Rabindranath revisited

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By The Telegraph Online
  • Published 25.01.12

As Rituparno Ghosh steers his documentary film on Rabindranath Tagore, t2 catches a glimpse of the bard and the two most important women in his life — Kadambari and Mrinalini. the filmmaker takes us through the scenes...

[A part of Jorasanko Thakurbari has been constructed at a studio in Rajarhat. This is where the segments of young Rabindranath and his bride, and a middle-aged Rabindranath are being shot for the documentary commissioned by the Union ministry of culture.]

Munmun Pal, who plays (Rabindranath’s wife) Mrinalini, is a receptionist at my doctor’s chamber! I was looking for a face and it struck me one day as I was waiting for my doctor’s appointment. I asked Munmun, ‘Acting korte parbi?’ She said, ‘Hain parbo!

It was God-sent. Both this and the casting for the boy Rabindranath, whom I had spotted in Taki during location-scouting. He had come to take my picture on a cellphone and I bargained with him that I would let him click me if he acted in my film! (Laughs.)

It [casting novices] wouldn’t be a problem because there aren’t much dialogues in the film. And that’s why this documentary is a huge challenge for me, especially since dialogue is my forte and I depend on it. Here we are having to make up with shots and expressions.

(Above) This is Rabindranath [played by Samadarshi] and Mrinalini’s first photograph together, right after their wedding. A similar photograph of Rabindranath and Mrinalini actually exists.

(Top) Here Mrinalini is waiting in bed for her husband. Kadambari [the wife of Rabindranath’s elder brother Jyotirindranath] committed suicide six months after Rabindranath got married and after her death, he behaved almost like a mad man. He would wander outside at night and I thought what Mrinalini must have felt, watching her husband in such a state....

[The Jorasanko Thakurbari set in Rajarhat.]

Sanjoy Nag (director of Memories in March) plays the elderly Rabindranath. We shot two scenes here. One is when Bela, his eldest child, dies. The other is when he receives the news of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre. He paces up and down and then writes the letter [renouncing his knighthood].... Most of Jorasanko Thakurbari has changed, except for the andarmahal. So we had to put up a set and I did the production design.


[At Jorasanko Thakurbari off CR Avenue. Rituparno (top right) directs a scene involving Samadarshi and Raima Sen as Rabindranath and Kadambari.]

Kadambari had a wheatish complexion and she had a broad forehead. So Raima had to wear a few coats of dark make-up.... Rabindranath and Kadambari had become friends after he returned from abroad. In the afternoon, they would sit on a mat on the terrace at Jorasanko... khunshuti hoto... he had written about it in the poem Nimantran.

Rabindranath gradually grew to be very affectionate towards his wife Mrinalini. Here there was no courtship, while with Kadambari he had a fun, flirtatious relationship. This is also something I want to explore through the documentary — the different kinds of relationships he had with different kinds of women.

[The courtyard of Jorasanko Thakurbari off CR Avenue.]

The family used to follow ritualistic worship before embracing the Brahmo faith. This sequence shows a Jagaddhatri puja taking place during Debendranath’s time. It is a significant scene.... And I like the way our crew flits in and out of the film all the time!

[Jorasanko Thakurbari off CR Avenue.]

Anirban Ghosh, a theatre actor, plays Debendranath, Rabindranath’s father. This (above) is Debendranath in a deep meditative moment, after

his wife Saradasundari passes away. Young Rabindranath is watching his father from a distance [not in picture]. This pose was imprinted in the young boy’s mind and it helped Rabindranath deal with bereavements later in life.

[Taking a break with his cast members.]

I could have portrayed all this with pictures and archival matter, but I felt that no one would enjoy watching a dry documentary today. Besides, I wanted to capture all facets of Rabindranath. Now I am wondering why I didn’t turn it into a feature film, since we are making it on such a huge scale! I am not thinking of it as a documentary any more.

Which aspect of Rabindranath’s life and creativity do you want to know more about through Rituparno’s documentary? Tell t2@abp.in