BHUBANESWAR: Chitta Jena came as a bout of fresh air in Odia film music of the 1970s. The voice, as if honey-dipped, and the ease of his rendition, could warm the cockles of even the most unromantic hearts.
In an era of heavyweights, he created a place for himself with his mellifluousness. “Mo priya tharu kiye adhika sundara” (Sindura Bindu, 1976) which established him as a romantic singer went on be a timeless number. He followed it up with gems like “Kahin gale shyama ghana ae ghana kaala re” (Bandhu Mohanty, 1977) and “Priya bina jhure khaali” (Anurag, 1980).
With his passing on Tuesday at the age of 76, Odia film industry lost the singer who gave romanticism a certain sense of innocence and purity. Jena was undergoing treatment at a private hospital in Cuttack where he breathed his last.
Born in 1941, the singer’s musical journey started early in life. He drew inspiration from his parents - Jadumani Jena and Hemanta Kumari Jena - both ardent music lovers. He enrolled himself in National Music Association in Cuttack and learnt his craft under the tutelage of Pandit Bhubaneswar Mishra which probably gave his performance such assuredness.
Jena debuted as a playback singer in ‘Mana Akasha’, music of which was composed by Upendra Kumar. The film was released in 1974 but Jena had recorded the song a year before. He sung two duet songs in the film that was directed by Nitai Palit and based on Basant Mahapatra’s novel ‘Jhara Baula’. The duet songs - ‘Mora Kania Suna Pania’ and ‘E Bana Jharana Nachi Nachi Jaa Na’ - were appreciated by all and Jena’s singing prowess drew attention of several music directors.
Soon he was offered duets in both films and non-film projects. However, Jena was always keen on singing solo and was fed up with duet offers. According to film historian Surya Deo, in the film ‘Mamata’ (1975), Jena was expecting a solo song but was again offered a duet ‘Dekhi Se Banamalli’ with P Susheela which he refused. “It was actor Dhira Biswal who persuaded him to sing and the song became hugely popular,” he recalls.
Under the iconic Prafulla Kar, Jena continued to regale the listeners. The duo produced superhits like ‘Dekhi Se Bana Mali Radha Hele Batuli’, ‘Manika Alo Alo Manika’ and ‘Dhali Dia Sara’.For Kar, Jena’s death is a personal loss. “Although we were not born to the same mother, we were like brothers. He was a gifted singer. Professionally, we began working together with “Mamata.” I think I have experimented the most with his voice,” recalled Kar.
His contribution to Odia music industry was immeasurable but recognition deserted him. He never won a State Film Award but was felicitated by several organisations.Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik deeply condoled Jena’s death. “He will be remembered for his melodious voice and evergreen songs,” the CM said in a statement.