Mar 082014
 
Final scene of Chitrangada

After a long absence from my blog, I thought I should mark International Women’s Day by publishing the part of our film version of Chitrangada in which Chitrangada reveals herself to Arjun. This is the version with English subtitles. We’ve also published the versions with French subtitles and with Spanish subtitles. Hope you enjoy it.

You can watch the full film here.

Oct 012012
 

Last Sunday, we had the charity gala premiere of our film version of Tagore’s dance-drama Chitrangada in Brussels in aid of Santiniketan Sishutirtha. Before the film, we had a live, multilingual performance The Story of Gitanjali. These presentations were complemented by two Tagore exhibitions from the Indian Council for Cultural Relations which were kindly provided by the Indian Embassy in Brussels, which actively supported the event.

Those who came really appreciated the evening. Many were amazed by the dance-drama and were inspired by Tagore’s poems and songs. Several Europeans who came told us that the evening had encouraged them to start reading Tagore’s work. See Obhi’s blog post A Tagore evening to remember for more details about how the gala premiere went.

Rehearsing the songs for The Story of Gitanjali
(Photo: Enrique Nicanor)

In the days leading up to the premiere, as we rehearsed with our friends from Santiniketan, it felt as though Santiniketan had come to Brussels.

Although we are very pleased with how the Brussels premiere went, our aim is that Chitrangada should reach a global audience. We spent some time considering which was the most appropriate online platform to achieve this. You may have noticed that we tested a number of alternatives with our first film Shyama.

As you can see, we have settled on Distrify for the global premiere of Chitrangada. It means that people can watch Chitrangada on any device, including iPhones and iPads. In addition, Distrify has been designed to encourage people to share the film online through social media – you can even earn a 10% commission for doing so!

So how can you take part in the Chitrangada global premiere? If you can watch the trailer above, you already have everything you need (a screen and an Internet connection). Whether you watch it on your own, with friends or at a public screening you’ve helped to organise, you can be part of the global premiere … so long as you do so by midnight on Sunday, October 28.

During this global premiere period, the rental price of Chitrangada is £3.99, €4.99, US$6.49, A$5.99 or C$5.99, depending on where you are watching it.

However big or small your Chitrangada global premiere event is, please do share photos of it on the Google+ event page. Please also help to spread the news about the global premiere via social media and feel free to sign up to receive 10% commission for doing so.

 

Sep 042012
 

The Glass entrance of Square Brussels

At midnight last night, Central European Summer Time, tickets for the charity gala premiere of Chitrangada in Brussels went on sale via TicketABC. Here is the related press release.

The premiere will be at the Gold Hall, Square Brussels, an 800-seat auditorium in the centre of Brussels. Originally known as the Palais des Congrès built for the 1952 World Expo, it was renovated recently and reopened in 2009. Its foyers contain original murals by the Belgian painters Delvaux and Magritte. Those attending the premiere will have a rare opportunity to see them.

Before a live, multilingual performance on 23 september of Obhi and Jayanta Chatterjee’s The Story of Gitanjali, which explores the origins of the collection of poetry that led to Tagore’s Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913. September 2012 marks the centenary of Tagore completing the English Gitanjali.

Of course, we had to think about how to make so many tickets easily available online without causing a headache on the night when the audience arrives. As a dancer, this is not something I have had to worry about before! However, with Obhi’s help, it has been fascinating to explore all the options now available for online ticketing.

This is what I thought I would share with you. It could be useful for anyone planning to host their own screening of Chitrangada as part of the global premiere or indeed to host screenings of Shyama or Chandalika. Other dancers and theatre groups, etc, might find it useful for their performances too.

Chitrangada charity gala premiere seating plan

Initially, I had thought we would use the online ticketing system provided by Topspin Media. It’s very sophisticated and has been used extensively for anything from major concerts in sports stadiums down to small clubs. It’s even possible to use smartphones to scan tickets when people arrive! However, Topspin charge a 15% fee per ticket to use the system. I thought this would add quite a lot to the price of tickets for the charity gala premiere.

We want to ensure that our audience will not face prohibitively expensive ticket prices. After all, we want to fill the 800-seat hall in Brussels. As I explained in my previous post, we want to use the premiere to raise money for Santiniketan Sishutirtha – and 15% of the revenue from 800 tickets would mean a lot less money for Santiniketan Sishutirtha, even if this 15% includes payment processing fees. So we started to look for alternatives.

After looking around on the internet, we found several cheaper and well-established alternatives. Some offered free smartphone applications to scan tickets. However, in most cases, our problem was they are only able to sell tickets in US dollars.

For the premiere, we wanted a system which could ideally be multilingual, sell tickets in euros, handle reserved seating and allow people to print their tickets themselves with a bar code which could be scanned when they arrive at the hall. Few systems offered this combination, together with low processing charges.

The systems we explored included Eventbrite (2.5% plus €0.75 per ticket plus 3% credit card processing fees), Ticket River (2% plus $0.50 per ticket plus 3.5% or Paypal payment processing fee), Ticketbud ($39.99 flat fee for unlimited tickets + Paypal/Authorize processing fees), TicketLeap (€1.75 per ticket plus payment processing fees), osconcert (open source reserved seating software but flat fee for seating plan plus payment processing fees), Ticket Tailor (low monthly fees depending on number of events plus fees for setting up a seating plan and website integration) and Ticket ABC (5% plus £0.50 per transaction, all inclusive).

We were very tempted by Ticketbud (which can be used free by any events raising money for cancer charities). However, it didn’t seem feasible to use it to offer tickets with seat numbers on them. Ticket Tailor did offer the possibility of reserved seating but couldn’t guarantee us about using their scanning software to scan tickets as people arrived. Ticket Tailor has recently been acquired by TimeOut. So probably things will evolve for them.

Glowing review of TicketABC

In the end, as you’ll have realised, we opted for TicketABC, which is based in Ireland and allows tickets to be sold in a wide variety of currencies. The process of buying tickets is smooth and, rather than using smartphones (which each need an internet connection and may run low on batteries as more and more people arrive), they will provide dedicated scanners. We also didn’t want people to face unavoidable booking fees when buying their tickets. We believe such fees should be included in the ticket price.

TicketABC CEO, Mark McLaughlin, and his team have been very friendly and helpful in setting up the ticketing system for us within a few days using airline-style ticket pricing and several seating zones with different prices.

Initially, ticket prices range from €30 (Lower balcony) to €50 (Stalls A). However, the prices will go up by €5 by midnight on Tuesday and then in steps of €10 until the top price tickets are €75 in the week before the premiere. This way, I hope to encourage people to book early while keeping the prices comparable to similar Brussels events.

As it will be a charity event, and people will be curious to know how much money is being raised for the charity, I need to be completely transparent. So I will be publishing updates of the ticket sales compared to the costs of the evening.

50% of any profits from the evening will go to Santiniketan Sishutirtha. The other 50% will go towards financing our Tagore projects.

Aug 272012
 

Asit Ghosh during the recording of Chitrangada

Obhi and I have already introduced our two guest singers for The Story of GitanjaliManini and Sayan.

Now I am introducing another of our artistes: Asit Ghosh (Pintu). He will be accompanying us on tabla, pakhawaj and khol (Indian percussion instruments) for The Story of Gitanjali in Brussels on 23 September 2012.

He was the percussionist for our film version of Chitrangada. Asit has his own sweet and very gentle style. His playing doesn’t overpower the singers. He knows how to play softly with Tagore songs. The role of the percussionist in Tagore’s dance-dramas is quite tough as the percussionist sets the pace for all the dancers, singers and musicians.

Asit has trained with different Gurus from different gharanas (styles):

  • Professor Dulal Mukherjee – Banaras gharana (tabla)
  • Professor Manas Das Gupta – Farukabad gharana (tabla)
  • Professor Swapan Ghosh – Bishnupur gharana (pakhawaj)
  • Pandit Jayanta Bose – Benaras gharana (tabla).

He completed his BMus in Tabla & Pakhawaj in 1998 and his MMus in Tabla, Pakawaj in 2000, both from Visva-Bharati University.

He won first prize as an accompanist from three  different festivals: East  Zone Youth Festival in 1998, National Youth Festival in 1999 and SAARC Festival in 1999.

He has taken part in many programmes with different groups in Santiniketan, as well as on All India Radio and Doordarshan (Indian television).

He regularly accompanies performances by pupils of Santiniketan Sishuthirtha.

He was the percussionist for the CD Jete chai mon - Desh, the Musical journey – released by Prime Music.

Aug 202012
 

Manini Mukhopadhyay during the recording of Chandalika

Obhi has already introduced one of our two guest singers for The Story of GitanjaliSayan Bandyopadhyay. Now it is time for me to introduce the other: Manini Mukhopadhyay.

I am very pleased that Manini is able to join us for the charity gala premiere of Chitrangada. Manini has been the voice behind all three of the title roles I was dancing in our film versions of ShyamaChandalika and Chitrangada. The expression she gives when she sings comes from the bottom of her heart. As a dancer, that helps me a lot to express the emotions of the character through my dance. You can see an example of this in the clip from Shyama on the right of this page.

Manini is one of the leading singers of Tagore songs (Rabindrasangeet). We know from the reactions of people who have watched Shyama and Chandalika that they have been touched by her singing, even though they may not understand Bengali themselves.

Manini comes from a very musical family in Santiniketan. She was taught to sing by her parents, Sheetal Mukhopadhyay and Chhobi Mukhopadhyay. Since 1990, she has been trained by Alpona Ray.

She has taken part in many televised productions and has recorded six albums to date: Santiniketaner utsober gaan (2003), Sumongoli bodhu (2003), Asim gaaner resh (2003), Nrityodharer taale taale (2003), Aamaader Shantiniketan (2005), the video CD Abelay jodi esechho (2007) and Bichitrer Duth (2009).

Manini has given many live performances. These included accompanying my dance performance at the opening of the Rabindra-Okakura Bhavan in Kolkata by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in August 2007 - we had been invited by the late Professor Kazuo Azuma, who played a key role in the foundation of the Bhavan. In February 2009, Manini gave a solo recital at Madhusudan Manch, Kolkata, where she was introduced by Professor Somendranath Bandyopadhyay (an internationally recognised authority on Tagore). Manini’s performance at an all-night concert at the 12,000-seat Netaji Indoor Stadium in Kolkata in 2010 was highly commended by music critics.

Manini frequently performs at productions organised by Visva-Bharati University, Santiniketan. Indeed, she will be performing in Sri Lanka as part of a team from Visva-Bharati a few days after singing in The Story of Gitanjali during the Chitrangada charity gala premiere in Brussels on 23 September.

As well as her performance career, Manini Mukhopodhyay has a Masters degree in Bengali literature and a Masters degree in Rabindrasangeet, both from Visva-Bharati. In March 2002, she was selected by the Visva-Bharati Music Board as a research scholar to prepare a variorum edition of Tagore notations. She is currently researching her PhD thesis on Rabindrasangeet under the guidance of Dr Ashok Kumar Ganguly and Dr Indrani Mukhopadhyay.

Jul 312012
 

Poster for premiere of Chitrangada

Here is the latest version of the poster for the charity gala premiere of Chitrangada in Brussels on Sunday, 23 September. It was designed by Obhi with advice from Debangana Banerjee, who designed the cover of my forthcoming book Tagore Dance. Comments are welcome. Slightly different versions will be provided to anyone hosting a screening of Chitrangada as part of the global premiere.

I mentioned the plan for the premiere in my post ‘Introducing Chitrangada to a global audience‘. Obhi is gradually preparing the live performance of The Story of Gitanjali which will be the first part of the premiere. In his blog post ‘Staging The Story of Gitanjali in Brussels‘, he explains what he has in mind. We are still looking for actors in some languages who could read one of the 13 poems in the show.

We are close to finalising the details of the evening in Brussels, 50% of whose profits will go to the charity Santiniketan Sishutirtha. Once they are settled, I’ll explain how people can buy tickets online. Just to forewarn you, those buying tickets before 1 September will get the cheapest price and there should be a discount for groups of 10 or more.

Jul 032012
 

In my previous post, I included the English trailer for Chitrangada. Here is the Spanish version of it:

And here is the French version:

For Shyama, the first film we made in what has become the Tagore dance film trilogy, various friends helped to translate our English subtitles into French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish and, more recently, Arabic. These different translations are currently only available on the DVD. However, we will gradually make the complete versions of Shyama in these languages available through Distrify.

For Chitrangada, we have published this 36-second trailer on the dotsub.com platform with a transcript of the English captions. We’ve also added the French and Spanish captions. Anyone can now add translations in other languages.

If you register or login on dotsub.com and choose a language to ‘Translate into’, you will see that there are 11 short captions in the trailer. So if you know a language for which the captions haven’t already been translated, it would help us to spread the word about Chitrangada and Tagore if you could insert the translations of the captions into that language. We’d be happy to give you a credit in the film if you do so.

This would also show us which language versions of Chitrangada you think we should try to create before the global premiere on 23/24 September.

Jun 302012
 
Final scene of Chitrangada

Final scene of Chitrangada

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, ChandalikaChitrangada 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.

With Enrique at the Giza Pyramids

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.

Jun 112012
 

Shyama team on stage after the performance at Cairo Opera House

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, ShyamaChandalika 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.

Sep 112011
 

Kaberi

Thou hast made me known to friends whom I knew not.
Thou hast given me seats in homes not my own.
Thou hast brought the distant near and made a brother of the stranger.
I am uneasy at heart when I have to leave my accustomed shelter;
I forgot that there abides the old in the new, and that there also thou abidest.
Through birth and death, in this world or in others,
wherever thou leadest me it is thou, the same, the one companion of my endless life
who ever linkest my heart with bonds of joy to the unfamiliar.
When one knows thee, then alone there is none, then no door is shut.
Oh, grant me my prayer that I may never lose
the bliss of the touch of the One in the play of the many.

Rabindranath Tagore, 1911

That is exactly how I feel as I sit down to write my first ever blog post. It is only possible for a great poet like Rabindranath (Nobel Prize for Literature, 1913) to explain it in this way. It is amazing how Rabindranath managed to express the different feelings of human life.

Rabindranath has had a major influence on my life. Very often I look to his words to express my feelings.

I grew up in his home town of Santiniketan – “the abode of peace.” My grandfather Shibdas Roy joined the school set up by Rabindranath in Santiniketan. He was a very good singer and a musician. Thanks to his singing, he was one of Rabindranath’s favourite students. He became an honorary teacher at the China Bhavan, teaching English to Tibetan monks.

Later on, my father also joined Rabindranath’s school.

Years later still, it was my grandfather who took me along and enrolled me in Rabindranath’s school. I was lucky enough to grow up in such a wonderful, artistic and open air environment.

From time to time, I feel like sharing different things with those around me with similar interests. That’s why I decided to start this blog.

People often ask me about Tagore dance, Manipuri dance, our Tagore dance film trilogy, Indian cooking and my Indian dance workout. However, I don’t usually have the opportunity to give a complete answer. I hope my blog will provide at least more of the answer.

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