I know already that I will need more than one post to do justice to the experience of presenting Rabindranath Tagore’s last dance-drama, Shyama, on tour in Egypt. The tour by Kaberi and a team from Santiniketan was organised by the Maulana Azad Centre for Indian Culture in Cairo, together with the Indian Embassy there, to celebrate Tagore’s 150th birth anniversary. It was sponsored by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations as part of a cultural exchange programme between Egypt and India, in association with the Egyptian Ministry of Culture.
Kaberi and the dancers in the team were performing to an adapted version of the soundtrack from our film version of Shyama , with Arabic and English subtitles projected above the stage. The English subtitles came from our film version of Shyama, as translated by Jayanta Chatterjee (my father), Kaberi and myself. The Arabic subtitles were kindly provided by translators at the Indian Embassy and reviewed with the help of Essam A of the Maulana Azad Centre. The lighting design and control was provided by Debanshu Majumder, who had also done the lighting for our film version.
The performance schedule was quite intense:
– 15 Jan: Cairo Opera House
– 16 Jan: Ismailia Cultural Palace
– 18 Jan: Alexandria Opera House
– 20 Jan: Academy of Fine Arts, Giza
– 21 Jan: Beni Suef Cultural Palace
The inaugural performance at the Cairo Opera House was attended by the Egyptian Culture Minister and other VIP guests. Before each performance of Shyama, there was a short performance by Padmashree Sumitra Guha and her team illustrating the way Tagore based the tunes of some of his songs on Indian classical ragas.
The ‘Shyama in Egypt’ team, led by Kaberi and supported by local technicians at each venue, comprised:
– Kaberi Chatterjee (Shyama, a court dancer)
– Sourav Chatterjee (Bojroshen, a foreign merchant)
– Ambika Bhandary (Uttiyo, an admirer of Shyama who has never expressed his love for her)
– Basanta Mukherjee (Kotal, a member of the King’s Guard)
Dancers in the roles of Friend / Shyama’s companions
Sunipa Chakraborty, Tamalika Dey, Puja Gupta, Tuli Mukherjee & Trina Ruj
[Unfortunately, shortly before the team set off for Egypt, Sharmistha Mukhopadhyay, who was supposed to be one of the six dancers in this group, fell ill and had to miss the tour.]
Additional choreography for Uttiyo and Bojroshen
– Debanshu Majumder (Lighting designer)
– Ambika Bhandary (Make-up)
– Enrique Nicanor (Digital projection/’Making of’ documentary)
– Obhi Chatterjee (Director/Subtitling/Soundtrack)
With thanks to Sangeet Bhavana, Visva-Bharati University, Santiniketan for the use of the Sangeet Bhavana stage for rehearsals, as well as for the participation of Asst Professor Basanta Mukherjee and Sangeet Bhavana students.
The recorded soundtrack for the performances was an adapted version of the soundtrack from our film version of Shyama, which was performed by:
Manini Mukhopadhyay (Shyama)
Jayanta Chatterjee (Bojroshen)
Prasanta Kumar Ghosh (Uttiyo)
Ashok Kumar Ganguly (Kotal)
Friend – singer
Shyama’s companions – singers
Ritapa Bhattacharya, Sikha Chatterjee Chakroborty & Manini Mukhopadhyay
Sunil Kabiraj (Esraj)
Dipak Das (Sitar)
Animesh Chandra (Synthesiser & esraj)
Debasis Hazra (Pakhwaj, tabla, khol & dhol)
Ch Bocha Singh (Manipuri pung)
Dilip Birbonshi (Mandira)
Ashok Kumar Ganguly
The performances were very well-received. In Part 2, I’ll describe how the tour went.