‘Adhkhana Bhalo Chele Adha Mostaan': the duality within Arnob's odyssey

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"The right kind of music has this magical ability to make you forget everything all at once, or take you back exactly where you first heard it. You can experience it over and over again, it's magic, it's divine. Often we hear music and relate the sound we hear to the artist performing it. We make a connection of sorts with someone we have never met. And it's almost like he or she knew exactly what I was feeling at that time, or exactly what I needed to hear at that point of my life - that's kind of what I felt when I heard Arnob for the first time. It's hard to point out what exactly drew me to his music, but I knew I wasn’t the only one feeling it. This film is no documentary, it's just a peek into this crazy artist's head. It's Arnob, the one we love and adore and sing with on stage. And it's also the human being I've had the privilege of getting into all sorts of trouble with.”

- (Abrar Athar, director, ‘Adhkhana Bhalo Chele Adha Mostaan’)

OTT platform Chorki’s musical film ‘Adhkhana Bhalo Chele Adha Mostaan’ was released on September 23, to explore the musical journey of Arnob - the nation’s beloved singer-songwriter-composer, who is adored by millions of his fans for taking Bengali, or more specifically, ‘Bangla’ songs to a new height with mesmerizing lyrics and musical presentations. Revered as one of the most popular contemporary Bengali music artists, Arnob’s journey of life has not been so smooth at all. From his childhood, Arnob had to go through several heartbreaks, some devastating ups and downs, and most importantly - the constant battle with the dualities within himself. Abrar Athar, a young-talented filmmaker and one of the close buddies of Arnob, realized that this duality needed to be documented - for himself, and for the others. Thus, he went on filming the mesmerizing soliloquies and songs of Arnob, and borrowed a line from one of his popular songs - “Adhkhana Bhalo Chele, Adha Mostaan” - to name the creation, which this article is going to explore.

Performing 12 of his most popular songs which were remastered by his beloved team ‘Arnob & Friends’ featuring Imran Ahmed (guitar), Faizan R. Ahmed Buno (bass), Saadul Islam (lead guitar), Pantho Kanai (drums), Aneire Khan (backing vocalist, Abrar’s wife and Arnob’s childhood buddy) and Sunidhi Nayak (backing vocalist and Arnob’s wife) on a beautiful setting - Arnob candidly described the untold stories related to these songs, alongside other talking points regarding his life while roaming around the beach in Cox’s Bazar and in some other locations. Watching it on Chorki, this whole presentation felt like it was a therapy session for the fans at home.

He also described the connections with everything and everyone around him - talked about his past studio where he was frustrated to talk with the machines all the time; opened up about his friends and family, and also talked about his beloved dog - ‘Dubba’. Reflecting on childhood memories in Dhaka, Arnob reminisced the wonderful days he spent in Siddheswari and then in Malibagh; his playful activities such as climbing pipes, flying kites and spinning tops with his friends, his early schooling at the Willes Little Flower School and more. “After that, it slowly segued into moving to Shantiniketan. There, it was a completely different trip for me. I saw everyone would cycle to school, where you had no classrooms - classes were taken under trees. It was all very strangely fascinating to me. I loved the place," Arnob said about Shantiniketan, where he spent 20 years of his life while becoming the artist Arnob.

As the film is all about his constantly explored dualities, he then segued into narrating the grey part of his childhood, which was not a pleasant experience for him. "It was also when I realized my parents were going to separate. When I realized what was happening, that they'd no longer be together, I was only what, 8 or 9 years old, understood that we had to leave, move to Shantiniketan. I absolutely hated the idea. I remember Ammu (Suraiya Chowdhury, Arnob’s mother) pulling me away from the house but I kept running back to Abbu (Arnob’s father, eminent painter Swapan Chowdhury), crying and saying I won't go, to stay back - or that Abbu comes with us. But Abbu, I recall, what else could he do then? He just sat there, staring at the television, telling me to go with Ammu, trying to make me understand. Twice I broke free from Ammu's grasp and ran to him this way. The third time I just ran and clung to him, Abbu just silently pulled my hands away and gave this little push. And that felt so heavy! It was the heaviest thing I felt as a child.”

Director Abrar Athar was able to feature Arnob’s parents in this film, who expressed how proud they are of Arnob - as a human being, more than an artist. Describing the personal relationship between Arnob and himself, Abrar narrated: "A lot of how Arnob and I bonded was over this mutual feeling of not being able to deal with our own demons. More often than not our biggest enemies ourselves. Our doubts and our worries of being loved, accepted, understood or however you want to put this really complex feeling. It's just hard sometimes being able to deal with all this."

Despite garnering massive popularity among his fans and admirers for his talent, Arnob had to constantly fight against his dualities and the demon in his head. Arnob said, "I think the opposite of addiction is connection. Because I've seen, every time I dove in and sunk deep, I lacked any sort of connection. There'd be enough company in the hostel but I'd often still be lost in my own corner. Perhaps I wouldn’t always be actively participating. But I'm there, amidst everyone. I am used to living among others, I'm used to living in the hostels. Growing up in Shantiniketan together with everyone. When I am with everyone I guess I am fine, but... I cannot handle myself being alone. Most of the time I'd use substance and all... probably as a defence mechanism, as a coping mechanism. Because substance - it numbs you. It'd make me insensitive, careless, even ruthless. I often think about it, the way I had damaged myself, the way I'd hurt myself physically and mentally - it was crazy, insane.”

“In most of the cases, in all the relationships I've been in, I think I've always blamed others for things going wrong - but in a lot of cases and in many instances, it was actually my fault. I seemed to have meticulously orchestrated the annihilation, in a planned, scripted way. Although it wouldn’t seem that way at the moment, later I'd realize I did it all under some preset whim. As if, purposefully. As if I knew exactly what was coming, what the consequences would be. I could see things going wrong, but I just stood there watching - in denial,” Arnob said. However, from this realization, Arnob worked to heal himself over the years, with the help of his friends and family - and the love of his life, Sunidhi Nayak.

Back to the explanation of his duality, Arnob said, "I don't think I am responsible for this duality within myself. Say, when I am in Shantiniketan, that's a different setup entirely - singing Tagore songs, playing the Esraj. That's a different me, with a different mindset. Then when I come to Dhaka, I play guitar and drums, jam rock songs, shout like a rebel. Then, when it comes to my family - my father is Hindu, my mother is Muslim. Then, either I am okay, or I am not; Either I'm clean, or I'm using (substances). So I guess I've been oscillating between such polar extremes since childhood.”

“But you know what,” Arnob added, “I think I like to be somewhere in the middle, out amidst the grey. I don't feel the need to fit it anywhere. I don't like defending myself. I just can't accept it. Then again when it occurs to me that I don't belong anywhere, I can't settle with that either. I feel I'm not connected. Again. If I feel I belong somewhere, then I go back to thinking about that other self again. That is also me, that is also mine! It's a constant dilemma.”

The 70 minutes-long musical journey also featured Arnob’s father Swapan Chowdhury as a singer and artist during the 1971 Liberation War, which was documented and showcased in late eminent filmmaker Tareque Masud’s film ‘Muktir Gaan’. Abrar also projected a historical and rebellious resemblance between the father and son, as he mentioned about the 2014 Jadavpur University Students movement where Arnob’s popular track "Hok Kolorob" was used as a slogan in the protest. As a musical creation, the film also featured the glimpse of several jamming sessions of ‘Arnob & Friends’ - alongside featuring some of the remarks from filmmaker Piplu R Khan, producer and actor Gousul Alam Shaon and Arnob’s longtime musical acquaintance Saadul Islam. Sneak-peeks at his childhood photographs and the beautiful cinematography enhanced the film's attractiveness. Arnob’s close-up views and various camera angles were able to depict his restless yet smart intellect, and brought him even closer to his admirers.

In conclusion, Abrar said: "I am not sure what I wanted to say through this film. But I know this film was a Self-realization trip for me. As I hope, it was for you too. Arnob won't be around forever, but his creations will. And through this journey, I hope you learned to live a little. To sometimes take a break from this rat race we're in, and just soak it in. Because what good is life without the connections we made - or what good is life without any connection to nature or friends and most importantly ourselves. Here's to us, embracing the good and the bad. After all - we are all Adhkhana Bhalo, Adha Mostaan!"

[Songs presented in the film: “Chaina Bhabish,” “Rastay,” “Majhe Majhe Tobo Dekha Pai (addressed as 'Song of Rabindranath Tagore'),” “Amay Dhore Rakho,” “Jol Pore Pata Nore,” “Hariye Giyechi,” “She Je Boshe Ache,” “Hok Kolorob,” “Haar Kala (addressed as ‘Song of Abbasuddin Ahmed’),” “Brishti Raate,” “Adhkhana,” and “Shopnorogi”.]

  • Arnob
  • Adhkhana Bhalo Chele Adha Mostaan

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