order to recognize, honour and celebrate the contributions of this great personality, to the society, and predominantly his contributions in enriching Odia Modern/Light music, a couple of organizations had came forward to organize a musical evening, featuring some of his more well-known numbers, on the 1st June,2014 at Rabindra Mandap, Bhubaneswar. This was proposed to be an all-invitee show where the cream of Odisha’s cultural and bureaucratic fraternity was presented with a Huge success.
Read the Press Release of this event here