Few years ago, South African singer Liata Monatisa had performed Kishore Kumar’s version of ‘Ami chini go chini tomare’ at Sandton theatre in Johannesburg. A student of Wits University in Johannesburg, Monatisa had met Monali Shome who was a music teacher at the Indian consulate in Johannesburg. Soon Monatisa started taking lessons from Shome and picked up quite a few Tagore songs including ‘Ekla cholo re’. Videos of some of Monatisa’s renditions have also been shared on social media. Monatisa’s rendition will now be a part of an online Rabindra Jayanti celebration that involves 71 artistes from 14 countries including India, Bangladesh, USA,singapur. Australia, Canada, UAE, UK, Kenya, Malaysia, Philippines, New Zealand and Tanzania.
It was Nairobi-based educationist Sumita Mukherjee who conceived and directed this project titled “Mahabishwe He Bhuboneshar, Hridoy Majhe Royecho Jonmo Jonmantor” on the occasion of Tagore’s 159th birth anniversary. Planning began some three months back. The curated film is divided into nine chapters or themes including “Robi O Prem”, “Robi O Ritu” and “Robi O Biplob”. Apart from Monatisa, other performing artistes include Soumitra Ray, Upal Sengupta, Emon Chatterjee, Debojit Saha, Ashish Vidyarthi, Ekavali Khanna and Joy Sengupta, among others. “Through songs, dance recital, theatre, yoga, fashion show and poetry, different works of Tagore are celebrated in this programme that has been organised by Bandana Paul and edited and produced by Shubh Mukherjee. Since I don’t have enough fund to pay the artistes, I pulled all strings across the globe and tried to contact and convince people to be a part of this offering,” the director said.
Artistes like Monatisa are happy to be a part of this endeavor. Speaking from Johannesburg, Monatisa said, “I don’t know how to speak Bangla but I have been learning how to sing and pronounce words from my music teacher, Monali Shome, at Drisha Music Academy in South Africa. Monaliji has been teaching me words and their meanings and how to pronounce them and how to sing in Bangla.” Shome teaches Hindustani classical music and encourages him to learn different Indian genres and sing in different Indian languages. “I especially love to sing in Bangla because it is her mother tongue,” he added. For this film, Monatisa has sung ‘Mayabono bhiharini horini’.
Smita Singho, the great granddaughter of Tagore’s brother Dwijendranath, was only seven and a half years old when Tagore passed away and was beside him when he breathed his last. “For this film, she has narrated a recipe of Thakurbari,” Mukherjee said.
For Khanna, this film made her “very emotional and nostalgic”. “It took me back to my days in Modern High school where I was first introduced to Tagore. My understanding of his writing and my habit of finding solace and comfort in his work have only become stronger over the years. Fortunately, I can read Bangla effortlessly. However, I realised for those who can’t, they are missing out on a lot as most translations don’t do justice. By sheer luck, I came across a really good translation of Gurudev’s poetry by Gulzar, which I have presented as part of the celebration,” Khanna said.
The curated film, which will be premiered online over the weekend, will begin with an introductory Upanishad sloka. On Saturday, viewers can watch the first one-and-a-half hours long segment. On Sunday, the concluding segment will be aired. “The duration of the second segment is one hour and twenty minutes. For the film, one of our artistes has drawn Tagore while another took photographs of Santiniketan and Jorashako. With emcee Joy and Bandana speaking in Bengali and English, the film will take off from the ‘Rabi O Puja’ chapter,” Mukherjee said.
Since the film involves participation of 71 artistes, massive coordination was required what with the artistes being located in various parts of the world. Added to that was the challenge of getting the recordings during the quarantine period. Yet, Mukherjee managed to connect the dots. One song in the “Rabi O Puja” chapter is sung by two artistes. “While one is from New Zealand, the other is from UK. Having two singers gives the feel of a duet. One dance recital from Melbourne is by four artistes based in different locations. They have been put together as one performance in the ‘Rabi O Nritya’ chapter. Five singers from different locations have lent their voice for one song in the ‘Rabi O Adhunikata’ chapter,” said Mukherjee, who relocated from New Delhi to Nairobi 12 years ago without ever allowing her Bengali roots to weaken. “As the world fights a global crisis, we find solace in Tagore. Through this endeavor, we aim to spread the works of the Bard across the globe.”
Source: Times of India