A long, fruitful journey
KATHMANDU, AUG 07 -
Shanti Thatal’s appearance belies her age. The 74-year-old is still as vibrant today as she must have been when she was younger; her face has a youthful glow, and she is very animated when she speaks. Credited with being the first female music composer in the Nepali film industry, the Darjeeling-born Thatal is certainly a woman of many talents, and has sung more than 200 songs till date.
Speaking with journalists at the nepa~laya premises in Kalikasthan, Thatal was extremely candid in sharing her life experiences. She is currently in Kathmandu for her third performance at Paleti, as part of the Paleti Utsav to be held this weekend, and has been rehearsing rigorously for the same.
“I was always a sickly little girl,” she said, delving into her childhood. “And that meant I got a lot of attention from my family.” Thatal—the fourth among 10 siblings—said that she felt connected to music in a significant way from a very young age. “My mother always tells stories about how I would spend hours dancing and singing as a child. It’s unfortunate that there weren’t any video cameras back then; I would’ve loved to see the footage now.”
Thatal used to sing at school, and her first big-scale public performance was when she was in the seventh grade and called on to sing at a welcoming ceremony for veteran litterateur Bal Krishna Sama, an event that left an indelible impression on the young girl. “It encouraged me to continue looking for opportunities to perform,” she said. Eventually, Thatal began providing live vocals for staged dramas, because in those days, she said, they didn’t have a recording system. “One of my favourite moments was going to Kolkata to work on the play Roop Katha; I still remember it like it was yesterday,” she said.
Learning music under the guidance of Shiva Prasad Singh and Bhanu Ghosh until the eighth grade, Thatal was able to retain a focus on her particular passion that most children her age didn’t have. “I invested much more time in my music than I did on my studies.” In 1956, she was admitted into the Rabindra Bharati University in Kolkata, which she attended for the next three years being trained in music. Following this, Thatal returned to her hometown of Darjeeling, and gave her matriculation exams independently, before going on to seek the mentorship of musician Amber Gurung during her college days at the Himalaya Kala Mandir, a music, arts and drama institute.
Thatal’s big break came in the form of an invite to compose music for the Nepali film Paralko Aago in 1978, based on a story of the same name by Guru Prasad Mainali. And then, four years later, she received another offer to compose for the film Bachana Chahane Haru, an assignment she took up with great enthusiasm.
“A majority of the actors and crew members on these films were from Darjeeling,” Thatal said. “And since it was sort of a landmark moment in terms of filmmaking in the area, we all worked free of cost.”
In the long and illustrious career that followed, the
musician went on to work as a music teacher under the Central Government of Sikkim, a post that led, two years later, to her appointment as the Assistant Cultural Officer of Sikkim. “It was an incredible experience and we got to do things that hadn’t been done before,” she said. “We set up the Cultural Department, and were able to bring about a general upliftment in the music scene in Sikkim.” Thatal remained at the job until 2000, when she officially retired.
Of course, she hasn’t been idle. She has continued to compose music and sing, although her performances are few and far between. Thatal is still unmarried, something that she is asked a lot about. “It just never happened for me, but it’s not something I regret or worry about,” she said. “I’ve been married to my music, and that has been enough for me.” The singer hopes to eventually retire completely, spending the rest of her days listening to music.
Thatal is to perform on August 11.The Paleti Utsav will be held at DAV School in Jawalakhel between August 9-12 and will feature solo performances by Amber Gurung, Phatteman and Aavaas besides Thatal. The Utsav marks the completion of ten years of Paleti
Posted on: 2012-08-07 08:58