Epic from a mastermind

Tagore's Gora will telecast on DD National from October 29. Utpal K Banerjee reports on its conversion from classic novel to TV series
 
Gora is reckoned by many as Rabindranath Tagore’s masterpiece. Set for telecast on Doordarshan’s National Channel, it has a chequered history. Bengal was partitioned by colonial rulers in 1905 and Tagore played a lead role in a tumultuous wave of protest, to eventually get it annulled.
 
But soon the movement meandered into stultifying nationalism and fundamentalism, and Tagore distanced himself from protagonists of that time, beginning a quest for true liberation and universalism. Gora was written as a symbolic epic — over two years, 1907-1909, for serialisation in the popular monthly, Prabasi.
 
Set in the decade of 1880s, the novel attacks social taboos of Bengali society, then divided between traditional orthodox Hindus and liberal Brahmo Samaj, who opposed idol-worship and the caste-system. Tagore weaves a tale, for the greater purpose of saving society from claws of oppression, caste and in protest to the estrangement of women from the social mainstream.
 
The question now is: what is the relevance of the narrow-mindedness of that time to the present? Moreover, what prompts DD to make a large investment in a 26-part serial at a prime slot, (every Monday and Tuesday at 9.30 pm, from Oct 29). Producer Gargi Sen said, “Tagore questions the notion of freedom, which can only be attained by moving out of boundaries. I felt it was incredibly relevant for the times that I have lived through!
 
”DD’s Director General Tripurari Sharan added, “Gora mirrors India in transition, at a critical juncture of modern history, when social consciousness and intellectual awareness of the merging intelligentsia were in the throes of a great churning.“Tagore foregrounded several strands of the debate — between tradition and modernity.”
 
As for the prime-time slot, he said, “DD is attempting to build on its efforts to accord primacy to socially relevant and meaningful content which informs, educates and entertains.”
 
USA-trained director Somnath Sen was undaunted by the Hindi language scenario. “My job is to translate written word to screen. The director takes the text in one language, guided by grammar, syntax and idioms. Then translates it into a different language. My challenge was to work with a celebrated texts. It was a heavy burden!”
 
He added, “Re-creating Bengal of the late 19th century had its pitfalls. It was not just about re-creating geography. That was the easiest — many parts of North Kolkata still exists as they did 130 years ago when this story is based; but also such a society in flux.” The costumes and furnishings seem authentic, inspired by Chitra Deb’s work on the Tagore family home interiors and wardrobes.
 
Sen informed, “I’ve kept music and language as near to Tagore as I could, but with a contemporary vein.”
 
The dramatis personae are mostly alumni from FTII, Pune, where Sen taught, and handpicked by him. Gaurav Dwivedi suits the title role. He said, “I lived in Kolkata for a while and understand the Bengali psyche; I read around the script and discovered that Gora has a inner child: evinced by his spontaneous reactions.”Gora’s best friend Binay, is portrayed by Prabhat Raghunadan.
 
He remarked, “I’m essentially a shy person and tried to live up to the character of a highly meritorious, yet soft-spoken person. He is mostly depicted as cowed down by Gora’s outspoken persona, but that suits me.” The novel has a surprise ending that should be kept under wraps.
 
Sharan promises to come full blast in a publicity blitzkrieg, with a new strategy to make DD socially relevant, in general, with a focus of Gora.
 
Utpal K. Banerjee | The Pioneer | 23 Oct 2012
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