From Cliff Richard to Neil Diamond and The Beatles, the classics still play in the Bow Barracks—Kolkata’s Anglo-Indian quarter. Anjan Dutt, the director of Bow Barracks Forever, talks about singers and tracks that he listened to while growing up among Anglo-Indians in Kolkata. Direct or indirect influences from these artistes have been incorporated into the soundtrack of Bow Barracks Forever, which Dutt worked on with his son.
The Beatles: ‘I saw her standing there’ is a song I remember listening to when I spent my school vacations in Kolkata. Anglo-Indian musicians used to perform this song very often at jam sessions. At that time we were all trying to be like The Beatles, everyone had a haircut and boots like them. My first girlfriend was an Anglo-Indian, and I remember falling in love for the first time because of this song. ‘Jab maine dekha use, standing there’, is the number on the soundtrack that was inspired by this Beatles hit. Shaan’s done a great job on it.
Cliff Richard: Another evergreen musician is Cliff Richard—I’ve heard his songs being played in numerous Anglo homes. He has a strong connection with Kolkata—he lived in the city till he was eight. He came to do a show in Kolkata in the late 1960s and spoke about his memories, like travelling in the trams. I managed to be an usher at the show and got to see his performance. This was a time when he was more rock than pop—he had long hair and played the electric guitar. I love songs such as ‘Travelling light’, ‘Living doll’ and ‘Blue moon’.
Jim Reeves: His whisky-grained voice has always been a rage with all Anglo-Indians. They identify with him very strongly, and it helps that he’s sung a lot of Christmas carols. I’m sure even in the US or Britain, no one celebrates his birth and death anniversaries with so much love as Anglo-Indians do. I’ve always loved ‘He’ll have to go’ and ‘Guilty’.
Peter Starstedt: His hit ‘Where do you go to my lovely’ is much loved. It’s about his first love, who goes on to become a classy, glamorous woman, and who he knows no longer belongs to the world of the backstreets. What’s most interesting about him is that there are rumours he had a connection with Bow Barracks—he was either born there or near there, or had some family there.
Connie Francis: I love some of her lovely songs such as ‘Never on Sunday’ and ‘Lipstick on your collar’. I had seen Usha Uthup singing ‘Never on Sunday’ while playing the guitar, and the memory stuck with me. When I made this movie, that memory came back to me and I was sure I wanted her to sing for the soundtrack and be in the movie. Well, she does both—plays herself in the film and sings ‘Teri meri Merry Christmas’, which we wrote together.
Frank Sinatra: We listened to Frank Sinatra when we were more grown up and fell out of love. Numbers such as ‘My way’ are haunting songs and were meant for such occasions.
Neil Diamond: Songs such as ‘If you go away’, ‘Morningside’ and ‘Play me’, which are slow, sentimental and full of imagery, inspired some of the slower tracks on the album. I still have these old records and listen to them on the gramophone.