A galaxy of famed film and stage actors and directors from West Bengal and music maestros from Kolkata as well as Bollywood, including singer-composer Shankar Mahadevan, captivated the 5,000-strong audience attending the 39th North American Bengali Conference 2019 at the Baltimore Convention Center in Baltimore, Maryland on the July 4 weekend.
Popularly known as NABC 2019, the July 5 to 7 gathering of Bengalis from all over North America, hailing from both West Bengal and Bangladesh and other parts of the world, left people yearning for more cultural fare at the end of the three-day jamboree.
The conference was organized by Sanskriti Inc, which is one of the oldest cultural associations of Bengali diaspora in the U.S., with the theme “Bhubanojora Ashonokhani” (Embracing the world with humanity), the famous line from the song written by Rabindranath Tagore.
“What brings us together in this two-three days is our shared culture and heritage, not to mention the Bengali food, love of music, art, films and poetry,” said Swadesh Chatterjee, a longtime political and community activist who was felicitated at the conference.
The event started on July 5 with a spectacular opening ceremony named “Amader ei Jibno Gaan,” a Broadway-style musical depicting the story of every Indian American — growing up in India, immigrating to the U.S., adjusting to a distant land and finally handing over the baton of identity to the next generation. About 160 members participated in the program.
For the first time in the history of NABC two famous drama groups from Kolkata participated in one conference.
They included “Cinemar Mato” by Bratyo Basu and his group Bratyojon. Basu is currently a minister in the West Bengal government. The second drama “Khela Ghar” was performed by another famous group named ‘Prachyo.”
Legendary artist Deshankar Halder participated in that play along with Biplab Roychowdhury and others.
Music, the staple of Bengali culture, was aplenty with Rabindra Sangeet singers including Shamik Pal, Kamalini Mukherjee and Laisa Ahmed Lisa from Bangladesh, giving recitals. Several famous musical talents from India covering all areas of Bengali cultural tapestry participated, including famous exponents of contemporary Bengali singing such as Ragav Bandhyopadhyay, Rupank Bagchi, Anweshaa Jimut Roy and Sounak Chattopadhyaya.
While Suchismita Das made a superb presentation on the journey of Ghazal and Thumri, there were folk singers like Tulika and Gangadhar Mondal, elocutionist Atulita Bannerjee as also “Miles,” the famous band music group from Bangladesh who made remarkable presentations.
The star Bollywood attraction of the conference was Shankar Mahadevan who, along with his 22-member team mesmerized the audience for more than two hours singing excellent rhythmic Bollywood numbers.
Shubha Mudgal, a renowned vocalist of Hindustani classical music, who has a diverse repertoire that includes the genres of Khayal, Thumri and Dadra as also popular Indian pop music, gave a scintillating recital.
The famous Bengali Adda, which roughly translates into incessant chatting on anything and everything under the sun, was in full swing in between various cultural events, with small knots of people in different corners holding animated conversations.
Sudipta Bhawmik, an award-winning actor, director and playwright from New Jersey, who attended the conference said in a Facebook post that the biggest attraction at the convention for him was not the dazzling dance and musical performances of famous artists nor the star-studded movies or stage lays, but chance meetings with long lost friends and reconnecting with them.
Sarmista Adhya, president of Prantik,the Bengali Association of Greater Baltimore said, “While the cultural programs are the main attraction for this event, a good number of us attend NABC to meet friends and family and take part in some ‘adda’, Bengal’s favorite pastime.”
A big draw at the conference was the presence of a host of film personalities, including directors Srijit Mukherjee, Nandita Roy, Shibaprasad Mukherjee, Reshmi Mitra and Srijit Ghosh who attended the film festival, besides actors like Rituparna Sengupta, Indranil Sengupta, Rudranil Ghosh,Shrela Majumdar,Ambarish Bhattacharya and others.
The organizers said they arranged to bring around 60 artists from India, thanks to the help of the U.S. Consulate in Kolkata.
The conference also had dance recitals, as well as literary seminars and business and health seminars that was attended by more than sixty business establishments from India and the U.S.
“AT NABC, we celebrate our great culture and heritage of Bengal, our love and passion, and our nostalgia gets blended with our being here in the U.S., and we celebrate the magnificent manifestation of Bengali culture,” said Biswajit Sen, chairperson of 2019 NABC, in his welcoming remarks.