Pankaj Kumar Mullick

Introduction | Early Life

Known as Pankaj Kumar Mullick in his native Bengal, he was renowned across the rest of India and the world simply as Pankaj Mullick. A music composer and singer par excellence, Pankaj Mullick was also an actor, a playwright, a writer, a teacher, an administrator and above all a kind, gentle, magnanimous and extremely humble person. His career at All India Radio spanned 50 years, while his career in Indian films was spread over 38 years. With nearly 5,000 songs and compositions to his credit along with nearly 150 films, Pankaj Mullick’s contribution to the world of Indian films and Indian popular music was awe-inspiring.

Famous for several pioneering activities in the realm of music, his brilliance was rightly celebrated during his lifetime. Despite the fact that more than four decades have passed since he breathed his last, Pankaj Mullick is still remembered and revered as an artiste of rare genius. His creations are evergreen and his legacy – immortal.

Born on May 10, 1905 Pankaj Mullick left the mortal world behind on February 19, 1978.

The First Man of Rabindrasangeet.

Early in his life, overcoming several existing social taboos, he trained under Durgadas Bandopadhyay for classical and light classical music. In his late teens, under the tutelage of Dinendranath Tagore (Rabindranath Tagore’s grand nephew) he picked up the nuances of rendering Tagore’s songs, now known as Rabindrasangeets, to go on to earn the epithet of The First Man of Rabindrasangeet.

On Radio

Pankaj Mullick joined All India Radio (AIR), Kolkata, initially known as the Indian Broadcasting Corporation, in 1927, within a month of its inception. Then onwards, he was an integral part of Indian radio till 1977 – a period of 50 years

At AIR Pankaj Mullick set music to the immortal Mahishasuramardini, a programme that has become a part of Bengali culture and synonymous with Durga Puja. It is heard every Mahalaya morning even till today. It has had an uninterrupted run since its beginning in 1931. A film too has been made celebrating this epic radio programme.

Pankaj Kumar Mullick conceptualized and started the immensely popular live-music class titled Sangeet Shikshar Ashar which he conducted for a record 47 years on the trot. There is no other parallel to this achievement of his across the world.

Pankaj Mullick was also a part of innumerable feature programmes in his capacity as music director, singer and playwright during his lengthy tenure at AIR

In Films

In 1931, during the silent-era of films, Pankaj Mullick became a part of Indian cinema.

For nearly 25 years after that, he was a part of the star studded New Theatres Studio team, right till the closure of the legendary film institution.

Luminaries like K L Saigal, S D Burman, Hemanta Mukherjee, Geeta Dutt and Asha Bhosle sang under Pankaj Mullick’s music direction as did several other prominent artistes from Bengal and the rest of the country.

Incidentally, Pankaj Mullick was the first music director who introduced Rabindrasangeet successfully in films.

He introduced interlude and interlinking music for the first time in Indian film-songs.

Then again, at a time when film-making was not as prolific as it is now, he sang in, composed music for and occasionally acted in close to 150 movies.

Pankaj Mullick was a part of Indian cinema from 1931 to 1969, a period of about 38 years.

The movies he was associated with were in Bengali, Hindi, Urdu and Tamil.

Interestingly enough, Pankaj Mullick, along with director Nitin Bose was instrumental in the introduction of playback singing in Indian cinema.

Salient Achievements

Pankaj Mullick recorded his first song when he was only 18 years old.

He was the first person to popularize Rabindranath Tagore songs, popularly known as Rabindrasangeet, by unleashing their magic among the masses.

Pankaj Mullick’s music career spanned an awe-inspiring 50 years, during which period he composed over 5,000.

In the latter part of his career, he was appointed as the Honorary Advisor to the Folk Entertainment Section of the Government of West Bengal, by the then Chief Minister of West Bengal, Dr Bidhan Chandra Roy. He was associated with the department, known as Lok Ranjan Sakha, in Bengali, from 1953 to 1968.

Pankaj Kumar Mullick was regarded as one of the founding fathers of Bangla Adhunik Gaan, a sub-genre of Bengali songs, still very much in vogue.

Pankaj Mullick also had several popular non-film songs in Hindi, Urdu and Bengali to his credit.

He is widely acknowledged as the first to introduce elements of Western Music to Indian cinematic and non-cinematic songs without distorting their Indian flavour.

Pankaj Mullick recorded his first song when he was only 18 years old.

He was the first person to popularize Rabindranath Tagore songs, popularly known as Rabindrasangeet, by unleashing their magic among the masses.

Pankaj Mullick’s music career spanned an awe-inspiring 50 years, during which period he composed over 5,000.

In the latter part of his career, he was appointed as the Honorary Advisor to the Folk Entertainment Section of the Government of West Bengal, by the then Chief Minister of West Bengal, Dr Bidhan Chandra Roy. He was associated with the department, known as Lok Ranjan Sakha, in Bengali, from 1953 to 1968.

Pankaj Kumar Mullick was regarded as one of the founding fathers of Bangla Adhunik Gaan, a sub-genre of Bengali songs, still very much in vogue.

Pankaj Mullick also had several popular non-film songs in Hindi, Urdu and Bengali to his credit.

He is widely acknowledged as the first to introduce elements of Western Music to Indian cinematic and non-cinematic songs without distorting their Indian flavour.

Major Awards & Prestigious Titles

In the wake of a glittering career in music Pankaj Mullick, several awards and titles were bestowed upon him.

Pankaj Mullick won the President’s Medal, now known as the National Award, for Best Music Direction in films on quite a few occasions, following the introduction of the awards in a post-independent India, despite the fact that the bulk of his film-work was done during the time India was fighting for independence.

He was also honoured with the Bengal Film Journalists’ Association or BFJA Award for his work as music director in films, quite a number of times.
Among the many Lifetime Achievement Awards he received, he received one from All India Radio and another from the renowned music company HMV, now known as Saregama Pvt. Ltd.

Pankaj Kumar Mullick was conferred the title of Surosagar in 1931, the title of Sangeet Ratnakar in 1962, the Padmashree in 1970 and the Dadasaheb Phalke Puraskar in 1973. The Dadasaheb Phalke Puraskar is the highest award accorded by the Government of India in the field of Indian Cinema. Interestingly enough, he was the first music-director to be honoured so. The prestigious title of Rabindra Tattacharya was conferred upon him 1977, just a year before he passed away.

Rare Honours

Some awards do not have a material existence, but are extremely valuable in their own rights. They are thus perceived as honours and Pankaj Mullick was the recipient of many such –

The fact that Rabindranath Tagore himself allowed Pankaj Mullick to set tune to a number of his poems is proof of the esteem in which Tagore held Pankaj Mullick’s abilities as a tunesmith. The most popular instance of this rare honour is the song – Diner Sheshey Ghumer Deshey, where Tagore’s poem Shesh Kheya was set to tune by Pankaj Mullick and used in the film Mukti in 1937.

The launch of Doordarshan or television in India in 1959 witnessed Pankaj Mullick singing the inaugural song.

Then again, at the behest of Sarat Bose, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose’s elder brother, he sang Kadam Kadam Barhaye Jaa … set to his version of the tune. Attending the recording was the then Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru. Other members of Netaji’s family too lent their voices to this recording.

High on the list of the Rare Honours bestowed on Pankaj Mullick is probably the incident where Prime Minister Nehru requested him to sing and record the Indian National Anthem – Jana Gana Mana… in a way that would set the parameters to be followed during the singing of the anthem by all Indians. The recording of the National Anthem in the voice of Pankaj Mullick was then played across the nation at almost every public place to familiarise every Indian citizen with the anthem of their newly formed independent country.

As a result of such a life, where milestones were regular and frequent, even in the days when the term globalization was quite unheard of, Pankaj Kumar Mullick enjoyed great fame and popularity both nationally and internationally.
In the fraternity of artistes, be they singers or composers or actors or eminent personalities from any field, all had a tremendous amount of reverence and admiration for Pankaj Mullick.

After all, he was a luminary whose brightness helped others shine and whose humility, despite his towering achievements, was a beacon of inspiration for many.

Rare Honours

Some awards do not have a material existence, but are extremely valuable in their own rights. They are thus perceived as honours and Pankaj Mullick was the recipient of many such –

The fact that Rabindranath Tagore himself allowed Pankaj Mullick to set tune to a number of his poems is proof of the esteem in which Tagore held Pankaj Mullick’s abilities as a tunesmith. The most popular instance of this rare honour is the song – Diner Sheshey Ghumer Deshey, where Tagore’s poem Shesh Kheya was set to tune by Pankaj Mullick and used in the film Mukti in 1937.

The launch of Doordarshan or television in India in 1959 witnessed Pankaj Mullick singing the inaugural song.

Then again, at the behest of Sarat Bose, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose’s elder brother, he sang Kadam Kadam Barhaye Jaa … set to his version of the tune. Attending the recording was the then Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru. Other members of Netaji’s family too lent their voices to this recording.

High on the list of the Rare Honours bestowed on Pankaj Mullick is probably the incident where Prime Minister Nehru requested him to sing and record the Indian National Anthem – Jana Gana Mana… in a way that would set the parameters to be followed during the singing of the anthem by all Indians. The recording of the National Anthem in the voice of Pankaj Mullick was then played across the nation at almost every public place to familiarise every Indian citizen with the anthem of their newly formed independent country.

As a result of such a life, where milestones were regular and frequent, even in the days when the term globalization was quite unheard of, Pankaj Kumar Mullick enjoyed great fame and popularity both nationally and internationally.
In the fraternity of artistes, be they singers or composers or actors or eminent personalities from any field, all had a tremendous amount of reverence and admiration for Pankaj Mullick.

After all, he was a luminary whose brightness helped others shine and whose humility, despite his towering achievements, was a beacon of inspiration for many.

Posthumous Honours

After his passing, honours kept pouring in –

The Government of West Bengal renamed Ritchie Road, a prominent and busy road in South Kolkata, as Pankaj Mullick Sarani in his honour.

In 2005, the Department of Information and Culture of the Government of West Bengal celebrated his birth centenary with great pomp and splendor.
In 2006, the Government of India, paid tribute to his memory by issuing a commemorative postage stamp in his honour. The Honourable Governor of West Bengal and the Honourable Minister of State for Communications and IT, Government of India released the stamp at a glittering event in Kolkata prestigious G D Birla Sabhagar

His residence at Sebak Baidya Street is a Heritage Site.

In 2010, the Kolkata Municipal Corporation supported the erection of a statue in his honour at Maddox Square Park on Pankaj Mullick Sarani.