The Bengali aanchal (pallu) didn’t always go over the left shoulder and hang down the back. The first ones in Bengal to actually do it were the women of Rabindranath Tagore’s family.
They introduced this Bombay-style of tying saris in Bengal. Jorasanko was a fashion centre. Tagore himself set a few trends of his own, adopting the long robe.
It’s fitting, therefore, that the celebrations of Tagore’s 150th birth anniversary should include a fashion show.
‘Thakur Barir Saaj Poshak’, organized by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) and to be performed at Azad Bhavan Auditorim, IP Estate, will also include dance and music.
It is one of the many events that will be held in Delhi to celebrate the occasion. Sahitya Akademi will have a Bharatiya Kavita Utsav on May 8 at Vigyan Bhavan, with participants from India and Bangladesh.
Vigyan Bhavan will also see the launch of the ‘150th Anniversary Commemorations of Rabindranath Tagore’ on May 7. National Implementation Committee will oversee the celebrations that’ll include creation of cultural complexes.
“He was a great internationalist even before internationalism came to be known here. He was far ahead of his time,” says Suresh K. Goel, director-general, ICCR. ICCR is responsible for organizing celebrations abroad.
In Delhi, there will also be an exhibition of the digital prints of Tagore’s artwork at Azad Bhavan.
The scale of the celebrations is only in proportion to the interest - academic and general - in Tagore. “There’s more research, conferences and exhibitions now,” says Goel. There are seminars at Rabindra Bhavan (May 7 to 9) and at Vigyan Bhavan by the Raja Rammohun Roy Library Foundation on Tagore’s universalism (May 7). Sangeet Natak Akademi will have plays, readings and dance drama at Meghdoot theatre.
From children’s literature to poetry, plays and short stories - innumerable translations of his works are available. “Tagore was a bilingual writer. All his lectures abroad, many letters, reviews were in English. These are parallel texts. Even Gitanjaliis not an exact translation,” says professor Malashri Lal.
“The act of translation began with Tagore himself. Then there were translations done during his lifetime but with his approval. After his death, translation was controlled institutionally by Visva-Bharati,” Lal added.
But there’s been a huge spurt in translation work after the copyright on Tagore’s works was removed. “Four new translations of the novel were released at the time the film Chokher Baliwas in theatres. Publishers wouldn’t take that kind of risk if there was no interest,” says Lal. Restored films related to Tagore will be screened at the Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts from May 7 to 9.
Biographical material is being translated as the spotlight, once trained only on Tagore, is now panning the entire stage.
An IT professional based in the US, Aniruddho Sanyal, made a documentary on Prince Dwarakanath Tagore. “There is a great deal of interest in Tagore among Bengalis abroad at all times.
“One benefit that we have is that we are constantly exposed to the various programmes on Tagore done by the Bangladeshis who take him just as seriously, if not more,” he says.
The National Gallery of Modern Art has chosen to focus on the artists in the Tagore family.