The Pujas my father folded up his small audio cassette company was oddly special. Our neighbourhood cassette shop had started selling cold drinks, chips and chocolates on the side — cassette sales had plunged and almost no children queued up before his tiny shop to get songs recorded on an empty cassette for Rs 10. My father, who ran everything from production to sales by himself, had only started manufacturing a few CDs, rather reluctantly.
That year, DJ Aqeel’s Keh Doon Tumhe had scorched every music countdown on TV and radio, firmly ushering in the age of remixes. My father, who had groaned and grumbled about Instant Karma’s Baahon Main Chale Aao remix — “why is that woman whining ‘hold me tight’ in the song like she has gas”, he raged — was producing a remix album himself. He picked some of his favourite Bengali songs to be remixed, sat with his old collaborator — a moody music arranger — waving animatedly and making beatboxing-like sounds, while directing him to add bass drops to Kishore Kumar’s Shing Nei Tobu Naam Tar Shingha’s music track. Weeks later — a few days before Pujas — huge boxes full of my father’s new ‘Pujo album’ cassettes came back from distributors, they had barely sold 500 pieces. Years later, my father said that his heart felt like it was physically breaking that day.
It was odd for my father to have time to go pandal-hopping, or come for pushpanjalis, or eat at restaurants — we had only seen a frenzied version of him around Pujas, loudly debating other ‘releases’ on phone, making rounds of retailers or accompanying folk artistes he had signed up for shows in the districts. That Puja, for the first time in years, he was home.
During the days, he played the original songs and then the remixes he had made, trying to understand the ‘mistakes’ he had made. The flipside was, we woke up to some of the best Hindi and Bengali songs all the Pujo days, and sat around our music player while my father...