On his recent visit, President Obama began his welcome speech with a quote penned down over a century ago by India’s celebrated poet, Rabindranath Tagore. This week, as a precursor to the 150th birth anniversary of the Nobel laureate, the Literary Club of the city’s oldest public library, the Asiatic Society is organising a three-day festival in his honour.
“Through the festival, we look at Tagore’s multi-faceted personality— as a poet, composer, novelist, musician, painter, educator and reformer,” says Rusheed Wadia, co-organiser of the festival and committee member of The Asiatic Society of Mumbai Literary Club.
The literary festival will feature a series of lectures by Tagore scholars, addressing a range of topics from regional identities to Rabindra Sangeet, through the course of three days. The festival will also feature a dance-drama performance by Odissi dancer Sharmila Biswas and her troupe.
The highlight of the event is the screening of a rare documentary on Tagore by the Oscar-winning filmmaker Satyajit Ray. A student of Shantiniketan, Ray found the perfect fodder in Tagore’s writings, many of which he adapted in his films. The docu-biopic comprises dramatised episodes from the poet’s life and archived images and documents.
“It’s a classic. The film captures the journey of a home-schooled young boy, who went to study in England and came back as the voice of modern India,” adds Wadia, about the film, which was made to celebrate Tagore’s birth centenary in May 1961.
“Tagore has a strong tie with Mumbai. He came to the city 132 years ago, back in 1878, on his way to England,” reveals Wadia. “Some of his literary works like Nalini found inspiration in Mumbai, where a young Tagore penned a verse for a woman called Annapurna. With this festival, we hope to bring Tagore back to the city and place him in the present age,” adds Wadia.
Tagore by Satyajit Ray will be screened at Asiatic Society on Dec 3 and 4, at 6.30pm and 4.30pm respectively. Log on to www.asiaticsocietymumbai.org