Back in 1964, Satyajit Ray adapted one of Rabindranath Tagore’s most popular novella, called Nastanirh (Broken Nest), into the award-winning Bengali film, Charulata. The next year, the film won Ray a Silver Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival.
Now, Mumbai-based artist Gautam Mukherjee, has drawn inspiration from Tagore’s work, and Ray’s treatment of it. In his ongoing exhibition, titled Chaarulata, the 54-year-old artist showcases 33 paintings replicating some of the major incidents from Nastanirh.
Mukherjee, who grew up in Kolkata, says he was always deeply inspired by Bengali literature, especially by Tagore. “I have earlier done a show based on another of Tagore’s works, Ghare Bhaire,” he says. Like every second Bengali, he also grew up watching Ray’s films. This exhibition, then, is his way of paying tribute to them. “I am trying to honour the two geniuses who have influenced me deeply.”
About the present show, he says, “The book, as well as its film version, is very close to me. I believe women should be free to go out and pursue their passion.”
Tagore’s novella put the magnifying glass on the Bengali Bhadralok of the 19th Century, and is critical of the liberal man who is ignorant of his wife’s loneliness. So, Charu, the protagonist, gets married at an early age and spends all her time indoors, looking through an opera glass, observing minute details around her and writing. Gradually, she falls in love with her brother-in-law, but her feelings remain unrequited.
About the highly detailed, colourful paintings, Mukherjee says, “The series draws inspiration from the character’s daily routine, thus, each painting features a small vignette, reflecting Charu’s exploration, the objects that surround her and her passion for writing. For instance, there’s a painting where Chaarulata is given a feather by the doves.”