Paying tribute to a legend

Said Mohammad Shameer, the co-ordinator of the event, “This year holds a special significance as we celebrate the 150 birth anniversary of Rabindranath Tagore.

This evening solely belongs to the people completely in line with Tagore’s own thinking about his art as belonging to the entire community.”

That is exactly what the evening turned out to be. As the audience streamed into the Alliance Francaise auditorium, they were greeted pleasantly by the voice of Rabindranath Tagore himself.

Playing from the auditorium’s sound system were recordings of poems and songs in his voice from the early thirties. Be it songs, poetry, monologues and dances, there were a dozen different offerings, all spontaneous and informal.

The tribute began with a short song by Debjani Banerjee setting the mood for the evening. Namrata Dhar and Sudipta Banerjee did short monologues about the influence of Tagore on their lives. By narrating interesting anecdotes, they shared that a thought or a story of Tagore in their busy lives seemed to bring about a change.

Namratha said, “Talking to a person once about Tagore and his works, implanted some change in my mind and it seemed like a metamorphosis had already taken place. And this conversation, we had that day, would stay with me for the rest of my life.”

Musten Jiruwala recited a short story while Swati Ghosh and Tanushree Dawn recited poems. So did Reha Chandresh, a little girl in primary school, who recited ‘The Crescent Moon.’ The most unusual duet by Amit Kulkarni and Amrita Roy rendered the poetry of Tagore in both Hindi and English combined with singing in Bengali. This was all about Tagore at his poetic best!

The last presentation was by Sabyasachi Chatterjee, a professor, who read out a letter by Tagore after his first journey by air. This letter was about the horror of aerial bombing in warfare. A fitting end to the evening of tributes was given by the students of Alliance Francaise who rendered the poem ‘Where The Mind Is Without Fear’ in six languages.

After a short interval, the audience was treated to the classic film Kabuliwala, based on a short story  of the same title by Tagore.  The film has retained its charm and entertainment value a good half century after its making. Above all, the humanism of Tagore comes through beautifully in the film.

The cultural stereotype of a man from Kabul and the accompanying prejudices have strong parallels today. Said Dipannita Chatterjee, “The concept of an ‘open house’ tribute evening in itself was both unique and greatly appreciated. We all know what a great person Tagore was but an event like this was the best way to connect to his philosophy and works.”

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