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 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.

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.

%d bloggers like this: