In “My Religion” Rabindranath Tagore says, “I am not in favour of rejection of anything, for, I am only complete with the inclusion of everything. I want to accept all excluding nothing. For it is I, my friend that waits outside to meet me.” One finds in Tagore a relentless search for “truth” and “freedom” - a state of undivided consciousness - and his multilateral ideology is a running thread in his copious writings; be it on religion, education, or Nation.
Gora, among Tagore’s most complex novels, presents the struggles faced by educated Indians, at the turn of the 20th century. Tagore himself was torn - he threw himself into the national movement, brought himself out of it, opposed Gandhi and as an outcome of a deep churning within him, he said the fulfillment of man’s existence was in ‘comprehension and not in ‘power’.
Hence, for Tagore, the greatest evil of the nation was nation itself. He said the nation was built on needs and wants, more than truth and love. Gora presents this deep turmoil of Tagore, who was in the throes of the pull of historical forces when he wrote it. You find these many debates within Tagore taking the shape of his characters.
After 100 years, when the voluminous tone is condensed into a play of 2 hours and 15 minutes what are the challenges it faces? One is time itself - we have moved a 100 years since. And in translation it brings with it the challenges of language, which results in a spatial displacement. It is not the Bengal that Tagore lived in early 20th century post the first war of Indian Independence, it is not even the society that was battling Brahmoism vs Hindu orthodoxy.
With all these challenges, the novel as play performed by the artistes of Satabdira Kalakar to commemorate the 150th birth anniversary of Tagore, retained its force and complexity; the text, even as a play, reflected contemporaneity - a mark of all classics.
The protagonist Gora, coming to terms with forces of Westernisation, like several others in his times, believes that modern India’s redemption lies in embracing Hinduism. In this individual versus society conflict, you have Binoy, who is constantly troubled by his emotions that sway him away from his beliefs. Unlike Gora, it is impossible for Binoy to be narrow minded in his acceptance of the Hindu ideology and hence one finds him in a constant state of flux and uncertainty.
Actor Gondinda Jena excelled as Gora. Tagore’s Gora came alive in his performance. Binoy, who perhaps is among the most important characters of the text, played by Ashwini Brahma was an interesting portrayal as well.
The women are central to the text. In fact, they are the pillars of the entire narrative. To see Gora as a novel on nation and religion and not to mark it as a tribute to Indian women would be an incomplete view. The transformations of the men in the novel in fact, were brought out by the women, who open themselves to change and make remarkable journeys.
Anandamoyi (played by Monidipa Mallick), Gora’s mother, with her universal, humanist concerns, refuses to be shackled either by her household duties or her religion; not even by her husband’s beliefs. In her, one finds a silent protest against a society that has a watered down understanding of religion.
The audience commended all the actors for the ambition they brought to the stage; they took on the mammoth work and dared to encapsulate them on stage. Bringing an intense and complex text like Gora on stage is a tremendous challenge and general secretary of Satabdira Kalakar Group and director of the play Dhira Mallick handled it with remarkable courage and competency. Around 17 scenes of the play were enacted by the actors in a time limit of 2 hours and 15 minutes.
This apart, another play of Tagore - Tash Ra Desha - was staged by actors of the Group and the Odia adaptation was done by Monidipa Mallick. It was directed by Alok Agnivesh.
On the last day of the festival, 19 songs from Gitanjali were presented.
An art exhibition on life and works of Tagore by 31 students of BK College of Art and Craft, Dhauli College of Art and Craft, Khallikote College and University of Culture was also organised.