Mar 122012

Last week, as part of an article about the Cinema Novo festival in Brugge, this 9-minute interview with us about Tagore and the dance film trilogy was published on Flemish cultural website . On Sunday afternoon, Chandalika and Shyama were shown at the festival as part of its Focus on India. The films were invited to the festival thanks to an introduction from Mrs Pooja Kapur, Culture Counsellor at the Indian Embassy in Brussels.

Kaberi, my father and I attended the screenings, which clearly captured the attention of the people in the audience. Kaberi and I took part in question-and-answer sessions after each film. Those who watched the films were keen to know more and asked very interesting questions about Tagore, Indian dance and the Tagore dance form, as well as the extent to which Tagore succeeded in improving the situation of the ‘untouchables’, as featured in Chandalika.

Her Excellency Ambassador Ismat Jahan, the Ambassador for Bangladesh to Belgium, Luxembourg and the EU, very kindly attended both screenings with her husband. During the question-and-answer session after Chandalika, we invited her to say a few words about Tagore. She highlighted his social thinking, as illustrated by Chandalika. She pointed out that he was well ahead of his time in this. She also noted that all three of his dance-dramas (ChandalikaChitrangada and Shyama) were centred on women and that Tagore had campaigned for women to be given a bigger role in society – a reminder which was all the more appropriate in view of International Women’s Day.

After Chandalika and its question-and-answer session were over, I noticed that two men were still sitting in their seats, absorbed in deep debate. They were evidently fascinated by the caste system and I chatted to them for a while about it. As they left, one of them thanked me for ‘this masterpiece’. This, of course, was very gratifying, especially since someone had referred to Shyama as ‘a masterpiece’ after its world première.

Most of those who watched Chandalika in Bruges also watched Shyama. Even in India and Bangladesh, I suspect it’s not very often that people have the chance to watch both dance-dramas in one afternoon! Still, this illustrates how fascinating Europeans find Tagore’s dance-dramas – indicating once again that there could be a significant audience for live performances of the Tagore dance-dramas outside India and Bangladesh if they are presented in an accessible way.

After the screening of Shyama, we took the opportunity to present a 6-minute excerpt from Chitrangada , to give a taste of the third and final film in our Tagore dance film trilogy. Although Chitrangada is almost complete, we have postponed its release until September/October 2012 to allow ourselves more time to prepare and promote its world première. We hope to associate it with a live event and follow the marketing strategy devised for us by our friend Sheri Candler. Sheri has recently helped to release the documentary about the Joffrey Ballet.

Kaberi and I really enjoyed the afternoon. The atmosphere of the Cinema Novo festival, which shows feature films and documentaries from Asia, Africa and Latin America, is very warm, friendly and relaxed. We were, of course, very well looked after by Benny Haesebrouck, one of the organisers of the festival. He had invited us to join the opening night reception last Thursday evening and arranged for us to visit the International Women’s Day celebrations organised by Diversity Brugge on Saturday afternoon. These included Indian cooking, Ayurveda, ‘Bollywood’ dancing, as well as a performance by a Rajasthani folk group.

The Cinema Novo festival continues until next Sunday (18 March). There is also a related exhibition at the Brugge Cultural Centre, which includes a painting by Tagore.

Our congratulations to the organisers of the festival and our thanks to Benny Haesebrouck both for inviting Chandalika and Shyama to the festival and for his coordination. We hope to return to Bruges before the end of the festival.

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