While theatre lovers have often enjoyed myriad adaptations of Rabindranath Tagore’s literary works, Manav Kaul’s latest production, Colour Blind, brings to the fore lesser-known chapters from the renowned writer’s life. The multilingual play (English, Hindi, Bengali and French) will also be Kalki’s comeback to the stage after Hamlet – The Clown Prince.
Ask Koechlin, who has co-written the play, if the audience needs to understand Bengali and French to fully comprehend the play and she says, “No, it conveys itself more through images, sounds and poetry as compared to words. However, we have translated some portions of Bengali into Hindi for the audience in Mumbai. The play moves rapidly between different timelines, spaces and stories. Even the music is experimental since there is absolutely no support by means of instruments and most of the songs are sung solo.”
Colour Blind rediscovers the vulnerable and lonely poet beneath Tagore’s spiritual surface and delves into his relationship with Argentine scholar Victoria Ocampo. Over five months of concrete research went into putting together this non-linear musical which premiered in Kolkata in September. “Because of the colossal bibliography of Tagore, it was not possible for each one to read through everything. So we divided the readings and shared notes. We also read Ocampo’s works, especially those which mentioned or were dedicated to Tagore. Apart from these, we listened to Rabindrasangeet,” says Kaul, adding, “We were nervous and apprehensive about the audience’s reactions in Kolkata since our play explores aspects of Tagore’s personality that have not been talked about so much and are considered controversial. But we were happily surprised by the overwhelming response we received.”
The play features popular Tagore songs, including a French version of ‘Mor bina othe kon shure baaje’, performed by Koechlin and the Hindi version of ‘Aaj dhaaner khete’ sung by Swanand Kirkire. “It’s great to work with new people, to feel nervous and be challenged again. I have wanted to work with Manav for a while. Researching and writing was lots of fun,” says Koechlin.