Ataur Rahman,Actor-Director-Writer-Poet Recipient of EkushaePadak
Entire world knows about the poetic genius of Rabindranath Tagore who owned Nobel Prize for literature in 1913. Great English Poet W.B. Yeats had written a big introductory note on Tagore’s Gitanjali for which he became almost a household name around the glove. But all said and done, he is recognized specially in the West as mystic poet of the East. When he was awarded Nobel Prize, number of news items covered him as a Poet-Guru/Sage rose from the Indian Ocean or emerged from the heaven of Indian sky who taught the populace of the universe how to submit oneself to the supreme being by chanting poems or songs from ‘Gitanjali” (song offerings). Alas, the people of the entire world including India and not excluding his home province, Bengal had no clue that the soil of Bengal gave birth to an extremely modern literary genius, perhaps, of all time. Rabindranath Tagore traversed all the areas of literature competently. Leaving aside his anthology of poems and songs, his novels, plays, short stories, essays, paintings are highly impressive, thought provoking, enlightening, delightful and above all serve the human mind as an elixir. As a philosopher, thinker, social reformer and activist, it is difficult to find out his parallel in the world. As performing artist, he left his commendable impression in play-acting and direction. As a singer, he was unparallel, specially in his prime. He even tried his hand in film making. ‘Notir Puja’ bears the testimony of his endeavour in this direction. Had he not died in 1941, perhaps world would have seen another talented film-maker alongside the other stalwarts in the field. Tagore’s poetic-self predominantly exists in almost all his literary work in terms of the use unique metaphors, use of unparallel allegories and symbols. His use of extra ordinary similes in both prose and poetry are the innovations found rarely in literary expressions. He had written about 6500 pages in his 80 years of life span, wherein he had touched almost all the seen and unseen layers of human-existence.
Now, about his plays. His written plays are almost double in number as that of Shakespeare, who is known to the people of the entire universe as the greatest playwright of all time. Tagore’s had written more than 60-plays which include his serious dramatic plays, dance & musical plays, verse plays, humorous plays and comedies. In his plays, Tagore was more committed towards society and politics as a socio-political being. But his was never in the fashion of Bertol Brecht, eminent political playwright of Germany, who was cut and straight, topical and down to earth, whereas, Tagore was lyrical with dialogues of deep sub-texts, at time drawing legacy of the past, which may be termed as epic-reality not devoid of relevance of the present time. He was all out to depict the core of human values and commitments in his plays which are recognized as an unique genre by the playwright’s own right. Let us here a dialogue of the king of Gold Mine of the play ‘Roktokorobi’ (Red Oleanders) wherein Tagore is making us aware how the titanic or tyranic power crushes itself by the weight of its own power- “Nandin, one day in a distant country I saw a weary mountain just like myself. From the outside I just couldn’t make out that all its rock pined inwardly. Late on night I heard a horrifying noise, as if some demons’ long-suppressed nightmare had suddenly broken. In the morning I saw that the mountain had sunk underground from the force of an earthquake. I understood from seeing that mountain how the burden of power crushes itself, unknown to it self (translated by AnandaLal)”. It reminds us of the innumerable tyrant-dictators of the world who were ultimately crushed under the burden of power.
In his famous abstract play “King of the Dark chamber” he is reminding the pompous men that the dark colour in the permanent colour of life, which is perhaps the colour of death. In ‘Dakghar’ (The Post Office), wherein Tagore was at his best in depicting the ever laid down beauty of this world for which we are all waiting in order to attain salvation. In ‘TasherDesh’, Tagore has allegorically condemned the regimented society administered by a group of people through dance and music alongside the hilarious but meaningful dialogues. Thus his plays were all written against social evils-“Achalayatan” against religious bigotry, ‘Bisharjan’ against mad and meaningless killing, ‘Muktodhara’ against tyranic power to deprive the common people, ‘Sati’ and ‘Malini’ against superstition and fundamentalism, ‘Rother Rashi’ infavour of human right, ‘Chitrangoda’ against the artificial masked face of the society and ‘Chandalika’ infavour of the human equality irrespective cast, colour and creed. These are only few examples. On the occasion of Rabindranath Tagore’s 150th birth anniversary our audience have the opportunity of watching handful of Tagore’s plays produced in different forms and thematic interpretation as well. I, as a theatre practitioner, will only wish that staging of Tagore’s plays should not be occasional, we should regularly take dip in Tagore’s ocean of plays, the way the stages of the world are showered with Shakespeare’s drama.
In Tagore’s serious plays like ‘Achalayatan’, ‘Bisharjan’, ‘Muktodhara’, ‘Raktokorobi’ and othe plays as well, we have meaningful rendezvous with the protagonists who are the saviours through death. In his article titled, “Red Oleander: Author’s Interpretation”, Rabindranath Tagore in his own English exposed his deep feeling about the play ‘Raktokorobi- “The joy of this faith has inspired me to pour all my heart into painting against the background of black shadows- the nightmare of a devil’s temptation-the potrait of Nandini as the bearer of the massage of reality, the saviour through death”. Almost all the major plays of Tagore have hoisted the waving flag of fearlessness against all the odds of life and finally the death.
In his play ‘TasherDesh’ (Land of Cards), the protagonist of the play, the prince in his song transmit the massage that if he cannot not reach the bank of the river he will certainly be able to the touch its bottom and if he cannot not meet the fortune, he will embrace the misfortune. Tagore’s plays thus always celebrate life and living embracing the entirety.
The great poet of Bangal, Rabindranath Tagore has elevated our existence as Bangali to a great height and we pay to this myriad minded man our best-homage not only on the occasion of his birth or death anniversary but all time to come.
As a son of the nature, Rabindranath Tagore very ardently propagated in favor of mother earth vis-a-vis the nature as against brood of mechanical power. In the play ‘Muktodhara’, Jantro Raj Bibhuti, the Chief Mechanical Engineer of the empire stopped the river flow of water from inundating to the corn fields of the poor peasantry on order from the tyrant king Ronojit by building a barricade. But the kings youngest son Aubhijit was a young man of the People in contrast to the son of royalty who knew a vulnerable point; a rupture of the dam and untied it, as a result, the river flow of water inundated the corn fields of the poor peasantry. Thus they were saved from hunger and death but in the process the prince Aubhijit was washed away with the gushing flow of water to an unknown destination and thus he became savior through death. We often compare Tagore’s ‘Muktodhara’ play with Farakkah barrage which deprived the people of Bangladesh from their due share of water of river ‘Padma’. Rabindranath Tagore had written numbers of other plays on Nature. His play ‘Bashanta’ which was dedicated to the rabel poet Nazrul Islam is a play on spring, the king of seasons, which is a play essentially on nature. His play ‘Nabin’ also dealt with the season Spring. To name a few of his plays, the plays ‘SrabonGatha’ is a play on rainy season. The plays’ SharodUtshob’ of Tagore also dealt with nature broadly. In fact, his plays of varied genre have always touch of nature, sometime broadly and sometime symbolically. Rabindranath the great poet of Bengal of was truly a son of nature in all senses of the term.