Cultural kaleidoscope

Poorna Kulkarni
Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Two city-based Bengali organisations tell us about the programmes that they have planned to mark Rabindranath Tagore’s birth anniversary this year

With Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore’s 158th birth anniversary (May 7) around the corner, the Probashi Bengali organisations in the city have lined up various cultural programmes, promoting amongst other things, the literary teachings of Tagore. We chat up with the members of Upasana, an open socio-cultural platform and Surajhankar, a charitable trust, to know more about the programmes that have been planned. 

Upasana, an initiative by Sharmila and Amit Mazumdar, has been collaborating with Savitribai Phule Pune University’s Lalit Kala Kendra (Gurukul) to celebrate Rabindra Jayanti, for five years now. This year, the celebrations will be held on May 5 at Angaan Manch, Lalit Kala Kendra. 

Guided by their mentor, late Vinod Kothari, who was highly influenced by Tagore’s writing, the couple started Upasana to promote the literary teachings of the celebrated writer and poet. On Upasana’s association with Lalit Kala Kendra, Amit, who is the co-director of the cultural platform, says, “We believe that to promote art, culture and literature, we should get associated with an academic institution. Lalit Kala Kendra being the centre of performing arts and my wife being the alumna of the institute, we thought associating with them would be a form of payback. During the felicitation programme of meritorious post graduate students of the centre, they are encouraged to perform Tagore’s work in different languages,” he adds. 

Coming to this year’s celebrations, Upasasna has planned five different brand programmes — Rabindra Jayanti, Maitri- Ek Khoj, Srutir-Aashare, Basant Koumudi and Argha. Each programme holds a different and significant theme. “This year, the theme for Rabindra Jayanti is ‘Rabindra and Patriotism’. Tagore has more than 2,500 songs to his credit. Those performed at the event would be all from the patriotic segment. The event will start with Sandhya-Pheri or Sandhya-Baitalik. A procession, winding its way through the university campus, will be led by Vice-chancellor Nitin Karmalkar, director of Inter-University for Astronomy and Astrophysics Somak Raychaudhury and director of National Film Archives of India Prakash Magdum. The procession can be joined in by all,” says Amit. 

The alumni, alongwith the Upasana team, will also perform in a programme titled ‘An Ode to Our Motherland’. In the final part of the event, a group of singers would sing in five different languages like Hindi, Bengali, Tamil, Odia and Gujarati.

Surajhankar, a charitable Trust that promotes Bengali art, culture, and music in Pune, will be presenting Arup Ratan, a satire penned by Tagore. It will be performed on May 4 at Balgandharva Rangmandir. Madhumita Ghosh, faculty and cultural co-ordinator of Surajhankar, says, “For more than two decades, our band of dedicated teachers have been guided by our mentor, Dr Amit Mitra. Dr Mitra has been closely associated with Gitabitan and Visva Bharati University for formally imparting the curriculum-based training in Rabindra Sangeet.” 

“Every year, an examiner from Kolkata comes to Pune for conducting Geeta Bharati exams by Gitabitan, which is affiliated to Visva Bharati University and Rabindra Bharati University. It is a degree course in Rabindra Sangeet,” she adds.  

In the past, Surajhankar has collaborated with many Marathi artists and performers from Pune like Dr Sucheta Bhide Chapekar, Parimal Phadke and Chandrakant Kale. “The objective behind roping in the Marathi artists is to introduce Rabindra Sangeet amongst the Marathi audiences. The Marathi artists have enthusiastically performed with us. Further, there have also been non-Bengali students learning Rabindra Sangeet and Bengali language in the past,” says Ghosh.

Talking about the Bengali play, which has been directed by Deepak Chatterjee and would be performed by the members, students, and faculty of Surajhankar, Ghosh says, “Arup Ratan is loosely based on Kusha Jataka. It is the story of a lady of the royal household, Sudarshana, who is in search of the unseen king. Sudarshana comes to realise that only after giving up one’s ego can one reach the ultimate objective of one’s life. The play underlines the fact that one has to let go off the trappings of the outside world and to look within.” 

Ghosh says the reason they chose to work on Arup Ratan is because not many know about it. “Arup Ratan is an allegory of a man and a god. Many people are not aware of this play by Tagore. It has not been widely performed in West Bengal either. We want to try out new things and bring this work to the notice of the people. ”

Upasana presents Rabindra Jayanti on May 5, at Angaan Manch, Lalit Kala Kendra, Savitribai Phule Pune University, 6.30 pm onwards. 

Surajhankar presents Arup Ratan, a Bengali play on May 4, at Balgandharva Rangmandir, J M Road, at 7 pm

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