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‘Boro Lok er Beti Lo’ original singer & composer Ratan Kahar gets Padma Bhushan - GetBengal story

30 January, 2024 17:35:36
‘Boro Lok er Beti Lo’ original singer & composer Ratan Kahar gets Padma Bhushan - GetBengal story

Padma Bhushan Ratan Kahar, aka 'Pagla Sursadhak', Birbhum, West Bengal

He is often called the ‘Pagla Sursadhak’ (mad musician) by the villagers of Birbhum, as he steps along the red laterite village paths of Suri, at times he is seen running along and singing some of the numbers he just created or even testing the tune with locals. But this ‘mad music lover and creator’ doesn’t pay much heed to the outside world, even not to the way his lyrics and tunes being plagiarised by Bollywood or not being recognised, no due awards, which he expected but never received for ages. He is more concerned about the poverty he has fought, yet keeping the folk songs of Birbhum alive. That very Ratan Kahar, a man who loves wearing his oft-soiled dhotis, singing Bhadu songs along village tracts, not attired in any colourful outfits like the Bauls, is happy today. Smiling at last he says: “I am very happy that I received the Padma Bhushan. But I am more concerned on how to protect the lyrics and tunes, I do not have them written down anywhere, I am also concerned even at this old age about the leaking roof on my head.”

Kahar has never thought of selling his songs for money. It was more of singing for the love of music, which is evident when his song ‘Boro Loker Beti Lo’ became a hot shot Bollywood number, without any recognition given to Kahar or even giving him any form of financial aid for the millions that Bollywood singer Badshah made from this song. It was in 2020, that Bollywood singer Badshah’s song ‘Genda Phool’ used a portion taken from the famous folk song ‘Boro Loker Beti Lo’ first written and sung by Kahar. Though many protested on social media and the name of the original singer Ratan Kahar came into the limelight, he still got no recognition and not even a royalty from the Bollywood number that is still minting millions. Some say Badshah offered him some money during the Pandemic Lockdown, but that was minuscule to the amount he earned for the song.  

Kahar said, “I sang ‘Boro Loker Beti Lo’ in Prasar Bharti first. Later, I gave the song to Rajkumar Saha of a different clan. They used to sing the song and from there, the song started spreading. Later Swapna Chakraborty copied the song from my notebook and recorded it in 1976 and even back then I was not given due credit. Many people have claimed songs written by me as their own. I am poor and helpless. What can I do if people deprive me of credit?” Kahar has no money to fight the Bollywood bigwigs in court. After ‘Genda Phool’ ran into a controversy, people from West Bengal started taking to social media to slam Badshah for not giving Kahar credit. Later, the Bollywood singer did give Kahar his due credit. Kahar explained, “I don't have enough space at home to store papers, manuscripts, and lyrics. In fact, I didn't even have a proper roof over my head. I have faced numerous hardships, but no one has come to my aid. The countless songs I wrote during those days may never be recovered or even may have been taken by other composers and they sang their own way. I hardly know of those unless someone highlights it in the media like it happened in the case of Genda Phool.” Badshah, in collaboration with Payal Dev and Jacqueline Fernandez, had raked in a whopping 50 million views for the Genda Phool song and though a sizable chunk of the country watched it, most of them were unaware of the song’s exploitative history. 


Kahar, started as a ‘Bhadugaan’ artiste, almost 60 years ago, going around the villages of Birbhum, singing Bhadu songs. Bhadu songs are a form of folk songs related to Bengal’s ‘Bhadu’ festival, celebrated primarily in the southwestern parts of West Bengal. A resident of Suri, Kahar remembers his Bhadu song days and even his first song recorded for a programme on Prasar Bharati in 1972 when he received Rs 77 and 15 paise as remuneration. Bhadu is a festival to celebrate the Aus paddy harvesting in Bhadra, the fifth month in the Bengali calendar. It is largely celebrated in south Bengal’s Burdwan, Bankura, Purulia and Birbhum districts. 

There is an interesting story of how Bhadu songs were popularised in Birbhum, a district where Kahar resides, from Purulia. According to a myth, Purulia’s Bhadu appeared in the dream of a kothi singer in Birbhum who was asked to write Bhadu songs and sing them while travelling with a group in different parts of the district with one person dressed up as Bhadu. This inspired the formation of many Bhadu groups in Birbhum, and Bhadu singers like Kahar. Most of the performers in Bhadu folklore like Kahar are from the Bahujan and Dalit communities.

“I have sung other folk songs also like Tusu, Jhumur and Alkab. I have written around 250 songs, but ‘Boro Loker Beti Lo’ turned out to be the most famous and I sang it first when I was just 16 years of age.” May Kahar keep singing and composing for many more years. 

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