Kadambari to Shesher Kabita, a look at films based on Tagore stories

  • Anindita Acharya, Hindustan Times, Kolkata
  • Updated: May 09, 2015 11:21 IST

Rabindranath Tagore has been a constant source of inspiration to generations of filmmakers. Be it his songs, poems, short stories or novels, his works have time and again attracted filmmakers. 2015, too, seems to be no different, as a number of directors are working on films based on Tagore's works. Filmmakers Sekhar Das' Jogajog and Suman Ghosh's Kadambari are two of the biggest films, which released on Friday, a day ahead of Tagore's 154th birth anniversary. While Jogajog is based on Tagore's novel of the same name, Kadambari revolves around Tagore's sister-in-law Kadambari Devi.

Tagore as a subject has not only attracted filmmakers. The Bengali filmgoers too have always loved films on the Bard's works. Subhabrata Chatterjee's debut Bengali film, Monihara, based on Tagore's short story is set for a June release. Filmmaker Suman Mukhopadhyay too is gearing up for the release of his next film, Shesher Kabita, based on Tagore's novel of the same name. Mukhopadhyay had earlier made Chaturanga (2008), which too was based on Tagore's novel. Shesher Kabita, which stars Konkona Sen Sharma and Rahul Bose in lead roles, is one of the most awaited films in 2015.


A still from director Sekhar Das' Bengali film Jogajog

Tagore's influence on the Bengali television too can't be denied. A television series, Chokher Bali, based on Tagore's work, which was launched recently, too has found many takers. Interestingly, late filmmaker Rituparno Ghosh had adapted Chokher Bali on the big screen with Aishwarya Rai in the lead.

However, this is the first time Sekhar Das has attempted a film on Tagore's work. Das, who had earlier made the National Award-winning film, Krantikaal, says that he had wanted to make Jogajog on Tagore's 150th birth anniversary year in 2011 but unfortunately that didn't happen. Jogajog boasts a powerful star cast comprising National Award-winning actor Annanya Chatterjee and actor and West Bengal Tourism Minister Bratya Basu.

Das says that he got attracted to this novel for its strong feminist angle. "Tagore's novels and short stories have inspired eminent directors in the past. However, Jogajog has been the least attempted of his works though the story's content is stunningly contemporary. I read Jogajog once again sometime in 2008 and got hooked to it for strong feminist angle. Tagore was perhaps at his best as a feminist and dealt with the issue of marital rape brilliantly. We have adopted Tagore's late 19th century plot and have set it against the social backdrop of the late 1970s early 1980s.


A still from Bengali film Monihara

Since Tagore had also written a play based on the same story, where he shifted the time ahead by about fifty years, we have taken original dialogues from the play as much as possible for the film so that we don't lose the brilliant sparkle and depth of Tagorien diction," says the director.

On the other hand, Ghosh's film is not based on any of Tagore's works, but revolves around Kadambari Devi, Tagore's sister-in-law and an important figure in the poet's life. Kadambari Devi was Tagore's companion, muse and inspiration and many of his poems and writings are inspired by her. "Like every filmmaker I too have always been interested in making a film on his works. However, I decided that I would adapt a Tagore story on celluloid only if I am able to make a significant change in the genre and in the presentation of the story. I don't want to make a mockery of one of his stories," says Ghosh, who is also an associate professor of economics at the Florida Atlantic University.

Subhabrata Chatterjee seems to be vastly inspired by Tagore. Even before his debut film, Monihara, has released, the filmmaker has already started working on two more Tagore stories. "Tagore is an inspiration to me. I've followed the text thoroughly. There is a supernatural angle in Monihara which will attract the audiences," he says.


A still from Bengali film Monihara

In the past too, Tagore has influenced some of the master filmmakers. Satyajit Ray had time and again returned to Tagore. Ray directed a black-and white short film on Rabindranath Tagore in 1961. His classic Charulata too was based on Tagore's novella Nastanirh. Another Tagore masterpiece, Ghare Baire, too was adapted by Ray on the big screen. Ray's 1961 film, Teen Kanya, too was an amalgamation of three short stories - The Postmaster, Monihara and Samapti - by Tagore.

Filmmaker Tapan Sinha's films such as Kabuliwala, Kshudhita Pashan and Atithi, were all based on Tagore's works. Rituparna Ghosh's Noukadubi too was based on Tagore's novel of the same name.

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