First of all, let me introduce this 36-second introductory trailer for our film version of Chitrangada, which was designed by our friend Enrique Nicanor and Obhi:
As you’ll see, the trailer announces the global premiere of Chitrangada on 23/24 September 2012. Why two dates, you may be wondering? And what does ‘global premiere’ mean?
Well, Chitrangada is the third and final film in our Tagore dance film trilogy. The world premiere of Shyama was organised by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in May 2009. The world premiere of Chandalika was also organised by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in May 2011, at the end of their special Tagore weekend to mark the 150th birth anniversary.
Preparing these three films, and particularly translating Tagore’s poetic Bengali into English for their subtitles, has made us realise that the international opera and classical ballet scene comprises a fairly limited repertoire of (Western) works. However, Chandalika, Chitrangada and Shyama would fit very easily into this repertoire … if only they were more accessible to Western audiences.
My tour of Shyama in Egypt earlier this year, sponsored by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, included several of the dancers who performed in Chitrangada.
We performed Shyama with a specially adapted version of the soundtrack from our film version of it, projecting its English and Arabic captions and subtitles above the stage. The performances were greatly appreciated by the audiences, mainly because we made them accessible to an international audience.
The intention underlying Tagore’s dance innovation was to make his Bengali poetry accessible to audiences across cultural and linguistic frontiers. Unfortunately, although the dance-dramas are widely staged for Bengali audiences, few non-Bengalis were aware of them, or indeed the Tagore dance form, before we completed Shyama. Over 70 years after his death, the possibilities of digital distribution created by the Internet now allow us to help him achieve this objective.
This is why we thought of doing something special to launch Chitrangada and celebrate the completion of the Tagore dance film trilogy. We’d liked the idea of a global premiere ever since seeing how the environmental film Age of Stupid organised one almost three years ago, centred on a live event in New York.
I’m still finalising the details but here’s what we have in mind. The central event will be a charity gala premiere at the heart of Europe, at a major hall in Brussels, Belgium, on the evening of Sunday, 23 September. This should not only give our friends a chance to have their ‘red carpet moment’ but also help to raise some money for the Sishutirtha children’s home and school in Santiniketan, which is run according to Tagore’s educational principles.
I used to be a volunteer dance teacher at Sishutirtha and, through our dance director and production designer Shubhra Tagore, Sishuthirtha provided some elements of the costumes for Chitrangada. Supriyo Tagore and Shubhra Tagore, who both kindly took part in Chitrangada, helped to found Sishutirtha to restore basic rights to children.
Before the film, there will be a 1-hour live show The story of Gitanjali, marking the 100th anniversary of Tagore completing the English Gitanjali in September 1912. Obhi will direct a special, stage version of the show we presented in the garden of Shakespeare’s Birthplace to celebrate Tagore’s 151st birthday in May. We’re hoping that an internationally well-known actor will take on the role of the narrator.
In the same way that opera, ballet, theatre and concert performances are relayed live to cinemas around the world, the live show will be relayed to venues around the world and then the film will be shown with the subtitles in the local language. A US firm is making the premiere available to screens not only in cinemas but also in museums, libraries and colleges. Of course, it’s only realistic for people to watch the premiere live if they are in Europe or West of Europe. For those in countries East of Europe, such as in Australia, the premiere will have to be on Monday, 24 September.
If you’d like to help us bring the art of Tagore’s work to the whole world by being part of the global premiere, please comment on this post.