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Paying tributes to Tagore's family

Dipankar Bose in Kolkata Nov 19 2017, 0:52 IST
Jorasanko Thakurbari, Rabindranath Tagore's ancestral house, in Kolkata. Debashish Bhaduri

Jorasanko Thakurbari, Rabindranath Tagore's ancestral house, in Kolkata. Debashish Bhaduri

The ancestral home of Rabindranath Tagore in north Kolkata is abuzz with activities all through the day as the complex houses the campus of Rabindra Bharati University.

And as the sun sets and night creeps in the alleys and serpentine lanes of Jorasanko, the house falls silent on Chitpore Road, now Rabindra Sarani. The grand courtyard bustling with students, teachers and many others wear a deserted look.

But, come this winter and night time at the famed Jorasanko Thakur Bari is going to change altogether as the authorities of Rabindra Bharati have teamed up with the West Bengal tourism department to install a unique light and sound show, which promises to highlight the role of several members of Tagore family in the country's history of literature, fine art and music.

The tourism department is overseeing setting up of the state-of-the-art 3D shows comprising light strobes and laser beams.

"The entire 19th century is marked by a transition from medieval to modern era in India in the fields of religion, social reform, literature, scientific knowledge and also political equations. Bengal witnessed a huge intellectual awakening during this period. Existing orthodoxies, dowry system, caste bias, religion, marriage and others were questioned. The Bengal Renaissance, which started with Raja Ram Mohan Roy and ended with Rabindranath Tagore is a glorious history of the country, which needs to be showcased," said a senior official of Rabindra Bharati University (RBU), which is spearheading the entire project.

"Several members of the Tagore family were exceptionally talented individuals and Rabindranath was one of them. The bard's grandfather Prince Dwarkanath Tagore (1794-1846) can definitely be called one of the earliest entrepreneurs that India has seen.

He had business interests in ship building, banking and even salt making. Apart from Rabindranath, who was the first Asian to win a Nobel prize, Satyendranath Tagore (1842-1923) was the first Indian to join Indian Civil Services (ICS). Jyotirindranath Tagore (1849-925) was an artist, music composer and an exceptionally talented theatre personality. Other than these people, there were Abanindranath Tagore (1861-1941) and Gaganendranath Tagore (1867-938), who were masters and pioneers of Bengal school of art.

Altogether, the Tagore family was very rich culturally and also played an important role during the Bengal Renaissance. We want to showcase the entire Tagore family along with the brilliance of Rabindranath Tagore," the official said.

State tourism minister Gautam Deb is ecstatic about the whole light and sound show. "We have plans to start regular shows this winter. The project has been conceived and designed by RBU, which is located on the same campus. The tourism department is providing all technical support and funds. Tagore's ancestral house has always been a major tourist attraction for those visiting Kolkata.

Santiniketan was Tagore's abode and work place, but Jorasanko Thakur Bari brings with it the grandeur of Rabindranath's family, his childhood days as well as the rich cultural heritage of Bengal and India. This light and sound show will surely be a major attraction for tourists coming to the metropolis," Deb said.

The show will have 3D life-like images in light and laser beams and the background narration will be done by renowned thespian and actor Soumitra Chatterjee and elocutionist Bratati Bandyopadhyay. Clips of Tagore's own voice and songs will be part of the narration, along with songs rendered by Ramkumar Chattopadhyay, Ustad Rashid Khan and Lopamudra Mitra, which RBU officials hope, will be an additional attraction.

"When we planned this light and sound show, we selected the winter to launch it as that is the time when most tourists visit Kolkata and the city also hosts several international business meets as well as the famous Kolkata Book Fair. Each show will accommodate about 100 viewers and there will initially be twoshows from 7 pm. The narration will be in Bengali to start with and we are working on both the Hindi English versions, which we plan to add before next year's Durga Puja. Still images sourced from RBU archives will form an intricate part of the show.

The facade of the huge house will be the screen to project the beams and create a magical effect, narrating the bard's life and work and Tagore family members' influence on the country and literary world," RBU Vice-Chancellor Sabyasachi Basu Roychowdhury told DH.

Along with the light and sound show, RBU has also decided to build an archive, which will house the works of three Bengali legends-- thespian and actor Soumitra Chatterjee, music director and lyricist Sudhin Dasgupta and poet, music composer, lyricist and the man around whom the Indian Peoples Theatre Association (IPTA) grew, attained heights and brought a new wave in Bengali music, Salil Chowdhury.

The archive and museum will come up on the first floor of Sangeet Bhavan in Jorasanko Thakur Bari and various items, musical instruments, notations, rare photographs and covers of records will be displayed there.

"Our aim is to showcase the life and works of those Bengali legends, who have crafted and nurtured the world of Bengali art, literature and music in the post-Abindranath era. The archive will be our tribute to those legends. We already have an archive on legendary singer Manna Dey. There are plans to incorporate legends in similar fields from other states as well at a later stage," the Vice-Chancellor said.

In 2010, Soumitra had donated a large part of his personal collection to RBU, which included around 900 books, journals, magazines, screenplays written by Satyajit Ray and rare editions of the famed 'Ekhon' magazine edited by the noted actor.

"Since Soumitra Chatterjee is among us and is quite healthy, we are having no issues in sourcing material for our archive. His body of work is huge and fortunately for us, he keeps on adding to it every day. We will also have clippings from his films, voice recordings and clippings of his interviews and theatre performance.

For Salil Chowdhury and Sudhin Dasgupta, we have already started acquiring material and co-ordinating with their family members for more materials, which will give people an opportunity to visually travel through the works of theses geniuses. Keeping in mind about today's generation, we want to make the archive as much as possible interactive," Roychowdhury said.

RBU officials said plans are in place to throw the archive gates open to people by mid-2018.

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