Rabindranath Tagore revisited in Kolakata Film Festival 2010

Rabindranath Tagore
Rabindranath Tagore

Kolkata, Nov.14 (Calcutta Tube/IBNS) In celebration of the 150th Birth Anniversary of Rabindranath Tagore, the 16th KFF has created a special section of Bengali films based on Tagore’s creative works covering short stories, novels and poetry as well.

Few today are aware that Tagore himself directed a feature film based on his Natir Pooja and acted in this film and composed the music. This was his first and last direct involvement with cinema.
Tagore’s Natir Pooja’s dramatised version was first staged at the Jorsanko Thakurbari in Kolkata in 1927.  It was again staged at the New Empire, Kolkata in celebration of the poet’s 70th birthday.
An impressed B.N. Sircar, founder-proprietor of New Theatres, invited Tagore to direct a film version under the New Theatres banner. The New Theatres Studio played host to Tagore in 1931.
The studio was flooded with crowds assembled to have a glimpse of the great poet. It was shot on NT Studio’s Floor Number One. He assembled his acting cast from Santi Niketan..
Nitin Bose cinematographed the film and Subodh Mitra edited it. Shot within four days, it broke  the conventional rules of cinema and was filmed like a stage play. The story was inspired by a Buddhist tale from Abadan Shatak.
After editing, the footage was 10,577 feet. It was released at Chitra Talkies on 14th March 1932. Sadly, the prints of the film were reportedly destroyed in a fire at the New Theatres. It is said to have been restored recently for public exhibition.

The films being screened in this section of the 16th K FF are Streer Patra (Purnendu Pattrea), Charulata (Satyajit Ray), Atithi (Tapan Sinha) and Khokababur Pratyabartan (Agradoot.) Another film, Arghya based on some poems of Tagore, is being screened in the Tribute to Debaki Kumar Basu section. Tapan Sinha made four films based on Tagore’s works.

These are Kabuliwalla, Khsudita Pashan, Atithi and Kadambini.Filmmakers have generously drawn upon Tagore’s music, songs, poetry in Bengal. Hindi cinema has had few interpretations and cinematic adaptations of Tagore.

The credit for the most brilliant cinematic, hard-hitting and metaphorical use of Tagore songs goes to Ritwik Ghatak in Meghe Dhaka Tara and Komal Gandhar. Among the most popular films based on Tagore’s works is Naukadubi made three times between 1932 (silent) and 1979 by different directors.

The significance of the song comes across. Some of the films made on Tagore’s works are – Naukadubi. Shubha O Debotar Grash, Steer Patra, Chhuti, Malancha, Malyadaaan, Jogajog, Chirokumar Sabha, Chhelebela, Bouthakuranir Haat, and Nishithe.

Purnendu Patrea’s Streer Patra played around with animation in the graphic titles, still photographs in the closing shots. But he stuck to the original story. The result was confusing.

Satyajit Ray made five films based on Tagore’s works. He picked three Tagore short stories as a tribute to Tagore’s centenary (1961) called Teen Kanya.

These were Postmaster, Monihara and Samapti. The other two are Charulata, based on Tagore’s Nastaneer (Broken Nest) and Ghare-Baire, based on the novel of the same name (The Home and the World.) Tagore’s works are universal in terms of time, space, emotions and human relationships.

The universal language of cinema makes it possible to render a Tagore literary piece for the consumption of an international audience ideally through the medium of film.

The 16th KFF has put up a wonderful exhibition of film stills, posters, manuscript pages in Tagore’s handwriting, photographs of Tagore and Ray at the Nandan foyer leading to Nandan II.

The exhibition has been conceived and curated by documentary filmmaker and researcher Arun Kumar Roy.

By Shoma A. Chatterji

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