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It’s time to uncork Tagore

How can a literary meet in the heart of Calcutta be complete without a few contentious words about Tagore and his works?

Jayabrato Chatterjee, who moderated the session titled Baandh Bhenge Dao, started off with the question “Do you think the copyright has helped or deterred Tagore’s works and where will it lead ultimately?”

The speakers discussed and debated whether or not to cross the boundaries of reading, singing and understanding Tagore 100 years after Gitanjali.

“If you want the phenomenon to go beyond the circle you have to open the gates,” said Jawhar Sircar, the CEO of Prasar Bharati.

Harvard professor and historian Sugata Bose, who has transcreated some of Tagore’s writings in English, stressed on his use of alternative English in translating his works while filmmaker Q explained why he could “completely relate to the vibe in Tasher Desh despite Tagore the iconic writer and social thinker being inaccessible and not featuring in the kind of street culture I was drawn to”.

Next came the question put in very populist terms, “Does Tagore rock?” Sircar rued, “No. He doesn’t because we haven’t allowed him to rock. He still seems to be a property of the seniors.”

“Although it’s so doable,” chipped in Q, “because his text was so much beyond time”.

Bose recited a translation of Baandh bhenge dao by his grandfather in English that read: “Break down all barriers/ Break, break, break…” as he harped on the three key elements of Tagore’s poetry and songs that could transcend time — “word, mood and beat”.

While Bose stressed that “anything that is new is not always better” and therefore the need to tread carefully when playing around with the aesthetics and value of the words and the tunes, the consensus at the end of the hour-long discussion was the need to “uncork” Tagore as Sircar put it. “Like vintage wine,” added Q.