Tagore’s Gora to come alive on television

One of the lectures that I would eagerly wait for in college was our professor's reading of Rabindranath Tagore's novel Ghare Baire (Home and the World, 1916). Not that I was less hooked to, say, Austen or Dickens, but with Tagore it was a sense of homecoming.
 
Reliving an India situated in the era of colonialism and oppression through Tagore's protagonist(s) in that one hour lecture was like a journey of self-exploration; a journey into the past that shapes our present. As an academic curriculum mandate, we were asked to read Tagore's another novel of the same period so that we could understand India's pre-independence history in a more comprehensive way. Thus came Gora (1907-1909), and like a tidal wave that engulfs all, the student in me was consumed by its depth, the questions it raised and most importantly its grave concern for freedom of expression and voice of women. We say Gandhi cannot die for his principles live in us, similarly, Tagore's novels and literary works do not have an expiry date.
 
Our oldest and most trusted friend, channel Doordarshan is soon going to telecast a 26-episode television series based on Rabindranath Tagore's Gora, conceptualised by filmmaker and producer Gargi Sen and director Somnath Sen (also Gargi's brother). It was in January 2002 that Gargi gave birth to a daughter. Celebrations on being blessed with a baby unfortunately coincided with a gruesome outbreak of violence in the name of religion in some parts of the country that orphaned many. "I had read Gora in my teens and it came back to me in 2002. Some of the profound lines in the book that I remembered seemed to resonate in 21st century India," says Gargi. To restore her sanity, Gargi started to work on translating Gora into film. It was always her dream to transform the pages of Tagore's novel into images on reel and her desire was on the path of meeting sunshine. "I received support from the mother of my friend Shohini Ghosh, Namita Ghosh (Namita mashi) who was sure about the relevance of the novel and helped me in research and in developing the first ideas of period, authenticity and framework." Gora began to take baby steps to maturity when Gargi's brother Somnath Sen stepped in to don the director's hat. With an excellent acumen in building a moving picture, Somnath set upon a creative sojourn that allowed him to live two centuries at the same time. It was after 10 years of sheer hard work that Gora was ready to hit the small screen. "Fiction came alive to me; the Calcutta of 1880s breathed with life behind cameras while I sat with the knowledge of being in 2012," says Somnath.
 
Why Gurudev cannot die?
It is indeed a herculean task to translate the written word into an audio-visual language, especially when the written word in question is Tagore's epic novel. Gora brims with many characters, multiple sub-narratives and thematic concerns. To prune a 600+page novel into 26 episodes seems more than an audacious and risky enterprise if not anything else. The director-producer duo, however, assures that, "nothing significant has been left out. We have stuck to the language and been true to the debates on liberation, universalism, brotherhood and gender in 19th century Bengal, that Gora, (Gourmohan Das), the central protagonist is often found rationalising and pondering upon. We wonder what Somnath-Gargi must have chosen as the central theme in their serial given there is a plethora of issues raised in the (1907-09) novel. "The broader idea is to show our viewers 'the making of a nation' on the guidelines of Gurudev. The theme of feminism is also central to the plot. We see Gora's mother Anandomoyi articulating her reservation against stringent norms of Brahmanical religion and question why should identity be determined by caste, class and gender. The debate is between tradition and modernity with both sides coming strong and vacillating for a deserved space," says the director. There is a gradual awakening in Gora once he reaches the moment of epiphany and realises the religion of humanity as the only religion that exists that society should strive for.
 
Director's actors
"A director's job ends when there's a strong story and skilled actors in team," says Somnath Sen who along with Gargi has set up a composite cast that includes students from the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII). For actor Gaurav Dwivedi who will be seen playing Gora says, "It has been a learning experience. Gora taught me to introspect to bring out a new person in me every time. We too have many dilemmas to conquer in every day life like Gora and that is where he becomes relevant to me even in this age," says Gaurav. For Anuya Bhagwat, who essays the role of Lolita, the serial was more of an exercise "to understand a generation we were not born in. Challenges bring out the true potential in actors. Hope I made the best use of it," adds Anuya.
 
With Gora being recreated for small screen, the audience will be transported to Tagore's Bengal, a Bengal that survived crests and troughs of a critical political phase of the British Raj on one hand; and a Bengal that thrived on the soulful Baul songs, tales of romance on the rain-soaked streets of Calcutta, human compassion, and of course universal love on the other.
 
Gora's cast and crew
Gaurav Dwivedi (Gora)
Prabhat Raghunandan (Binoy, Gora's friend)
Swati Sen (Sucharita)
Anuya Bhagwat (Lolita)
Joyshree Arora (Anondomoyi)
Chandrahas Tiwari (Paresh Babu)
 
Screenwriting: Sriradha Jayakrishnan
Stylist: Suchismita Dasgupta
Music: Sanjay Dazz
Producer: Gargi Sen
Director: Somnath Sen
 
When: Starts October 29, 2012
Where: Doordarshan (DD)
Time: 9:30 PM (Mondays, Tuesdays)
 
Ipshita Mitra | Times of India | 25 Oct 2012
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