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.

 

Aug 312012
 

We are just over three weeks from our charity gala film premiere of Chitrangada, including a live, multilingual performance of The Story of Gitanjali.

These days almost every evening actors have been visiting us to rehearse or audition for the live performance. It is very nice to hear the same Tagore poem in different languages. Every language has it’s own flow.

For the last couple of evenings we are taking the audition and rehearsing with Hungarian actors. The actor we finally selected to read a poem in Hungarian for The Story of Gitanjali is Ágnes Kaszás. She is very enthusiastic about Tagore’s work and had read Tagore’s poetry in high school.

We were telling Ágnes about our experience in Balatonfüred, a small town on the shore of Lake Balaton in Hungary.

In 2009 we went to Hungary specially for Balatonfüred where Tagore has been treated in a heart hospital for three weeks when he had been taken ill while visiting Budapest in 1926.

The promenade along the shore of Lake Balaton is called Tagore Sétány.

The Tagore Sétány (promenade) at Balatonfüred, Hungary

We were in Balatonfüred for just over a week, staying at a guest house recommended to us by Hungarian friends in Brussels. We were thrilled to see different things associated with Tagore around Balatonfüred.

Before we went to Balatonfüred, Supriyo Da (Supriyo Tagore) had told me that there is a tree which Tagore had planted while he was there. Then we heard from Somen Da (Somendranath Bandyopadhyay) that, near the tree Tagore had planted, there was a sculpture by the great Indian sculptor Ramkinkar Baij.

However, the statue of Tagore on Tagore Sétány turned out not to be the original sculpture by Ramkinkar Baij we had heard about but a hollow and very simple bust!

The simple and modern bust of Tagore on Tagore Sétány

After two days, with the help of our host, we went to see the room in the functioning hospital where Rabindranath Tagore was treated.

Plaque on the door of the Tagore memorial room at the hospital

A nurse at the hospital kindly allowed us to see the room when she heard that I was from Tagore’s home town.

Tagore’s room in the heart hospital, Balatonfüred,Hungary

The study where we found the Tagore’s sculpture by Ramkinkar Baij.

As you see, the original Ramkinkar Baij sculpture was housed in the room Tagore had used as his study. He had written his poem Lekhon here.

Tagore’s association with Hungary is summarised in this article. Ketaki Kushari Dyson provided more details in her review of the book Hungry Tiger by Imre Banghe.

It is not obvious why the Ramkinkar Baij statue was moved from the promenade to the hospital and replaced by a more modern bust. We were told that the reason was that it was not a very flattering sculpture as Tagore was presented by Ramkinkar Baij leaning forwards with age. Unfortunately, the more recent bust has been placed on the same plinth, which means that Tagore now appears to look out over the heads of people at Lake Balaton.

With Obhi and the modern statue of Tagore over our heads

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.

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