The thatched roof of his home is at odds with the dazzle of fame, quite like Bhuban Badyakar himself, detached and philosophical about his tuneful cry to sell “kacha badam” striking the chord nationwide and spawning a dance movement.
The peanut vendor, who has invites to perform in Bangladesh and Dubai, says modestly that his dreams were never big. He stays grounded, even three months after a video of him singing “kacha badam” as he travelled through villages on his motorbike was posted on YouTube, propelling him to instant stardom.
“I am a simple peanut seller. The money I got so suddenly, I tried to use to buy a dream second-hand car but that was not really me,” Badyakar, who is yet to get a passport, told PTI.
He bought the car at the peak of his fame but sold it after an accident.
“I don’t really need a car,” he added with a wry smile.
The song in Bengali, making an appeal to people to buy his peanuts and promising they were of the best quality, became a sensation with celebrities such as Rajkumar Rao and Bhumi Pednekar, as well as Instagram influences and Tiktokkers posting their dance videos on multiple social media platforms.
It was not just about Indians dancing to Badyakar’s tunes. Tanzanian brother-sister Tiktok duo of Kili and Neema Paul, for instance, also put out their video.
It has been a remarkable journey from obscurity to fame, with Badyakar recording songs, holding stage shows and fielding the media.
Standing outside his home, which shows no signs of his brush with showbiz, the “kacha badam” seller said he is still in disbelief about how social platforms like YouTube and Facebook could turn him into such a big name.
He also admits that sudden fame and money offers had spun his head a bit. At one stage, he contemplated giving up selling peanuts as offers of stage performances poured in.
However, Badyakar stays rooted to the red soil of his village in the tribal heartland of Birbhum, about 190 km from the West Bengal capital Kolkata.
“I am just a peanut seller. I will sing but also continue to sell peanuts.”
On the outside, there is not much that has changed for Badyakar, who is in his 50s and lives with his two sons and wife in a mud house. The roof has been repaired here and there with plastic and palm leaves.
Other than “kacha badam”, Badyankar has composed two more songs.
“I have penned two more songs – one song is ‘Saregama’ and another about my experiences of buying a second-hand car, having an accident and then vowing not to drive a car again. The song is called ‘Amar Notun Gari’,” he said.
He also made a trip to Mumbai recently to record the second song. He was accompanied by Gopal Ghosh, chief executive of music label Godhuli Bela Music, which has entered into a one-year contract with Badyakar.
Ghosh said he has advised the singer to construct a house for himself first. The company has paid Rs 3 lakh to the singer for the contract.
The ‘pucca’ house being built with part of this advance and grants from a rural housing scheme is now coming up.
“We are also trying to make sure that he receives a royalty for his song from those who use it,” Ghosh said.
According to locals in the village, Badyakar struggled his whole life to make ends meet by farming on a small patch of land and supplementing his income by selling peanuts. His sons work as daily wagers while his daughter is married.
“His financial condition has improved but he still remains a poor man,” said one villager.
Fame has brought with it hangers-on and selfie seekers and occasional invitations to perform at local functions and shows.
Some enterprising youngsters have attached themselves with Badyakar to manage his shows and invitations as commission agents.
Among them are Dilfaraz and Sharif Khan, who say they are jobless and manage to earn some money by helping him.
Badyakar said there are some invites to perform in places such as Kerala as well as Bangladesh and even Dubai, but he does not have a passport and his wife was initially against him travelling abroad.
“She is a simple village woman but has a shrewd sense of what is good and what may not work out and has made me swear not to leave the country. Of late, she has relented,” he said.
Badyakar said he inherited his love for music and way with words from his ancestors. He said his cousins play the drums and his sons have also taken to music.
A simple man, he obliges all those who turn up at his home seeking selfies with a smile – an acknowledgment maybe of the rollercoaster ride that life can sometimes be, full of bittersweet twists and turns.