Sunday, October 30, 2016

Jottings : Slice of life - 56 ( Gulzar and Tagore)

Jottings : Slice of life - 55 ( Gulzar and Tagore)
It is in a way unfortunate that the image of Poet Laureate Rabindranath Tagore immediately brings to mind a picture of a old matured face, with flowing grey beard, draped in flowing clothes often with a shawl casually thrown over his shoulder, solemn eyes with a steady gaze seemingly hiding immense pain and longing behind its facade, an otherworldly look that categories him only as a poet who wrote of God, cosmos and such unearthly subjects. Nothing can be further from the truth. The body of work representing Tagore is as varied, rich and poetic as Shakespeare's. From political tracts to social issues to romantic love to patriotic fervor to sensual relationships to family dramas- his plays, short stories and poetry spans the entire range with equal ease and felicity.
Though he was officially awarded the Nobel prize in 1913 after "Gitanjali" was published, the nobel citation made it clear the award was given "because of his profoundly sensitive, fresh and beautiful verse, by which, with consummate skill, he has made his poetic thought, expressed in his own English words, a part of the literature of the West". English language was fortunate that Tagore could write flawless prose and poetry in English, and translate his own Bengali work as well. But what is unfortunate is that, Tagore is barely known beyond Bengal within India, and the little that is available has filtered through poor and below par translations in local languages rendering his vision and style ordinary and artificial. Just like Subramanya Bharati or kannadasan, great Tamil poets are hardly known beyond the boundaries of TamilNadu; and so are many other wonderful poet laureates in different states of India virtually unknown to others, the fate and image of Tagore has somehow remained one of aloofness and other worldliness. Instead of loving him as a brilliant, multifaceted poet, we have raised him to the pedestal of a saint ensconced in his beautiful Shantiniketan. This is the bane of a multilingual society. It is extremely difficult to give birth to national literature and appreciation of common written legacy, unless, there is some common denominator in terms of a language all of us agree upon. Even otherwise, it will need great poets to translate greats works into local languages. It cannot be done by mediocre run of the mill writers or translators.
None, over the last three or four decades, who have basic understanding of Hindi can argue against the fact that Gulzar's verse, vision and genius is perhaps unparalleled in contemporary Indian poetic landscape. There are many other poets who can be ranked alongside him; but for sheer quality, poetic evangelism and national consciousness, Gulzar is unique. His is a name probably known in most parts of india. A sagely figure, clad always in white kurta pyjama, simple, with a baritone voice that can sooth, provoke, move an entire audience to tears, smiles or surges of love and ecstasy in an instant, willingness to experiment with all forms of literary styles and medium, never shy of working with young artists with taste and style- Gulzar has remained a father figure for clearly an entire generation now.
Recently, while coming back to US, at the Delhi airport, i found two volume set of Gulzar's translation of Tagore's poems. I had some time on my hands. So I skimmed through its pages for about half an hour reading few translations as fluently as I could. For a person like me with only functional knowledge of Hindi, and nothing more, those few verses were like the opening of a rose on a wet dewy morning. Gulzar's mastery of the language is such that even the grandest of imagery gets rendered in words that are as fluid and light as flowing stream. When I came back to the US, I realized few of those poems have been set to music by shantanu moitra (Parineeta, his notable work), sung by Shreya Ghosal and Shaan, interspersed with Gulzar's commentary and elucidation.
I listened to this album in the afternoon today- An experience that can only be expressed as divine and nothing more. Seven wonderful poems have been given musical life through Gulzar's words, Shantanu's twist to rabindra sangeet, Shreya's impeccable vocals and Shaan's mellowed rendition. I was lost in its beauty for nearly an hour. This album is available on Spotify. Its called
" Gulzar in conversation with Tagore"
I highly recommend, request my readers to sample this offering. Tagore comes alive with all his subtleties in the hands of Gulzar and his musical team.
God bless..
Yours in mortality,

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