My first encounter with Rabindranath Tagore was as a 10-year-old kid through painful early morning ‘Rabindrasangeet’ lessons. My mother, bent on discovering the musical side of her daughter would nudge me till I sat up on bed, groggy and detesting the man with the white cottony beard. “Why did he have to write so many songs?” I thought. Little did I know that I would grow up craving for more of Tagore’s literary creations.
In the very recent past, 2nd May was celebrated as the birth date of the illustrious film maker Satyajit Ray. This brings to mind, the 1964 adaptation of Tagore’s “Nastaneer”, also named as “The Broken Nest” in English. The movie was called “Charulata” which implies “The Lonely Wife”. A marvel in itself, the movie traces the intimacies of mood, atmosphere and thought process coupled with the complexities of the organic aspects of ennui and growing up. Featuring the outstanding direction skills of Ray, it spins a tale of claustrophobic suffocation owing to loneliness and boredom that clutches Charu when confined in the inner sanctum of her residence. What appears to be a seemingly simple tale matures into a clandestine love blooming between Charu and Amal, her brother-in-law, in whom she finds a companion when desperately seeking an escape from the indifference of her husband Bhupati.
There is ample proof of how Rabindranath Tagore inexplicably brought characters alive. The screenplay persists as a dynamic resolution of reflective stances, moments of progression, and visual orchestrations of motifs of Charu scrutinizing life through opera glasses. The last frame of the movie captures the reconciliation between Bhupati and Charu. However the text of Nastaneer ends with the words “Na thak” which translates to “No, let it be”. The novella culminates with separation. Herein lies Tagore’s dexterity. There is no going back for Charu, signifying the unfathomable truth of life. The bitter, harsh reality is craftily hinted in the text. The masterful projections of human psyche won Ray prestigious awards including the one for the Silver Bear for the Best Director at the 15th Berlin Film Festival.
Ray’s cinematic adaptations of Nastaneer, Ghare-Baire, are examples of the masterly capability of “compression and telescoping”Â that Ray employs to portray the descriptive narrations of Tagore. Tagore’s appeal is not merely restricted to Bengali literature. To this day, his words are quoted in most Bengali movies and his songs continue to enrich the hearts and minds of most. 2013 witnessed the brave and “trippy adaptation” of the challenging text of Tasher Desh, by the director Q.
Tad slow in Bengali, I read most of his work in the Penguin translations to my heart’s content. Inarguably, the profound psychological depth of the large literary canon of Rabindranath Tagore is evergreen and much revered. Rabindranath Tagore still lives on, in print, in melody, on screen and above all, in our hearts.