Zee Theatre’s stars Joy Sengupta, Namit Das and Chitrangada Chakraborty hold forth on the bard’s seminal works
Nobel Laureate and the founder of Visva-Bharati University, Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore was born on 7 May 1861 and though he passed away in 1941, his legacy remains unequalled in its depth and expanse. Many of his works have been adapted into memorable films by doyens like Satyajit Ray, Bimal Roy, Rituparno Ghosh, Buddhadev Dasgupta and Gulzar. Stage and television adaptations and in recent times, teleplays have also been based on his stories. On his birth anniversary, a few Zee Theatre stars share why his works continue to resonate with them.
Theatre luminaries pay tribute to Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore on his birth anniversary
Actor Namit Das who stars in the teleplay, ‘Bombay Talkies‘ says, “I was first introduced to the English translation of Tagore’s stories and novellas including ‘The Broken Nest’ (‘Nastanirh’ in Bengali) which was filmed by Satyajit Ray as ‘Charulata’. When I first read the story, I was very young but the complexity of these characters fascinated me and when I watched the film, I wanted to play the character of Soumitra Chatterjee and sometimes even that of the husband. There is a sense of simplicity, idealism and humanity in Tagore’s characters but they are not perfect. I think all of them are trying to achieve certain ideals but get caught in situations that really challenge them.”
The actor shares that for the longest time, he wanted to reach a Utopian reality that Tagore’s protagonists aspire to and adds, “I don’t think we’ll ever be able to reach it but in Tagore’s works, everything becomes tangible. His stories are about human emotions, about people who are experiencing very subtle, simple things but that’s what life is all about. The small things. Even though Tagore wrote in a very different era, his work is timeless because human beings don’t change and their fundamental emotions and feelings remain the same. When you read Tagore or Tolstoy in today’s context, the format and the language may seem like it is from a different time but when you dig deep, you begin to identify with the characters as their emotions are relatable even today. I still go back to his poetry in ‘Gitanjali’ for which he got the Nobel prize.”
Actor Chitrangada Chakraborty who stars in ‘Sakharam B’ says, “Rabindranath Tagore’s writing has played a big role in influencing my formative years and shaping my understanding of life. I cannot name one or just a few of his works as so many are dear to me but his dance drama ‘Chandalika’ is an absolute favourite. It not only questioned the caste system but also was ahead of its time. Given an opportunity, I would love to play Kalyani in the story ‘Aparichita’ or Labanya from the novel ‘Shesher Kobita’. What I love about his writing is that he questioned each and every unfair and shallow norm of the society and wrote for the oppressed. He empathised without being patronising and wrote the honest truth without any diplomacy. Not only was his style of writing mesmerizing, but his thoughts and his way of looking at the world was astonishingly beautiful. Tagore made us look at the minutest of things, and feel the rarest of feelings that we would have missed out on if we had not read him.”
Actor Joy Sengupta who stars in the teleplay, ‘Dance Like a Man‘ says, “Gitabitan’, a book with all 2,232 songs of Tagore had a huge impact on me. As a child, I heard my mother sing these songs and they became a part of my DNA. As for Tagore’s plays, ‘Daak Ghar’ is my all-time favourite. It is so beautiful, lyrical and philosophical in its existential exploration of life and its use of magic realism. The image of a young boy sitting near a window, waiting for his death, and letting his imagination escape into a world he cannot reach, is so poignant. Of Tagore’s plays, I found Shambhu Mitra’s ‘Raktakarabi’ (Red Oleander) to be a brilliant production along with ‘Raja’ or ‘The King of the Dark Chamber’ and ‘Bisarjan’ which was one of the earliest plays in India to address the misuse of religion in politics. “
As far as novels go, Tagore’s ‘Chaturanga’ had a major impact on Joy who also worked in its film version. He says, ” It is a very complex novel that traces the emergence of Bengal Renaissance, modernism and progressive thought, and yet it goes back to ancient spiritual traditions of India and tries to fuse the two.The youth in India between the late 19th and early 20th century were questioning traditions and moribund morals and the novel captures it all very well. The way Tagore looks at the world is deeply humanistic. He finds beauty in the purest, the most pristine aspects of nature. He’s also an existentialist and above all, he’s deeply empathetic. Tagore’s world is vast, intense and kind and reading him would definitely enrich your life.”