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Kanan Devi: More Of Kanan

KANAN's musical talent was first discovered by none other than Kazi Najrul Islam, the rebel poet of Bengal from the notorious Gholadanga area of Howrah. KANAN had already played in two films (JOYDEB and SHANKARACHARYA) as a child artiste and was taken to HMV for her first recording session-her voice still raw without any training worth the name. The record was published in 1929-RECORD NUMBER- P 11580 and the songs : 1) BALO SAKHI BALO TAREY and 2) OGO BOLO KENO SAKHI NAYANA JHAREY. This was KANAN’s only black label record and her name was written as Miss Kanan Bala. The Gramophone Company in its booklet for advertisements of records announced the arrival of a new artiste. It must have sold well because the company brought out four more of her songs the following year in December,1930. The record details : 1) N 3146-Songs : a) ASI BOLEY SE GECHHEY AMAY- “Sahana” and b) AMAR CHOKHEY JODI BHALO LAAGEY-"Khambaj" and 2) N 3263-Songs a) BANSHI BAJEY HARA JOUBONEY-“Behag” and b) MANOHAR BESHE ESECHHILO-"Bheempalasri". These two were red label records. In 1931 there is no evidence available of any about any of her songs being recorded or published.

KANAN left The Gramophone Company with Najrul, Hiren Bose and Dhiren Das. The three were naturally looking for greener pastures and made contact with Mr. J.N.Ghosh, proprietor of the Megaphone Recording Company. Mr J.N. Ghosh had already decided to start his own recording company but when he found himself in august company with the three greats, he decided to take the plunge and in 1932 Megaphone started publishing records. KANAN time was too young to decide anything on her own and it is considered that Hiren Bose was her man of choice as far as her singing career was concerned. A relationship, perhaps romantic, had definitely developed between them, as shown by her future songs with each of which Hiren Bose was associated as the lyricist or the composer. KANAN at this stage of her life depended on Hiren Bose fr guidance. It was not all for career, her heart had been lost too to the exceptionally handsome Bose. Once in Megaphone she received her first proper music lessons not only from Hiren Bose but also from Kazi Najrul Islam , Vishwadev Chattopadhyay and Gyan Dutt .The training was a strenuous exercise which included performances in front of Ustads. Mr J.N. Ghosh’s company started publishing gramophone records under the banner of MEGAPHONE (SWADESHI) RECORD and KANAN was among the first artistes to get chance to record her songs . Her first disc here was numbered JNG 5 and the songs were a) CHHUYONA CHUNYONA SHATHH and b) PRIYO TOMAR LAAGI JAAGI SARA RAATI. Her name in the record was Smt. Kanan. This was published in September 1932 , to be followed in December 1932 by the record JNG 31 with songs a) PRANEY AMAR ETO BYATHA DILEY and b) BESECHHI BHALO BESECHHI. She was credited as Smt. Kanan (Talkie) here. All these four Megaphone songs were penned by Hiren Bose and tuned by Dhiren Das. It was around this time that that the trio along with the Kazi left Megaphone. The rebel poet of Bengal being dissatisfied with the royalty arrangements raised the banner of revolt and KANAN with mentor Hiren Bose and Dhiren Das joined COLUMBIA

RECORDS. It is clear that KANAN went where Hiren Bose took her. With Columbia 1933 she cut three discs, all basic songs- four in Bengali and two in Hindustani. The Bengali songs were in record number GE 2032- a) RINIKI JHINIKI PAYEL BAJEY and b) ELO MOR ANGINAY OBELAY AAJI KE, both songs written by Hiren Bose and tuned by him, was published in December, 1933 with KANAN credited as Smt Kananbala and followed by the second Bengali disc from Columbia, numbered GE 2058 –with songs a) RADHA NAMER MURALI KENO BAJAO and b) SAJAL NAYANE CHOLEY GORI, with KANAN’s name appearing as Smt Kanan. The last two had Hiren Bose as lyricist and Binode Bihari Ganguly as music director. KANAN’s first disc in Hindi came from Columbia with record number GE 2010 and songs : a) NANHI NANHI BUNDIYAAN and b) PIYA BIN MOHE. She was credited here as Miss Kananbala.

She rejoined the Megaphone Company soon after, possibly in late 1933 or early 1934. Her entry into the Swadeshi recording company resulted in a great number of records both in Bengali and Hindi, all basic, at a time when films had already started talking. These songs are lost practically today in the sense that the few that are still available have very poor audio quality. KANAN remained with Megaphone till 1947/48, when the company closed down for more than a decade. Her later songs from MANMOYEE GIRLS SCHOOL (1935) onwards have been better preserved and it is indeed a delight to listen to these songs even today. KANAN’s break with Hiren Bose came in the mid thirties when Bose started losing interest in KANAN, the woman. While Bose in his autobiography (JATISMAR) has outlined his professional connection with KANAN, the lady preferred to remain quiet about Bose totally and possibly therefore had to remain silent about her association with HMV and COLUMBIA at the beginning of her career. In fact in her autobiography KANAN has not named a single person who had harmed her or exploited her when she was young and unprotected and in the midst of hounds.

Her later training was from R.C. Boral, Pankaj Mallick, Kamal Dasgupta and others. KANAN has been honored as THE NIGHTINGALE OF BENGAL , by Miss Sandhya Sen, the eminent Bengali journalist. KANAN has been referred to as THE MELODY QUEEN OF INDIA by none other than the queen herself, that is Lata Mangeshkar. Her personality reflected Bengal’s culture, her music the magic of Bengal and her screen presence dynamic, majestic… Aspiring stars of later years accepted her as their role model and dreamt of becoming another KANANBALA. Many of them reached the top in Bengal but ultimately realizing that there could be one and only one KANANBALA. She quit film acting in 1959 and film production in 1965 but never severed touch with the industry till her death. She did not live the life of a recluse after retirement and was always in the forefront as a mother figure not only to the industry but devoted her time and energy for a number of social welfare organizations ……

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