Feb 122012

Kotal (Basanta Mukherjee), an agent of the King’s Guard

In Part 1, I explained the background to the tour and in part 2, I described the reaction to Shyama in Egypt.

The performances of Shyama in Egypt took place the week before the first anniversary of the popular revolution which made Tahrir Square the focus of international attention, deposed President Hosni Mubarak and launched the “Arab Spring” last year. It was an exciting time to be there.

The story of Shyama, which is based on a Buddhist legend, is primarily one of love and sacrifice. It is as much of a romantic tragedy as Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet.

In the programme of its first performance in 1939, Tagore wrote:

“Let me confess that the story is immaterial. I ask my audience not to distract their attention by searching for meaning which belongs to the alien kingdom of language but to keep their minds passive in order to be able to receive an immediate impression of the whole, to capture the spirit of art which reveals itself in the rhythm of movements, in the lyric of colour, form and sound and refuses to be denied or described by words.”

The cause of the tragedy in Shyama is set out in its seemingly innocuous opening scene. Bojroshen, a foreign merchant, is examining his acquisitions when a Friend approaches. The Friend warns him that the Queen has heard of the emerald necklace he is carrying and has sent guards to look for him. Soon after the Friend urges Bojroshen to leave, an agent of the King’s Guard duly arrives.

As we heard while we were in Egypt, this idea of a “Queen” wanting a necklace may have reminded people watching Shyama there of another necklace which was the focus of news attention there last year. Allegedly, Suzane Mubarak, wife of former President Mubarak, had visited the jewellery museum in Alexandria and noticed that a gold necklace which had belonged to Princess Samiha Mohamed Ali had the initials ‘S M’ engraved on it and had asked whether the initials could stand for Suzane Mubarak. Allegedly, the following morning, the necklace was delivered to her. The Supreme Public Funds Prosecutor looked into the allegations but decided to hold back investigations after finding the necklace in its original display in the museum and asserted that the allegations were unfounded. An official apology was submitted to the prosecutor by the person making the allegations and the insult or libel lawsuits filed against him were dropped.

Returning to Shyama, we are next introduced to Uttiyo, who meets Shyama’s companions in her audience chamber at the palace. He is a regular visitor and has admired Shyama from a distance but has never expressed his feelings to her.

The character of Uttiyo, who is dressed in white to underline the purity of his thoughts, probably represents Tagore. Tagore too had been unlucky in love throughout his life.

After Shyama sees Bojroshen being chased and caught by the Guard on the pretext that Bojroshen is a thief, she falls in love with Bojroshen and resolves to help him. The Guard, who may also be in love with Shyama, tells her that there has been a theft from the Royal Treasury and they need to find a thief to save their honour – and who better than a foreigner?

With Bojroshen facing execution, Uttiyo answers Shyama’s call for someone to save him. Uttiyo offers to sacrifice his life to save Bojroshen. This then leads to a tragic moral dilemma for both Shyama and Bojroshen.

Uttiyo (Ambika Bhandary) offers Shyama (Kaberi Chatterjee) his life

Although the Guard appears on stage as the villain of Shyama, he is simply fulfilling the orders of his masters, the King and Queen, whom we never see. Of course, the Guard does seem to relish his unpleasant task.

Just over a year ago, a Facebook page called “We are all Khaled Said” highlighted the case of a young man who had apparently committed no crime but was pulled out of a cybercafé by Egyptian police and beaten to death, inspiring the revolution which started on 25 January 2011. During the protests which followed, centred on Tahrir Square in Cairo, snipers on the rooftops appeared to aim for the heads and hearts of protesters, leaving more than 800 dead. The question of who ordered them to do so has been a key aspect of the Mubarak trial.

Since our return from Egypt, the country has sadly seen further tragedy. Although Tagore created Shyama in 1939, at a difficult time in both pre-Independence India and Europe, Shyama is timeless and universal.

Our tour of Shyama in Egypt has illustrated that the dance concept he developed to express the meaning of his Bengali lyrics does cross linguistic and cultural boundaries as Tagore had intended, even today, because of its focus on the whole body language of the dancers. At the same time, Tagore’s humanist values expressed in the following song from Shyama are as appropriate for 1939 as they are for last year’s ‘Arab Spring’ and other current situations.

Shyama’s companions ‘The locking up of the good at the hands of the cruel – who will stop it?’

The locking up of the good at the hands of the cruel – who will stop it? Who?
The flow of tears from helpless, distressed eyes – who will wipe them away? Who?
The cries of distressed people sadden Mother Earth.
The attacks of injustice are poisoned arrows –
Under persecution from the strong, who will save the weak?
Whose generosity will call those who have been insulted into his embrace?

Feb 062012

Article in Egyptair in-flight magazine about Shyama

Kaberi Chatterjee dressed as Shyama, in lift at Alexandria’s Metropole Hotel Photo: Obhi Chatterjee

In Part 1, I explained the background to the Shyama in Egypt tour.

Enrique Nicanor and I had decided to join the team at our own expense. We reached Cairo from Europe a day ahead of the team. Enrique had noticed that there was an article about the performances of Shyama at the Cairo and Alexandria Opera Houses in the Egyptair in-flight magazine, Horus. The article was the same size as one about the performances of Aida at the Cairo Opera House at the end of January! The performances were also included in the magazine’s events calendar for January.

Unfortunately, the last leg of the team’s journey to Cairo – a flight from Jeddah – was cancelled. This meant that they had to catch the next flight from Jeddah and arrived in Cairo in the early hours of the day of their first performance. This was not only at the Cairo Opera House but would be attended by the Egyptian Culture Minister and other VIPs. The team was so tired when they arrived that we had to abandon the stage rehearsal we had intended.

As became our routine on all the performance days, Mithuda (Debanshu Majumder), Enrique and I went to the theatre first to supervise the technical setup, including lighting, sound and projection of the subtitles. Essam A helped us to communicate with the theatre technicians.

Egyptair in-flight magazine’s January 2012 events calendar

Although we tested the projection of the subtitles at the Cairo Opera House with the first part of the sequence, as time moved on, it became clear that I wouldn’t be able to finish adding all the Arabic subtitles, together with all the necessary video processing, in time for the start of the performance that evening. So, rather than showing the subtitles for part of the show and then leaving the audience without them for the rest, we decided to present the show that evening without the subtitles.

We knew that we had a receptive audience at the Cairo Opera House when there was a round of applause each time I introduced a new character and they appeared on stage one-by-one. As the show went on, there was applause after each scene. Naturally, this spurred the team on.

In our film version, we had deliberately kept the timing on the soundtrack very tight to avoid giving any opportunity for the attention of the audience to wander. The team had to be very focused to match this timing on stage, including costume changes. It would have been obvious to anyone watching the show the team had been rehearsing for weeks before the tour.

Soon, the show was over and the Egyptian Culture Minister, the Indian Ambassador and Mrs Durai, Director of the Maulana Azad Centre for Indian Culture, came on stage to presented flowers to all the performers. We all returned from the Opera House exhausted but happy that it had been so well-received.

The next morning, we travelled to Ismailia. Unfortunately, once we arrived, we realised that there was a fault with some of the technical equipment at the hall, which limited our ability to adjust the lighting and set up the backdrop. We also thought it would be too difficult to add the problem of projecting the subtitles to these technical challenges.

So it was the performance at the beautiful Alexandria Opera House which became the world’s first subtitled, live performance of Shyama. The technicians from the Cairo Opera House very kindly came to Alexandria with their digital projector especially to make this possible. I cannot describe the thrill of seeing the subtitles appear as the show began – the audience could experience the combination of my novel, digital technique with the dancing! Finally, after all the preparations, they had the option of referring to the Arabic and English subtitles during the performance.

I should take a moment to pay tribute to all the technicians at each of the theatres in which we presented Shyama. Without their help, it would not have been possible to present such a technically demanding show.

Ambassador R Swaminathan and Mrs Durai very kindly attended almost all the performances. After each performance, there were often people from the audience coming up to the dancers, asking to be photographed with them. Especially at the the Giza performance, though, several people, particularly Egyptian women and children, came onto the stage seeking autographs, photographs, and so on. It was clear that Shyama had struck a chord with them.

Kaberi and Ohoud Al Shuaibi at the Safir Hotel, Cairo Photo: Obhi Chatterjee

The day after the final performance at Beni Suef, where Mahmoud helped us to communicate with the technicians, it was time for the team to return to India. As Kaberi was having her last lunch at the Safir Hotel, where the team had been staying, their guest relations Director, Ohoud Al Shuaibi, came up to her.

She explained that she and her husband loved Indian films and had become very fond of the team during their stay at the hotel. They were always smiling, polite, and never apart, as well as being very popular with the hotel staff. She and her husband had hesitated before taking up the invitation of staff at the Indian Embassy and Cultural Centre to attend the Giza performance: they hadn’t been sure if she would enjoy a performance in a language she wouldn’t understand.

However, she had been very impressed by the show and particularly by Kaberi’s performance as Shyama. She told Kaberi that her dancing had been so expressive and her body language so clear that they had understood everything. Kaberi was very moved by her comments – it is the highest praise a dancer can receive is to hear from someone in the audience that they were so touched by the performance.

The video below is an excerpt from the interview Enrique filmed with her shortly afterwards, after Kaberi and the rest of the team had set off for the airport. I think it illustrates how deeply moving and memorable our Egyptian audiences found Shyama and the team’s performances.

Jan 292012

The ‘Shyama in Egypt’ team at the Giza pyramids          Photo: Enrique Nicanor

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

Bojroshen (Sourav Chatterjee) escapes from Kotal (Basanta Mukherjee)

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:

Principal dancers

– 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.]

Dance director

Kaberi Chatterjee

Additional choreography for Uttiyo and Bojroshen

Shubhra Tagore


– 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.

Uttiyo (Ambika Bhandary) and Shyama’s companions (Sunipa Chakraborty, Puja Gupta, Tamalika Dey, Trina Ruj & Tuli Mukherjee)

The recorded soundtrack for the performances was an adapted version of the soundtrack from our film version of Shyama, which was performed by:

Principal singers

Manini Mukhopadhyay (Shyama)

Jayanta Chatterjee (Bojroshen)

Prasanta Kumar Ghosh (Uttiyo)

Ashok Kumar Ganguly (Kotal)

Friend – singer

Priyam Mukherjee

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)

Music director

Ashok Kumar Ganguly

Music arrangers

Animesh Chandra

Debasis Hazra


The performances were very well-received. In Part 2, I’ll describe how the tour went.

The team on stage during the presentations after the Giza performance   Photo: Enrique Nicanor

Kaberi Chatterjee preparing to present an uttoriyo to the representative of the Egyptian Ministry of Culture on behalf of the team. On the right is Mrs Suchitra Durai, Director of the Maulana Azad Centre for Indian Culture.   Photo: Enrique Nicanor















Dec 112011

Inner Eye’s Tagore dance film trilogy with Kaberi Chatterjee in the title roles

Five years after starting to prepare filming Shyama, we are now close to completing Chitrangada, the third and final feature film in our trilogy of authentic versions of Tagore’s dance-dramas (the other two being Chandalika and Shyama). As a result of making these films and translating Tagore’s texts for their subtitles, I have now had the opportunity to explore all three dance-dramas intensively and from a western perspective. This has made me realise that they are no less worthy of the international stage than classical western ballet or opera. Perhaps it’s time for a new dawn in the world of ballet and opera to come from the East … .

Up to now, few outside the Bengali diaspora have been aware of Tagore’s dance-dramas, even though they attract large Bengali audiences whenever they are staged and most of their songs are well-known to Bengalis. This is perhaps because the dance-dramas have not been translated before and their performances outside India and Bangladesh tend to be one-off events aimed at Bengali-speaking communities. As a result, even among those around the world who are aware of Tagore’s literary genius but who do not understand Bengali (and perhaps the children of Bengali parents brought up in non-Bengali environments), Tagore’s dance-dramas might appear to be little more than a quaint experiment in his later years.

In reality, the dance-dramas are probably the most accomplished works created by Tagore, combining his poetry with music, drama and the semi-classical dance form he created. The plots of all three were based on legends which Tagore adapted to express his humanist message about powerful, timeless and universal themes: the hurt inflicted on people by social prejudice, the difficulties of reconciling public image with private life and the sacrifices people are prepared to make for love. Kaberi’s forthcoming book ‘Tagore Dance’, based on her PhD research, reveals the original creation of the Tagore dance form. Kaberi has made the introduction to her book available as a free download from her website.

In the case of Chitrangada, which is based on an episode from the epic Mahabharata, Tagore had written a play based on the same episode almost 50 years earlier. It was called Chitra, which you can read in the Internet archive. It’s not clear exactly when Tagore wrote Chitra: there are online versions with the dates 1892 and 1896 but, according to the preface of the 1913 edition printed in English by the India Society, it was written ‘about twenty five years ago’, ie, in about 1888.

Incidentally, thanks to Dr Asok Chaudhuri, I learned that the Tagore notebook from autumn 1928 which will be auctioned by Sotheby’s in New York on Tuesday includes the lyrics of two songs which were later included by Tagore in Chitrangada.

In recent years, opera houses around the world have been equipped to show subtitles of operas being performed in their original language, whether above the stage or on the backs of seats. We will be using the subtitles from our film version of Shyama (in English and, we hope, Arabic) when Kaberi and her team from Santiniketan perform Shyama live next month in Egypt, including at the Cairo and Alexandria Opera Houses.

Through the Tagore dance film trilogy and its subtitles, apart from preserving Tagore’s original concept, we would like to ensure that Tagore’s dance-dramas join Western operas and ballet on the world stage. We have decided to postpone the release of Chitrangada until around 7 May 2012, the end of Tagore’s 150th birth anniversary year. This is to allow more time to arrange its gala charity world première in a way which brings Tagore and his dance-dramas to the attention of dance and opera lovers around the world.

If you would like to help us, please comment below or post on the wall of the Facebook page of the Tagore dance film trilogy. Your help could take one or more of a variety of forms:

  • telling your friends about Tagore, the dance-dramas and the films;
  • downloading the introduction to Kaberi’s book Tagore Dance and joining the mailing list for news about it (see button below);
  • hosting a screening of one or more of the films; translating the subtitles into more languages;
  • helping out at the gala charity world première of Chitrangada;
  • persuading a local hall with a digital projector to join a global première by screening the (live) introduction from the main gala charity event followed by Chitrangada subtitled in the local language;
  • recommending potential sponsors for the première, including the online global promotion and distribution of the films;
  • moral support by liking this post and/or the Facebook pages of the trilogy and each of the films;
  • any other help or advice you would like to offer.
Nov 132010

Shyama releases Bojroshen

In case you don’t know, I’m about to make my second and third feature films back-to-back. Like the first film (Shyama), they are ‘dance-dramas’ by Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore.

We will be filming in Tagore’s home town of Santiniketan, India, at the university set up by him. In both of the films, Kaberi will be dancing the title role, as she did in Shyama.

UNESCO will be celebrating Tagore’s 150th birth anniversary next year, although the celebrations started in May this year. Last month, the Spanish version of Shyama had its premiere at the Ourense Film Festival, Galicia, as part of a special section dedicated to Tagore’s 150th birth anniversary.

Kaberi also performed at different events during the week. See my blog post Shyama at the Ourense Film Festival for more details, including links to the extensive press coverage of our activities during the festival.

There’s a 2-minute video explaining the project on its crowdfunding campaign page: http://trilogy.fundbreak.co.uk . You’ll find rewards ranging from updates and digital downloads of all three films to a one-to-one dance lesson with Kaberi via Skype and your name in the end credits of the films. To become a supporter, the minimum pledge is just £1 (US$1.61 / €1.18 / Rs72).

If you could circulate the link to your various networks, that would be very helpful. We have to reach our ‘seed money’ funding goal of £5,000 by 17 November at midday UK time, to avoid all the pledges made by then going back to the supporters. We still have quite a long way to go!

You may be interested to read these two articles about the trilogy. ‘Embracing the Recognition Economy‘ in Digital Cinema Report focuses on the business model behind the trilogy. ‘Dance film trilogy highlights Tagore’s humanist message‘ in the Jim Luce Stewardship Report explores the humanism underlying these three works by Tagore.

Sep 262010

Hoxe é o Día Europeo das Linguas, e espero que me disculpen por intentar publicar o mesmo arículo en inglés, galego e castelán. Isto é ,en parte, para apoiar a idea de Antonia Mochan de facer un día de blogs multilingüe para facilitar a busca de Rabindranath Tagore para os seus escritos (sobre todo no seu Bengalí nativo), para cruzar as fronteiras lingüísticas e como sinal de respecto a todos os lectores galegos e españois.

Quero agradecer a Enrique Nicanor, director do Festival de Cine Internacional de Ourense, non só a inclusión dunha sección “Homenaxe a Rabindranath Tagore” no festival deste ano para sinalar o aniversario do 150 nacemento de, xunto coa Biblioteca Tagore de Ourense, fundada por José Paz, senón tamén por invitarnos a Kaberi e a mín a participar nela.

O programa para a sección é a seguinte:

Sábado, 2 outubro
21:30 Cerimonia de apertura, na que Kaberi realizará dous bailes de Tagore para inaugurar a sección “Homenaxe a Tagore” – Auditorio Municipal

Domingo, 3 outubro
13:00-14:00 Homenaxe a Tagore, con José Paz, fundador da Biblioteca Tagore de Ourense, na que Kaberi e eu ofreceremos unha presentación ilustrada sobre a xornada de Tagore da poesía á danza, incluíndo aparicións en directo – Centro Cultural Deputación Ourense

Lunes, 4 outubro
20:00-22:00 Estrea da versión española de Shyama (traducida coa axuda do noso amigo Carlos Moreno-Leguizamon), presentada por min e por José Paz – Teatro Principal

Martes, 5 outubro
16:30-18:30 Masterclass: Shyama e a revolución dixital, na que relataréi como a nosa versión cinematográfica da “drama-musical” de danza clásica de Tagore é quizais, un dos primeiros filmes “dixitais end-to-end” que aproveita a produción, distribución global e oportunidades de promoción creadas pola revolución dixital para destacar a conciencia internacional sobre Tagore e a forma de danza creada por Tagore ao final da súa vida – Centro Cultural Deputación Ourense

17:00-19:00 Proxección de Charulata de Satyajit Ray (A muller solitaria), baseada no Nashtanir de Tagore (El nido roto) – Teatro Principal

Mércores, 6 outubro
17:00-18:15 Proxección de Monihara de Satyajit Ray (O Teen Kanya) baseada no conto de Tagore – Teatro Principal

Xoves, 7 outubro
17:00-19:30 Proxección de Ghare baire de Satyajit Ray (O mundo de Bimala) baseada na novela de Tagore – Teatro Principal

Venres, 8 outubro
17:00-17:30 Cerimonia de plantación de unha árbore ao estilo Tagore (Brikkhoropon), coreografiada e interpretada por Kaberi, que preparará un grupo de bailaríns da Escola de Danza e Teatro de Ourense  para dar os pasos da procesión

23:00-00:30 Proxección da versión española de Shyama – Cinebox 8

Sábado, 9 outubro
17:00-19:00 Proxección de Charulata de Satyajit Ray (A muller solitaria), baseada no Nashtanir de Tagore (El nido roto) – Teatro Principal

17:00-18:30 Proxección da versión española de Shyama – Cinebox 8

20:00-22:30 Proxección de Ghare baire de Satyajit Ray (O mundo de Bimala) baseada na novela de Tagore – Teatro Principal

Para aqueles que noten a ausencia no Festival do documental sobre Tagore feito en 1961 por Satyajit Ray para as celebracións do Centenario do nacemento (como a triloxía Kanye Adolescente), indicar que non foi posible atopar ata agora unha copia da película con calidade que poidera ser proxectada. Se podes axudarnos a atopar unha, por favor contáctanos.

Os aeroportos máis próximos a Ourense son Porto, en Portugal (que é servido por varias compañías aéreas internacionais, incluíndo a EasyJet e Ryanair), Vigo e Santiago de Compotela (que ten voos domésticos, principalmente de outras partes de España).

Sep 262010

Hoy es el día europeo de las lenguas y espero que me disculpen por intentar publicar el mismo arículo en inglés, gallego y castellano. Esto se debe en parte al apoyo y a la idea de Antonia Mochan de hacer un día de blogs multilingüe para faciltar la búsqueda de Rabindranath Tagore por sus escritos (sobre todo en su lengua natal, bengalí) para cruzar las fronteras lingüísticas y también como un signo de respeto a los lectores de gallego y español.

Debo dar las gracias a Enrique Nicanor, Director del Festival de Cine Internacional de Ourense, no sólo para la inclusión de un sección “Homenaje a Rabindranath Tagore” en el festival de este año para conmemorar el 150 aniversario del nacimiento de Tagore, en colaboración con la Biblioteca Tagore de Ourense fundada por José Paz, sino también para invitar a Kaberi y a mí a tomar parte en él. Es uno de los primeros tributos, bastante completo, del 150 aniversario del nacimiento de Tagore, que la UNESCO ha establecido para 2011.

El programa de la sección es el siguiente:

Sábado, 2 Octubre
21:30 Ceremonia de apertura, durante la cual Kaberi realizará dos bailes Tagore para inaugurar el sección “Homenaje a Rabindranath Tagore” – Auditorio Municipal

Domingo, 3 Octubre
13:00-14:00 Homenaje a Tagore, con José Paz, fundador de la Biblioteca Tagore de Ourense, en la que Kaberi y yo vamos a dar una presentación ilustrada sobre el viaje de Tagore de la poesía a la danza, incluyendo actuaciones en directo – Centro Cultural Deputación Ourense

Lunes, 4 Octubre
20:00-22:00 Estreno de la versión en español de Shyama (que ha sido traducida con la ayuda de nuestro amigo Carlos Moreno-Leguizamon), presentada por José Paz y yo mismo – Teatro Principal

Martes, 5 Octubre
16:30-18:30 Masterclass: Shyama y la revolución digital, en la que se explica cómo nuestra versión cinematografica de la opera-ballet clásica de Tagore (quizás una de las primeras películas ‘digital end-to-end’ ) aprovecha la producción, la distribución global y las oportunidades de promoción creadas por la revolución digital para aumentar la conciencia internacional de Tagore y la forma de danza creada por Tagore hacia el final de su vida – Centro Cultural Deputación Ourense

17:00-19:00 Proyección de Charulata Satyajit Ray (La mujer solitaria), basado en Nashtanir Tagore (El nido roto) – Teatro Principal

Miércoles, 6 Octubre
17:00-18:15 Proyección de Monihara Satyajit Ray (de Teen Kanya) basado en el cuento de Tagore – Teatro Principal

Jueves, 7 Octubre
17:00-19:30 Proyección de Ghare baire Satyajit Ray (O mundo de Bimala) basado en la novela de Tagore – Teatro Principal

Viernes, 8 Octubre

17:00-17:30 Ceremonia de plantación de un arbol en Ourense, al estilo de Tagore (Brikkhoropon), dirigida por Kaberi, enseñando a un grupo de bailarines de la Escuela de Teatro y Baile de Ourense los pasos para la procesión

23:00-00:30 Proyección de la versión en español de Shyama – Cinebox 8

Sábado, 9 Octubre
17:00-19:00 Proyección de Charulata Satyajit Ray (La mujer solitaria), basado en Nashtanir Tagore (El nido roto)

17:00-18:30 Proyección de la versión en español de Shyama – Cinebox 8

20:00-22:30 Proyección de Ghare Baire Satyajit Ray (O mundo de Bimala), basado en la novela de Tagore – Teatro Principal

Para los que echen en falta la película documental sobre Rabindranath Tagore de 1961, reaizada para las celebraciones del Centenario del nacimiento (como la trilogía adolescente de Kanya), no fue posible localizar una versión de buena calidad de la película que pudiese ser proyectada en el festival hasta el momento. Si usted puede ayudarnos a localizarla, por favor hágamelo saber.

Los aeropuertos más cercanos a Ourense son Oporto, en Portugal (que es servido por varias líneas aéreas internacionales, incluyendo Easyjet y Ryanair), Vigo y Santiago de Compostela (que cuentan con vuelos nacionales de otras partes de España).

Sep 262010

Today being the European day of languages, I hope you will excuse me attempting to write essentially the same post in English, Galician and Castellano (please let me know of any embarrassing errors!). This is partly to support Antonia Mochan’s idea of a day of multilingual blogging, partly to note Rabindranath Tagore’s quest for his writings (mainly in his native Bengali) to cross linguistic boundaries and as a sign of respect to any Galician and Spanish readers.

I should begin by thanking Enrique Nicanor, Director of the Ourense International Film Festival in Galicia, Spain, for including a ‘Homage to Tagore‘ section in this year’s festival to mark Tagore’s 150th birth anniversary, in conjunction with the Tagore Library of Ourense founded by José Paz. It is one of the first, fairly comprehensive tributes to Tagore’s 150th birth anniversary, which UNESCO is marking in 2011.

The programme for the section is as follows:

Saturday, 2 October
21:30-midnight Opening ceremony, during which Kaberi will perform two Tagore dances to inaugurate the ‘Homage to Tagore’ section – Auditorio Municipal

Sunday, 3 October
13:00-14:00 Tribute to Tagore, with José Paz, founder of the Tagore Library of Ourense, at which Kaberi and I will give an illustrated presentation about Tagore’s journey from poetry to dance, including live performances – Centro Cultural Deputación Ourense

Monday, 4 October
20:00-22:00 Premiere of the Spanish version of Shyama (which has been translated with the help of our friend Carlos Moreno-Leguizamon), introduced by José Paz, Kaberi and me – Teatro Principal

Tuesday, 5 October
16:30-18:30 Masterclass: Shyama & the digital revolution, at which I will be explaining how our film version of Tagore’s classic ‘dance-drama’ (which is perhaps one of the first ‘digital end-to-end’ films) is taking advantage of the production, global distribution and promotion opportunities created by the digital revolution to raise international awareness of Tagore and the dance form created by Tagore towards the end of his life – Centro Cultural Deputación Ourense

17:00-19:00 Screening of Satyajit Ray’s Charulata (The lonely wife) based on Tagore’s Nashtanir (The broken nest) – Teatro Principal

Wednesday, 6 October
17:00-18:15 Screening of Satyajit Ray’s Monihara (from Teen Kanya) based on the short story by Tagore – Teatro Principal

Thursday, 7 October
17:00-19:30 Screening of Satyajit Ray’s Ghare baire (The home and the world) based on the novel by Tagore – Teatro Principal

Friday, 8 October
17:00-17:30 Tagore-style tree-planting ceremony (Brikkhoropon) led by Kaberi, who will be teaching the steps for the procession to a group of dancers from the Escuela de Teatro y Baile de Ourense

23:00-00:30 Screening of the Spanish version of Shyama – Cinebox 8

Saturday, 9 October
17:00-19:00 Screening of Satyajit Ray’s Charulata (The lonely wife) based on Tagore’s Nashtanir (The broken nest) – Teatro Principal

17:00-18:30 Screening of the Spanish version of Shyama – Cinebox 8

20:00-22:30 Screening of Satyajit Ray’s Ghare Baire (The home and the world) based on the novel by Tagore – Teatro Principal

For those who note the absence of Satyajit Ray’s 1961 documentary Rabindranath Tagore, made for the 100th birth anniversary celebrations (like the Teen Kanya trilogy), we weren’t able to locate a good quality version of the film which could be projected at the festival … so far. If you can help us find one, please let me know.

The nearest airports to Ourense are Porto (which is served by various international airlines, including Easyjet and Ryanair), Vigo and Santiago de Compostela (which have mainly domestic flights from other parts of Spain).

Aug 112010

OK, so it has taken me a few months to find the time to edit the material shot by our friend Séamas McSwiney. Still, now you can see a special edition of the Shyama podcast about how the film was received at the Kolkata Film Festival in November 2009.

I should mention that it’s Séamas who persuaded us to submit Shyama to the Kolkata Film Festival and without whom we and the film would not have been there. Once there, we had the opportunity to meet various friends and well-wishers, including Jim Haynes, Faruck Haidar, Gautam & Sumita Halder, Soumitra Mitra and Séamas. We also took the opportunity to explore the Satyajit Ray Film and TV Institute and visited the Rabindranath Tagore Centre, whose director, Reba Som, included Shyama in the festival ‘Tagore beyond frontiers’ at the Rabindranath Tagore Centre the following month.

Séamas joined Kaberi and me in our various encounters in Kolkata and kept a video diary of our progress. This special episode of the Shyama podcast is a summary and includes our responses to various questions at the Shyama press conference on the last day of the festival. Our thanks to everyone we met during the Kolkata Film Festival, particularly the Festival team and those at the Satyajit Ray Film and TV Institute who helped us with our various technical questions.

Aug 012010

L to R: Cory Doctorow, Jeff Lynn, Obhi Chatterjee and John Buckman - Photo: James Firth

It’s been an intriguing week. First, I spent last Saturday at #ORGCon, where I had been invited to talk about our film Shyama in the opening panel discussion chaired by writer Cory Doctorow entitled ‘Thriving in the real digital economy’. Then on Monday evening, as I was still digesting what I had heard at #ORGCon, I noticed our friends Brian Newman and Sheri Candler tweeting enthusiastically about Gerd Leonhard‘s talk The future of film and cinema.

400 people converged on London for #ORGCon. What had brought them together was the astonishingly unimpressive Parliamentary debates about the internet disconnection and website blocking provisions of the UK’s Digital Economy Act, which had left them deeply anxious about the digital rights of UK citizens, businesses and creators.

Professor James Boyle - Photo: James Firth

Professor James Boyle‘s speech at #ORGCon about The incredible shrinking public domain: A paradox was fascinating, amusing and disturbing. On one side, he noted that we now take for granted that, thanks to the internet, we have immediate or at least quick access to the answer to any question which might occur to us. This was unimaginable just 18 years ago.

On the other side, he pointed out that none of us would have free and legal access to share or build upon the cultural works created by our contemporaries during our lifetimes unless the creator of the work made a conscious choice (eg, Creative Commons licensing or donating the work to the public domain) to allow us to do so. This was not the case with previous generations, where music, books and other works passed much more quickly and easily to the public domain.

So the paradox he drew our attention to is that, although we now have the technological means to disseminate knowledge more easily than ever before, the default setting of the law is that we would need to wait for longer than ever before to do so, unless we obtain permission from the holder of the rights to any work to do so. Today’s ‘permissions-based culture’, he said, has led to a risk-adverse approach to clearing incidental music and other copyrighted works in films, limiting legitimate ‘fair use’. This is examined in the comic-strip book Bound by law? by Keith Aoki, James Boyle and Jennifer Jenkins.

For example, the Newport state of mind music video parody of this Jay-Z/Alicia Keys music video has now been seen by over 2 million people in 12 days. Its director, MJ Delaney, ‘thought it would be fun to make it‘ but apparently hoped Jay-Z and Alicia Keys would get to see the video ‘as long as their publishing people don’t force us to take it offline‘.

Later in the day, Jennifer Jenkins provided  a potted history of copyright, noting that jazz music might not have emerged legally if today’s copyright terms of 50-70 years after the death of the creator had applied at the time – until 1978, the copyright term was 28 years after the creation of a cultural work. Someone in the audience from the UK Pirate Party summarised her presentation by suggesting it meant that, up to the 10th Century, musicians just needed to play; up to the 19th Century, they also needed to be literate; in the 20th Century, they also needed to be a computer expert; and in the 21st Century they also need to be a legal expert.

Gerd Leonhard: the future of film and cinema

Watching Gerd Leonhard’s excellent 66-minute talk on The future of film and cinema suggested to me that much of the agonised discussion I’d heard at #ORGCon is probably a by-product of the attitude of businesses which thrived on being the ‘gatekeepers’ in the pre-internet era. The latter use emotive terms like ‘piracy’ and ‘freetards’ to persuade politicians to legislate to protect them (and supposedly creators) from the unruly masses who would otherwise allegedly kill off creativity by demanding that everything is available free on the internet. The problem is that the sort of protection they want would require the sort of dystopian future which George Orwell had warned of in his book 1984 and would probably kill off people’s interest in using the internet in the process. Recent research suggests that this would stifle creativity.

According to Wikipedia, following the sacking of Rome in 455 by an East Germanic tribe known as the Vandals, the term ‘vandalism’ was coined during the French Revolution to refer to “senseless destruction, particularly in the defacing of artworks that were completed with great effort”. Meanwhile, according to Wikipedia, “The Internet has no centralized governance in either technological implementation or policies for access and usage; each constituent network sets its own standards.” So perhaps some might regard those who are lobbying governments to control people’s access and usage of the internet as ‘vandals’, especially given their approach to mashups and remixes – artworks that were often completed with great effort (based on existing works … just like jazz).

In a community apparently threatened by pirates and vandals, what is a politician supposed to do? Presumably, find a balanced way to satisfy everyone, because otherwise the community as a whole suffers, particularly creators, creativity and innovation.

In his latest book, Friction is Fiction: the future of media, content and business, Gerd Leonhard includes an August 2009 quote from the Financial Times by Labour MP Tom Watson, who was recently named ‘Internet hero of the year‘ by UK Internet Service Providers: “Challenged by the revolutionary distribution mechanism that is the Internet, big publishers with their expensive marketing and PR operations and big physical distribution networks are seeing their power and profits diminish. Faced with the choice of accepting this and innovating, or attempting, King Canute-style, to stay the tide of change, they’re choosing the latter option, and  looking to Parliament for help with some legislative sandbags.”

As I mentioned to Professor Boyle towards the end of the day at #ORGCon, I was surprised that no-one had mentioned the Adelphi Charter on Creativity, Innovation and Intellectual Property, of which he and Cory Doctorow were among the co-authors. Although it was only reflected in the abandoned Gower’s report, it would seem to be an eminently suitable way for bewildered politicians all over the world to navigate between the claims and counter-claims of pirates and vandals to the ultimate benefit of both creators and society.

Thanks to Bridget FoxJulian Huppert MP and others, the UK Lib Dems’ Freedom, creativity and the internet emergency motion, which is in line with the Adelphi Charter, now guides the minority partner in the UK coalition government. As he explained at #ORGCon, Julian is now vice-chair of the all-party Parliamentary group on the digital economy chaired by Eric Joyce MP.

One can only guess what Rabindranath Tagore might have made of the internet but perhaps this poem gives us a clue, also bearing in mind that Shyama is a subtly artistic critique of repressive regimes:

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;
Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls;
Where words come out from the depth of truth;
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit;
Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought and action-
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.

Rabindranath Tagore, Gitanjali (1910)

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