Kolkata: Obscured by a row of trees and hidden behind a clutter of residential buildings, the two-storey house on South End Park near Gariahat is barely visible. A rusty iron gate veils the entrance and conceals the crumbling walls. It’s difficult to imagine that the modest, ramshackle building – declared a heritage structure in 2006 – once throbbed with life and music. There’s nothing other than a couple of plaques at the entrance which set it apart. ‘Shachin Dev Burman‘, reads one, while another announces that the composer had lived in this house.
But it’s not enough to honour the singer-composer and his son RD Burman, who had spent the first 15 years of his life at the house, believe their relatives. The latter want the house to be converted into a museum and a music research centre named after the father-son duo. In a letter to local councillor Baiswanor Chatterjee, RD Burman‘s maternal uncle Abhijit Dasgupta has sought an immediate renovation of the building, which poses a threat to passers-by. “Last week, a slab collapsed from the first-floor balcony and narrowly missed a group of children on the road. This is a heritage building and deserves to be conserved in a much better way. This house is their only surviving link with Kolkata,” said Dasgupta, a film-maker and a former Doordarshan official. He has also asked the civic authorities to rename the road ‘Dev Burman Park’.
Built in 1948, the Dev Burmans had moved into the house from a rented property at Hindusthan Park where RD Burman was born. He spent the better part of his school life here and continued to stay at the house even after SD Burman and his wife Meera moved to Mumbai. “He took his first steps into the world of music at this house, learning to play the sarod and the tabla,” said Dasgupta.
He recalled how the young RD would shoot the street lights at South End Park with his air gun from the terrace of the house. “We would climb up to the terrace and play pranks all afternoon. RD loved to play the mouth organ and was fond of western music. He would slip away to a music store on Lindsay Street and buy records. Ever since he was a child, RD had a tremendous sense of rhythm. He was good at playing badminton and would make strange rhythmic grunts on the court,” said Dasgupta.
It was from the South End Park residence that a young RD had travelled to the HMV studio in Dum Dum for his first recording. After his grandmother’s death in the late-eighties, RD sold off the house. But he continued to visit the Dasguptas and would drop in at the house every time he was in Kolkata. “He would stare at the house and turn nostalgic,” said Dasgupta.
In March, 2006, KMC had written to the owners of the house, asking them to undertake ‘repairing/restoration work’. “A decade has passed but no repair work has been done,” said Dasgupta.
“Since it’s a heritage structure, the KMC can take it over and renovate it. This building needs to be preserved. I have already approached the mayor with the proposal,” said Chattopadhyay.