You have seen Tagore’s song and dance dramas on stage.
Now, you will know the nuances behind these through the eyes of director Rajib Gupta.
Gupta is about to complete documentary The Musical Plays of Rabindranath Tagore, a first of its kind analysis of the Nobel Laureate’s geeti natya (song dramas) and nritya natya (dance dramas).
The documentary, which is being produced by the central government, explores how Tagore developed as an artist with these works.
“Not many would be able to say the names of the three geeti natya (song drama) and four nritya natya (dance drama) that Tagore created in his lifetime.
These are distinct from plays he wrote with songs in them. Moreover, there are people who question the relevance of these works in present times,” says Gupta, grandson of renowned music director Pankaj Mullick, and secretary of Pankaj Mullick Music and Art Foundation.
With Tagore’s last dance drama Shyama (1939) as the backdrop, the documentary talks of all the other six song and dance dramas — which Gupta collectively calls ‘musical dramas’.
These are Valmiki Pratibha (1881), Kal Mrigaya (1882),Mayar Khela (as a play in 1888, revised as song drama in 1938),Shapmochan (1931), Chandalika (1935, revised in 1938) and Chitrangada (1936).
The docu talks of the works in the chronological order of their being created. Slated to be released around Durga Puja, it aims to make youngsters aware of Tagore’s musical dramas and will shed light on the kind of genius he was as a lyricist, music composer, choreographer, costume designer and storyteller.
“Tagore wrote his first song drama — Valmiki Pratibha — at the age of 17. Undoubtedly a genius even then, he was influenced by Buddhist philosophy and understanding. This was reflected in his work Valmiki Pratibha, which also had a strong influence of Irish music in it. He had returned from Ireland then,” says Gupta, who has shot the work mostly on banks of Ganges.
From using Baul, Bhanga gaan and western music in his songs in his earlier works, Tagore developed his signature Rabindra Sangeet in later life.
Through Chandalika, Tagore spoke of the existing practice of untouchability and human alienation. “But it also showed how Tagore personally felt alienated from the society he lived in,” says Gupta.
Through the 52-minute documentary, the director has tried to show that in Shyama, a part of all his previous musical dramas was reflected to a certain degree.
“Though some of his works have become popular for school shows and stage, they are not always interpreted well. I have tried to interpret his works; using quotations from his autobiography Jiban Smriti, I have tried to authenticate the interpretations in my work,” says Gupta.