‘Tagore’s works finding pan Indian voice now’ (With Images)

August 12th, 2011 - 11:39 am ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Aug 12 (IANS) After years of cultural confinement in Bengal, Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore’s dance ballets and other works are finding a pan-Indian voice, says eminent Odissi danseuse Ranjana Gauhar.

“We have known Gurudev so long, but his works were confined to Bengal all these years. But now, Tagore has been thrown open to the rest of the country,” Gauhar told IANS in an interview.

“The non-Bengali speaking performers want to take advantage of this opening up of Tagore’s works and translate it into India’s diverse and colourful classical performing arts,” the Odissi dancer said.

Gauhar, a Punjabi, has adapted “Chitrangada” as a ballet with a bi-lingual script in English and Bengali. The dance drama is one of Tagore’s strongest statements about woman power.

Gauhar calls it a cross-cultural achievement for a non-Bengali speaking Odissi performer from Punjab like herself. The dance ballet, which premiered in the capital this week, is her tribute to Tagore, or “Gurudev”, on his 150th birth anniversary.

The danseuse, who was honoured with the Padma Shri award in 2003 and the Sangeet Natak Akademi award in 2007, said she chose “Chitrangada” because “the dance ballet had a theme that never aged”.

The bilingual ballet is now a permanent act in her repertoire.

“Chitrangada is themed around a woman who believes in self-expression and discovers her true self late in life,” Gauhar said.

“Chitrangada”, the brave daughter of a Manipuri king fell in love with Arjuna, the Pandava prince. Known for her archery prowess, the princess was drawn to Arjuna while the prince was hunting in the Himalayas during his exile.

Arjuna sought her hand in marriage but her father refused to let him take her away. Arjuna thus agreed to not take her with himself nor the children born out of their union.

The play, an anecdote from history, unravels Chitrangada’s feminine self when she decides to spend time with Arjuna as a mate.

She sheds her masculine persona of a warrior, a transformation that Gauhar captured in the classical Odissi style at a festival of pan Indian Tagore dance theatres, “Saare Jahan Se Accha”, Aug 10.

“I love the last act of the dance drama where Chitrangada discovers her true self after years of fighting as a man. She learns to believe in herself again and it is a beautiful crossroad in Chitrangada’s life,” Gauhar said.

The festival featured dancer Shovana Narayan, who interpreted a short story by Tagore with a kathak ballet and Manipuri danseuse Priti Patel, who danced to Tagore’s collection of poems, “I Will Not Let You Go”.

Gauhar, who wrote an “English script to explain the significance of the songs and narrate the story”, said she “closely followed Tagore’s one-act play, “Chitra”, about the Manipuri princess which was published in English in 1914.

It was penned by the Nobel Laureate in 1892.

In the play, the episode of Chitrangada from the Mahabharata became a lyrical drama with dialogues that were set to song by performers.

“The biggest advantage in attempting to translate the beautiful creations of Tagore was that I was not a Bengali. I tried to rip open every bit from the writings and poems of Tagore.

“The more I read it, the more it made me curious. It was fascinating how he understood the woman’s heart; and how deeply he was nurtured in the feminine thought process,” Gauhar said.

Tagore was familiar with dances from Orissa, Gauhar said.

“I am a Punjabi and I adapted his play in Odissi,” she said.

Gauhar uses cultural convergence to teach children at the dance academy.

“Odissi has evolved in every way since I trained under my guru Mayadhar Raut. Translated arts can be imparted as training. Today’s children are very curious and communicating with them is difficult,” Gauhar said.

The danseuse teaches nearly 40 children at her academy.

“My message to children is spend more time on riyaz (training). Dedication and discipline cannot be substituted; there is no quick route to success,” she said.

(Madhusree Chatterjee can be contacted at madhu.c@iansin)

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