Tagore’s ‘Gora’ on Doordarshan

Commissioned by Doordarshan, Tagore’s novel Gora made into a Hindi TV serial will be telecast in 26 episodes on the national network every Monday and Tuesday at 9.30 pm from 29 October. A report by Bargad

Many works have been written on the backdrop of the search for a true Indian identity and the malaise of casteism, but none has gone deeper than the Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore in his writings. But it takes courage to bring some of these works to screen and yet retain the true essence of what the author had meant to convey. For renowned filmmaker, curator, distributor, exhibitor and producer Gargi Sen and director Somnath Sen known for his work in cinema, this task became easier when they got unstinted support from Doordarshan which was looking for a suitable manner to pay their tributes to the litterateur on his 150th birth anniversary.

At a press meet to announce the telecast of the series on Tagore’s second novel ‘Gora’, Doordarshan Director General Mr Tripurari Sharan said the makers had done full justice to the work and termed the series as a ‘world class production’. A short film on the making of the series was also shown on the occasion. He said Doordarshan was often accused of not treading the populaist path, thus losing precious television rating points. But this was a matter of pride for him as only DD showed self-cleansing and introspective programmes. He announced that DD had decided to break new ground and embark on an advertising blitzkrieg for its programmes, which would be 360 degrees covering all the mediums.

The series has been filmed by B Chaki and scripted by Sreejaya Radhakrishnan, while the music has been composed by Dabbu and Sanjoy using Tagore’s prolific music of that period as reference and also sourced from Tagore’s own inspiration, the Baul music of Bengal. Suchismita Dasgupta, the stylist, has created the period of the 1880s in which the story is set. The director has cast several highly talented and extremely disciplined former students of his own from the Film and Television Institute of India. They include Gaurav Dwivedi in the role of Gora, Prabhat Raghunandan as his best friend Binoy, Swati Sen as his love interest, and artistes like Chandrahas Tiwari and Anuya Bhagwat. The cast is embellished with the presence of the versatile Joyshree Arora, who had broken new ground as a major actor in DD’s ‘Hum Log’ three decades earlier, as Gora’s mother.

The novel was written over two years 1907 to 1909 and Tagore set it in the decade of the 1880s after the brutal reprisal by the British of the 1857 Uprising. Arguably one of Tagore’s best works, it deals with the debate between Modernity and Tradition with arguments both for and against traditionally accepted norms.  Gargi said Tagore was opposed to nationalism and fundamentalism of every kind and ‘Gora’ is thus a fascinating account of that time as well as a search for true liberation and universalism. The series tells the story of Gourmohan, Gora to his friends, who is a staunch orthodox Hindu – believing ‘his’ Hindu society can change only come after Indians end British rule. In this quest, Gora gives up everything: friendship, relationships, and love to single mindedly pursue his idea of the ideal society.

Somnath said the relevance of the novel today lay in the fact that many questions raised by Gurudev in this novel are relevant even now, a hundred years later: questions such as what and who comprise a nation and the role of lower castes, the dispossessed and women in nation building. He also examines the contemporaneous disconnect between urban educated and rural peasants. Having read the novel thrice, he said he had been faithful to the text and not brought in his own philosophy.  Answering a question, he denied that the fact that the novel had to be made in just 26 episodes had limited him in any way. Both he and Gargi said categorically that they had not made any compromises because of this.

Gargi also said the budget given to the series, which was what DD gives to commissioned programmes, had been adequate. Replying to another question, she said that every language brought its own nuances and making this series in Hindi had not robbed the novel of its freshness. She said she had wanted to make something on this novel for around ten years but ultimately gave it to Somnath to direct. She expressed her appreciation of both Doordarshan which had given her the kind of audience this work merited, and the Film and Television Institute of India which had given the acting talent.

Gaurav Dwivedi said he had attempted to get into the skin of the character and had found the experience very enriching. Prabhat Raghunandan admitted that the character of Benoy played by him is a kind of alter ego of Tagore himself, and therefore he had to work very hard to give his best. Anuya Bhagwat expressed her gratitude to both Somnath and Tripurari Sharan – a former Director of FTII – for having given the students the kind of training that could come in useful in a series of this kind.

L-R Actor Paintal, Somnath Sen, Tripurari Sharan, Gargi Sen, Anuya Bhagwat, Prabhat Raghunanadan, Gaurav Dwivedi

Gargi Sen is the founder and executive director of Magic Lantern Foundation, a registered not-for-profit unit set up in 1989, and a founder and partner in Magic Lantern Movies, LLP, a private company set up in November 2011 to distribute films. She initiated Under Construction, a public access digital archive to circulate the new Indian documentary in the public domain. She has directed 22 documentaries, produced four and mentored scores in the country and around the world.

In his career of more than two decades in the visual medium, Somnath has worked as Director, Director of Photography, Editor, Scriptwriter and in production oriented activities in over one hundred productions including feature films, documentaries, music videos, TV series and commercials in India and in the United States of America. He is founder of Lemon Tree Films. In 2002, Somnath wrote and directed the critically acclaimed, award winning film, “Leela” starring Dimple Kapadia, Vinod Khanna, and Deepti Naval, which was his debut feature.

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