We have all grown up in our own way. We all have developed a thought process that makes us perceive one idea in our own ways. And that is perhaps how we all perceive that one little idea. It might have 10 different interpretations to 10 different people.
..And so does Rabindranath Tagore find different interpretations, newer forms in this present generation.
How many of us have heard this statement – “This generation children do not like Rabindranath Tagore”?
We just cannot complain that this generation is not inclined towards Tagore. Most of them are. I belong to this generation. I am inclined towards Tagore and wish to read more of him. The question is – are they getting the right amount of motivation and mentoring? If they wish to take a step forward, will their surrounding be supportive enough? Most of my friends, cannot even read Bengali properly. When I decided to learn Rabindrasangeet from Dakshinee, many of them supported me. Few of them wanted to listen from me and at times asked for translation. Even I started reading Tagore in Bengali from late 2011… inspired and motivated by Shekhar Gupta.
And perhaps, there lies a significant difference between inclination and practising orthodoxy. One might just wish to stick to the note arrangement of the swara-bitan, one might just wish to twist few of its notes to suit his ways. One might just wish to do away with the Harmonium and play one Rabindrasangeet of his choice sitting in a dark room with his acoustic guitar. Or like my music teacher does – write Bandish and sing them along with his chosen Rabindrasangeet.
What I would look forward to, in any rendition… Are the audience enjoying it? Are the powerful lyrics prominent, clearly heard, understood or comprehended? Are the lyrics relevant to the audience?
Personally speaking, I liked A R Rahman’s “Jagao mere desh” which is a translation of the Bengali poem – “Chitto jetha bhoye shunyo” (Where the mind is without fear). I have liked Q’s “Tasher desh’s” music tracks. I have liked many such fusions.
But not all fusions are as good. As one of my friend Agnivo Niyogi points out, “The lyrics must not be lost in the heavy music.” A class 12 child Pushpak points out, “I would obviously not like a Rabindrasangeet being transformed into a skrillex or metal version.” I would be disheartened if anyone wishes to surpass the essence of Tagore ie his lyrics and play foul with it. Like Sounak Chattopadhyay says, “If they want to show they calibre let them do before or after the song. I love Rabindrasangeet. I am classically trained. This does not mean, I will twist and include into the words unnecessary ornamentations. I can do that very well and people will hear it when I sing one Indian classical song.”
There had been many “experiments” which I did not like. But why do we need to necessarily restrict them? Is Tagore not universal? Is Tagore not of all? Tagore is as much as theirs as he is mine.
Let us present Tagore our way. If people can connect to it, they connect to Tagore. That is the ultimate aim, right? We need to shred inhibitions, take Tagore out of the shelves and make him available to the mass. While in a discussion, Agnivo said, “…we should not take Tagore to the level of pedestrians”, in one of the interviews the principal of Dakshinee once said, “Tagore should not be available to every Tom Dick and Harry.” Agnivo and Shekhar Gupta, both hate popular Bollywood singers or singers of other genres singing Rabindrasangeet with broken accent. They feel Tagore is cheaply commercialised for a short term goal.
I’ll share my story. From childhood, I knew there was a Tagore and my grandmother is a huge fan of his work. She used to sing his songs / quote him in numerous occasions and I used to look at her amazed wondering her capability to remember. Tagore lived in her veins. But with her death and my increasing pressure of school studies, Tagore got restricted to the translated verses in my syllabus. And I hated it. I had to understand, comprehend a lot, at times exactly the way my teacher wanted me to comprehend and explain it, or else they gave less marks. My objective was to get marks then.
Later when I bought computer, I downloaded and borrowed pirated Rabindrasangeet music files to stay in the good books of my father. Weird, yes.
So when did I get interested? It was the film “Aalo”, suggested by my Bengali tuition teacher. Later, during 150th birthday celebration there was a rush of musicians trying to do something with Tagore music. I started following and collecting different fusions. I never were a fan of loud music, so most of the experiments I collected, I could follow the lyrics properly. Slowly, I started listening to the old recordings. Call it a coincidence, I got to hear “Dibosho rojoni ami jeno tar ashaye ashaye thaaki”, at a time when it seemed so relevant and I could connect to it. Later inspired by Rituparno Ghosh’s “Gaaner Opare”. My decision to join Dakshinee was enlightening. And now I am a student of Sounak Chattopadhyay. …and I should admit, I am in love with Tagore’s work and I do read his work in Bengali. Little and late, yes. But I do.
So what led me to Tagore? My grandmother? Saikat Sengupta (first a colleague and then my teacher in Dakshinee)? Rituparno Ghosh, whose films I admire the most? Sounak Chattopadhyay, who is more like an elder brother to me? Or the rush of fusions and experiments that happened with Tagore music?
Perhaps all. Experiments should continue. Popular singers should also sing. I am a very general person, hailing from an extremely humble and middle class background. I am still one of the “Tom Dick or Harry, a pedestrian” as Agnivo mentions. If I get inspired, a lot like me will get to feel Tagore. We all, whatever we know of him, however we know of him… let us shred inhibition, present Tagore our own way. People, younger people who love us, will start knowing, appreciating and loving Tagore. Who knows, we will have more like me writing and urging their friends to know Tagore.
Tagore is relevant. He is relevant to this generation as he was a 100 years back. He shall be relevant for the next multiple centuries and as long as the human race survives on earth. He speaks of nature and of human emotions. He is eternal.
Shall leave you with three videos. Check them if you have time.
..and A R Rahman’s “Jagao mere Desh”