I have been staring at the Garia Rajbari of South Garia for years without knowing what it was. You see, every year, before the Kali Puja festival, a bunch of my friends and I travel to the firecracker market of Champahati and we pass a crossing known as China More or Cheenar More (more being Bengali for crossing or crossroads), and right there, next to a pond, stands this palatial building. Last winter, I carried my camera with me and managed to take a shot. When I asked around in the local market, a shopkeeper told me that this was the house of someone called Durgadas Banerjee. A google search threw up the following information…
Durgadas Bannerjee (1893-1943)
Major Bengali actor in Calcutta Theatres. Born in Kalikapur, 24 Parganas District. Introduced to film by Sisir Bhaduri (Taj Mahal Film) in 1922. From his first major film, Maanbhanjan, until the late 30s, he was the definitive Bengali screen hero.
I get it, actors are rich people, and they can have large houses, but why here? Surely it would make more sense for someone who worked in the studios in Tollygunge, to have a house in Calcutta (Kolkata)? And the house certainly does not look like it was built in Durgadas’s lifetime. So I returned, armed with a camera, and with my friend Ranajit, determined to get to the bottom of this. What I found was completely new to me. As it turns out, Garia Rajbari is the ancestral home of actor Durgadas Banerjee, politician Bijoy Banerjee (who served as speaker of the Bengal Legislative Assembly) and musician Sudipto “Buti” Banerjee of Bengali rock band, Cactus!