It has been a long time since my last post! In the meanwhile, I performed the role of Shyama in a production in India, I performed Shyama in Egypt with my team from Santiniketan and our film versions of Shyama and Chandalika were shown at the Cinema Novo festival in Bruges, Belgium.
The tour of Shyama in Egypt was organised by the Maulana Azad Centre for Indian Culture in Cairo, together with the Indian Embassy there, to celebrate Tagore’s 150th birth anniversary. It was sponsored by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations as part of a cultural exchange programme between Egypt and India, in association with the Egyptian Ministry of Culture.
We were performing to an adapted version of the soundtrack from our film version of Shyama, with Arabic and English subtitles projected above the stage. The English subtitles also came from our film version of Shyama, as translated by Jayanta Chatterjee (my father-in-law), Obhi and myself. The Arabic subtitles were kindly provided by translators at the Indian Embassy in Cairo and reviewed with the help of Essam A of the Maulana Azad Centre.
As a dancer it is very rewarding for me when I am invited to perform on stage. It’s a direct interaction with the audience. The Egypt tour was a memorable experience for me and also for my team members. I have led other high profile performance tours in past but the Egypt tour was very special for me: I had an opportunity to perform while visiting a country I had always dreamed of visiting.
Obhi has written about the tour in more detail in his blog. Particularly with the performances at the Cairo and Alexandria Opera Houses, we had the opportunity to present a Tagore dance-drama at major international opera houses.
As some of you know, we have now filmed all three of Rabindranath Tagore’s dance-dramas. If you aren’t already familiar with Tagore’s dance-dramas, they are like a cross between ballet and opera. They contain lyrics, music, dance and drama. The dialogue takes the form of songs and dancers express the songs through dance.
Tagore is best known as a poet and philosopher. However, he also composed songs, wrote short stories, novels and plays, painted and created a unique dance style. His dance form, which was the subject of my PhD thesis, is hardly known outside India and Bangladesh. That is why Obhi and I are trying to open the door for people all over the world to appreciate it.
Our hope is that at least Tagore’s dance-dramas will join the repertoire of operas and ballets which are performed regularly at leading opera houses and dance theatres around the world. In any case, we have created a permanent record of these works which can serve as a reference for future generations.
I should mention that Tagore did not perform often as a dancer himself. He created his new dance style with the help of members of his family, as well as teachers and students from his school. From time to time, he did dance in his own dramas, though.
Tagore wrote three dance dramas: Chandalika, Chitrangada, Shyama. Chandalika is a critique of the caste system, highlighting the plight of the untouchables. Chitrangada is about women’s emancipation. Shyama is a story of love and sacrifice, set against the background of a repressive regime.
With the help of digital technology, we have created and filmed authentic productions of these works, added subtitles in different languages and are making the films available worldwide. You can already watch Shyama and Chandalika on my website. The première of our film version of Chitrangada will be on Sunday, 23rd September. I’ll be able to tell you more about that soon.