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Onyo Rabindranath

Rabindranath the name invokes a feeling of awe and respect in every heart who has had the opportunity to explore his works. Remembered mostly for his songs (he wrote about 2500 of them) this man’s talents knew no bounds. A second standard dropout, composed his first poem at the age of thirteen, Rabindranath was a connoisseur of words. He promulgated range of new spellings for Bengali words, doing away with a system which was more confusing for users of the Bengali language. Since early childhood, the little boy was brought up by the “servants” of the royal Thakur family of Jorasanko, probably the reason why he loved Nature. Breaking away the shackles of a “royal” life, he escaped into the soothing company of trees, caress of the clouds, reticence of the rain.

Tagore is well known for his songs and poems. But what sets him apart from his contemporaries are his short stories and paintings. An artist par excellence, his creativity is well defined in the fact that whenever he sat down to compose a poem or a song, if he did not find some words satisfactory, he would strike them out and form a pattern out of those words.

Abstract does not define his work, yet his subtle statements drive life into the surreal. From the romantic Bolai to effeminate Ginni, from Chhuti to Kshudhito Pashan, life finds a new meaning in each of Tagore’s short stories. The classic irony of social life and stigma is summed up in the lines

Kadambini moriya promaan korilo se more naayi

(Kadambini’s death proved that she was alive)

On this occasion of the Bard’s 150th birth anniversary, i wish to introduce a different Rabindranath to people. The painter Rabindranath.

[My heartfelt gratitude to the Minister in charge of Railways, Government of India, for her innovative project Sanskriti Express, which gave me access to Rabindranath’s paintings and family photographs]


Born on 2 May 1922, Satyajit Ray, is known to all as a director par excellence. A writer, creator of two immortal characters of Bengali literature – Feluda and Professor Shanku, Ray is less known as a musician. Talent galore, this dropout of the prestigious Economics department of Presidency College had no financial  backers for his first film which went on to become a cult movie – Pather Panchali. A master craftsman, he gave cinema some of the finest actors, viz Aparna Sen, Sharmila Tagore, brought out a different side to the reigning king of Bengali cinema, Uttam Kumar in Nayak and Chiriyakhana. From overtly political messages in his films to sci-fi fantasy stories, Satyajit Ray has done it all. It is widely acclaimed that Steven Spielberg borrowed the concept of E.T. from Ray’s short story “Bankubabur Bandhu”.

Ray had his unique style. He sketched every shot on his worksheet before shooting them. He could write about cities he never traveled to just by virtue of knowing the Bhraman Sangee (Bengali travel guide) by heart. Despite Byomkesh ruling the hearts of Bengalis, Ray’s Feluda is a classic growing up companion for Bongs. And must i not mention many Non Bengali speaking friends hooked to the adventures of the troika of Feluda, Topshe, Jatayu!

The first time i came across Ray, would be 1991. DD1 had a special telecast of Goopi Gyne, Bagha Byne. I vividly remember that summer night! It was a Sunday. Whole family watching the movie together. Me, being a “early to bed” boy, had enough sleep in the afternoon to last me through the whole film. But the West Bengal State Electricity Board failed us. Goopi Gyne Bagha Byne is and will always be my most favourite film made by Ray. Striking similarities of the plot with Tagore’s Raktakarabi, the film has a different appeal to different age groups. As you watch the film while growing up, you discover a new facet to it everytime you watch it. And having watched it more than 200 times by now, i have the whole screenplay by heart.

Another beautiful film by Ray, Charulata – based on Nashtaneer written by Tagore – still haunts me. The famous scene on the swing has been adopted by almost every director who made a period film based in Bengal (viz Parineeta). Madhabi’s dilemma, Soumitra’s persona scripted an unforgettable love story.

Debi, Kanchenjunga, Kapurush-Mahapurush, Aranyer Din Ratri, Sakha Proshaka, Agantuk, Hirak Rajar Deshe, Ganashatru, Ashani Sanket, Nayak…..the list of Ray’s masterpieces would never end. And i do not wish to prolong my monologue saying what has already been said.

Perhaps, Ray did not know that his words would once become the chant of praise showered on his genius.  Maharaja Tomaare Selam (Salutes to you, the King).

Maharaja Tomare Selaam

Orey Halla Rajar Sena, tora Juddho Kore korbi ki ta bol

Ek je chilo Raja

Most importantly Ray made us believe Dori Dhore Maaro Taan, Raja Hobe Khan Khan.

[P.S. DO NOT MISS THIS CLASSIC DANCE OF GHOSTS from Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne. Brilliant concept and marvelous execution]

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