National Award-winning director Buddhadeb Dasgupta has been approached by the cultural department of the Government of India, through NFDC, to bring to celluloid, 12 of Rabindranath Tagore’s poems on the occasion of his 150th birth centenary. Through real and surreal images, creative use of music, sound montage and minimal dialogue, a three-part series is being designed by the internationally acclaimed maker of films like Tahader Katha (1993), Uttara (2000) and Kalpurush (2008).
“Each short film will be about 20-30 minutes long, and four of them will be packaged into one film. The first one should be in theatres by the year-end,” says Dasgupta, ruing the fact that after the initial hype, several projects centered around the Nobel laureate are stuck.“There are a few happening outside Bengal, which is why I’ve decided to make this project in Hindi, with English subtitles, to extend its reach. I have an audience for my films abroad, and Tagore is a favourite not just in the US and Europe, but in China too. In India, only a few people in the 20-30 age bracket have been exposed to his works but despite this, I see an interest in Maharashtra and Kerala.”
Dasgupta insists that none of the original poems, in Bengali or in Hindi translations, will be recited in the films. And since the themes are timeless, he plans to set the films in real time and in universal locations so that they don’t look dated or shockingly contemporary. “I’d like to reinterpret Tagore and subtly bring out edges in my own style,” says the filmmaker, who has himself published several works of poetry.
The selected poems that will be featured in the films include Banshi (The Flute) revolving around a lonely clerk who finds escape from his dingy surroundings through his music and Ek Gaye (A Village) about two lovers separated by a river and the Partition. Krishnakali (The Dark Maiden) is about a village belle who casts a spell on the city-bred poet, but years later, when he returns to the fields, he finds that time has left its signature on her too.
Mukti (The Freedom) is the perfect housewife struggling to cope with a serious illness, and how she’s finally liberated after drenching in the rain. Phukhur Dhare (From The Poolside) is about a young writer who finds his muse in a married woman on the terrace of a distant house, who’s unaware of his existence. And Hotrat Dekha (The Unexpected Meeting) brings together an estranged couple that strike up conversation in a train compartment, which reveals unexpected truths about their marriage.
Other poems include Phanki (Deception), Camellia (Camellia), Banshiwallah (The Flutist), Shesh Chithi (The last Letter), Patralekha (The Letter Ought To Be Written), Bansha Bari (The Mansion) and Istition (The Station). “Some of the films will be shot in Kolkata, some in Kuchbihar and even Shillong,” says Dasgupta. “Krishnakali has to be filmed at the end of August because the poem talks of a cloudy sky in a remote village… Maybe Birbhum.”Quiz him on his cast and he says, “I don’t want big names and definitely not busy artistes. Maybe Nandita Das and Deepti Naval. I should be more clear by November.”