A rare glimpse into the correspondence between Gurudev Tagore and Mahatma Gandhi.
From the word go, The prophet and the poet by Vijay Padaki of ‘Academy of theatre arts, Bangalore Little Theatre' was simply a ‘live' show. Like a expert sculptor, the director brought out the Gurudev and the Mahatma whom we only know from pictures and statues and textbooks, to life.
Through the show, we went back in time to the 30's and 40s. We were tuning in to Rabindranath Tagore talking to Mahatma Gandhi via letters and vice-versa. There was this narrator/moderator who kept briefing us about those little gaps that were left unsaid in these letters as also the political environment of our land which was passing through the first pain of communalism. Yes, Gandhiji, the great humanist, was fighting for the cause of the downtrodden, the minorities (these terms were not used then) and he sought Tagore's outlook on his views. The latter, a bold and outspoken yet suave poet-philosopher opined, through his letters..
Gandhiji on the other hand, was bent on going ahead with his plans and programmes despite Tagore's views for or against and in his inimitable gentle way, chose to end the correspondence whenever Gurudev's opinion clashed with his. The best part of the drama was the personalities of these towering men being revealed to us, gradually and in full formWe are free to form our own opinion of them.
Tagore comes across as a poet-philosopher who loves creativity and expression thereof. He doesn't stop at personal satiation through his own writings and paintings. He would like his formless love for art and its deep connotations to be given a concrete shape so that the rest of the humanity, at least like-minded people, also experience the bliss (Ananda). His letters describe to Gandhiji his agony to breathe life into the reality of his dreams-Shantiniketan and Vishwabharathi, which, during his time, threatened to disintegrate for want of something as material as financial succour. He undertakes an exhibition of his paintings several times to garner money to meet Shantiniketan's needs. A pained Gandhiji, abhors what he calls ‘begging' by Tagore.
On an appeal from the latter, Mahatma collects funds (Rs. 60,000) and sends it across. An aging, ailing Tagore begs him to take care of Shantiniketan; but not without a jibe that display and sale of his creations never looked ‘mean' in his own eyes when it came to resuscitate his life's ambition (Shantiniketan). To a sensitive audience watching this play at Ravindra Bharati, this part of Tagore's letter nearly broke the barriers of restraint and simply let go the tears welling up in our eyes.
Gandhiji's hunger-strikes, his struggle for the Harijan and Muslim causes may not have found empathy in Tagore who was of a totally different mindset. But both these giants had great regard and love for each other. Sabaramati, says Tagore is representative of the discipline of truth; Shantiniketan is an expression of truth. The play ends with a beautiful quote from the Vedas by Tagore-‘tapasya' and ananda are the root of creation. Of these, I am the ananda.'
Abhijit Ganguly as Rabindranath Tagore and Anshul Pathak as Mahatma Gandhi vied with each other in excelling in their roles. A stark stage and a potent play is something the twin cities audience was perhaps viewing for the first time. This play was part of Sangeet Natak Akademi's Natyanjali fest on 150 years of Tagore.