The sen of music

The late nineties witnessed an abrupt explosion in Indian popular music with a number of bands belting out their numbers and coming out with albums that caught the eye of music lovers all over the country. One band which started out in a small way from a barsati and stayed on to conquer was Euphoria, whose forte is Hind rock. The brain behind this band was a medico-turned-musician Dr Palash Sen, the lead vocalist and lyricist who first put the band together. Euphoria blazed a new trail in music and its albums were lapped up in no time. The band also performed extensively across the country, enrapturing music aficionados around the world with hit concerts.

Euphoria — The story of Palash Sen by noted painter and poet Ashish Kate, sets out to demystify the story of Euphoria and Palash Sen. The biography is by no means a structured one and the events in Sen’s life are hardly in chronological order. The biographer has adopted the question-answer format and the questions are not restricted to the subject’s musical journey alone. So, you have Sen holding forth on issues of public interest like education, corruption, Kashmir, Indo-Pak relationships and so on. What is appreciable is that even the nitty gritties have been given prominence, probing queries have not been sidetracked and frank opinions have been expressed.

Sen, a third generation musician, elaborates on his early years, his baptism into music by his father and uncle, both well known musicians in their time, and how the idea of Euphoria first germinated in his mind. The teething troubles faced by the band before they could get their first album Dhoom released, the success that followed, the benefactors who stood by them and the albums that came after — Phir Dhoom, Gully and Mehfuz — have all found mention in the book.

Palash Sen aka Polly (after the great Indian cricketer, Polly Umrigar) lavishes praise on fellow musicians and even risks criticism by placing singer and music director Shankar Mahadevan a notch above Oscar winner A R Rahman.

Superlatives flow freely when the subject veers to musicians like Adnan Sami, Daler Mehndi, Mika, Shuba Mudgal, Neeraj Sridhar and so on. What takes the cake, however, is Sen’s reply to a question where Kate takes Lata Mangeshkar’s and Sen’s name in the same breath. Says Sen, “Lata Mangeshkar is the heart and soul of India. I am a speck of dust compared to her.”

Modesty does not stand in the way when he talks about his band being the best in the business and the efforts taken by him and his band-mates, most notably his alter ego, Debajyothi Bhaduri (DJ for short) to popularise Hind rock and take it all over the world. For the record, Euphoria played before a crowd of 3,00,000 in Memphis, USA and were also given the honour of performing before the United Nations General Assembly along with the renowned Pakistan-based band Junoon. The book also talks about how Sen plunged into despair when two highly rated members of his band had to leave after strains developed in their relationship and how his sister Dahlia, a lawyer who also doubles up as a lyricist, has had a soothing effect on the band.

Talking about his alma mater in Delhi, Sen recollects his friendship in school with his junior Shahrukh Khan, who later went on to become the Badshah of Bollywood.

Although many of the questions are repetitive and the answers appear too contrived at times, the biography does have some engaging moments and makes for a good read, especially for Euphoria fans who would be thrilled to bits when Sen recounts with a touch of nostalgia, the making of lyrics that have stood the test of time, such as Maaeri, his tryst with cinema when he played a pivotal role in Meghna Gulzar’s Filhaal, and his abiding friendship with ace lyricist and filmmaker Gulzar.

A number of action pictures of Palash Sen and his band are an added attraction to the biography. What detracts from the merit of the work is biographer Ashish Kate’s unbridled admiration for the musician, which is apparent in the fulsome praise  that has been lavished on the latter. This, at certain points in the book, turns the biography into a hagiography.

No reason has been adduced as to why such a popular and renowned vocalist like Sen has remained outside the periphery of Bollywood, while most of his contemporaries have tasted great success as playback singers.

Singer Shan says in a tribute to Sen and the band, “Euphoria has reached an iconic stature. When you listen to Euphoria’s music, you know that it is Hind Rock. They have created their own music genre. And in years to come, when it will be an accepted category, it is going to be pioneered by Palash and his boys.”

Prophetic words indeed, for, Euphoria and its creator Palash Sen are certain to rock for a long time to come.

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