Why do we love anniversaries?
Tagore Stories on Film
NFDC/Shemaroo, Rs 399 (6-DVD pack)
This is a rare collection brought out by a rare collaboration, and it’s being sold at a rare price. The occasion for indulging so much rarity is the 150th birthday of Rabindranath Tagore. Pushed off their ossified asses probably by a mix of solid pride and hollow guilt, a couple of central government ministries, a national panel for commemorating the anniversary, the films division and a number of private producers have come together to bring out this pack of five feature films, a play and a documentary. It says a thing or two about the way we look at our artistic heritage.
For the first time, a 1932 recording of Natir Pujo, a stage adaptation of Tagore’s poem Pujarini and a performance featuring Tagore himself, is being released on DVD. The extraordinary production was mounted to mark the poet’s 70th birthday. Apart from this, the set contains three films and a documentary made on the occasion of the writer’s 100th birthday.
The two films that stand out from this anniversary mania are Kumar Sahni’s 1997 adaptation of Char Adhyay (Four Chapters) and Satyajit Ray’s 1984 film Ghare Baire (Home and the World) — both stories of the excesses of nationalism. Among the others, Tapan Sinha’s 1960 National Award winner Khudito Pashan is about a tax collector who falls in love with a ghost. Hemen Gupta’s Kabuliwala, with Balraj Sahni in the title role of the gentle giant, is best known for the Manna Dey song, ‘Aye mere pyaare watan’. Satyajit Ray’s Teen Kanya (Three Daughters) is a triptych of short stories, one of which introduced Aparna Sen as actress. The dramatised documentary on Tagore, too, was directed by Ray.
That very fact that makes this a collector’s edition — the antiquity and rarity — also points to a sadness. Hardly any new mainstream cinematic interpretations of Tagore’s works are being made. Need we wait for another anniversary for the funds? Or is it about inspiration?