Rajit Kapur on getting up-close with Tagore’s life and works for a recent event
It is true that intelligent and adaptive actors can adapt to various national and personal styles as well as distinctions of the performance text, be it in films, theatre or elocution. Such an artiste is Rajit Kapur, who is no stranger to Bengali viewers for his role of Byomkesh the detective, so dear to the readers of Sharadindu Bandopadhaya’s thriller series. Rajit was in Kolkata shooting for Srijit Mukherjee’s thriller film “Mishar Rahashya” based on the late Sunil Gangapadhyaya’s immortal ‘Kakababu’ series, where he plays Al Mamun, the businessman from Egypt with a criminal background, who comes to Kolkata to offer a case to detective Kakababu (Prosenjit Chatterjee). In between Rajit explored the works of Tagore for the first time to research, collect and present Hindi translations of poems and short stories of the bard in “Rabi Rashmi”, the grand finale of ‘Happenings’ Rabindra Utsav, together with Soumitra Chatterjee and Shernaz Patel. Twinkling with geniality and beaming with excitement for the event, the elated actor narrates his experience happily.... Excerpts:
How much was your exposure to Tagore?
When you talk about any creative genius, you’ve read about them in newspapers, heard what people have to say…But when you are actually exposed to their work the way I have been the last two months — browsing through the paintings of Tagore, reading his poems and short stories, listening to his songs — that’s true exposure. I have only heard of Tagore, his multi-faceted personality being mentioned, but actually feeling those multi-dimensions was what happened to me for the last two months.
Do you feel you had missed out on a lot of things?
You never miss out on anything because you are always growing, always learning. Maybe, I never got the chance to do that earlier and this was a good opportunity for me .That’s why I enjoyed the process.
Was it hard work?
It may have been for me as I’ve never read so much Tagore. But I was learning and happy about it as it allowed me to explore so much, and I was never tired. There are so many pillars to expose to Tagore! I was exposed to very little — “Where the mind is without fear” and “Gitanjali” — and we knew he was a great painter, but I had not seen much. His paintings particularly appeal to me. Most of them are faces of women and I don’t know who they are, but for me it was obviously the imagery of this solitary woman who was so strong in them, whoever she is. It was almost saying, “I do think about the women’s point of view.” That’s what the paintings told me.
How did you set out to work for your presentation?
I knew I wanted to put all the aspects of Tagore together — even the poet, even the painter, the musician, the patriot , the philosopher — so I began with that thought and then bought books, started reading his works, about 100 to 200 pieces, to see where I could begin with, which poems or short story. Once I acted as Michael Madhusudan Datta but I had no idea who he was and what his work was.
Did you have any preparation?
No. This has not come out of any specific preparation; it’s just in the process of talking to Viji, Indrani and various people who have read or seen Tagore and just understanding from them. I came across a young friend who said “Oh! When we were in Doon School we started every day with a prayer of Tagore.” So I said, “Alright, I shall record it, I am going to open the evening with the prayer, ‘Where the mind is without fear’, my favourite!” So these are things one has discovered at random.
In this exposure what did Tagore mean to you, an academic or theatrical exercise?
Sensitivity. Not exercise. I don’t know what word to use. Soothing, sensitive, melodious… these are the words I equate with his work. That’s for the songs... Even for his work. I keep coming back to the word! There is something very, very sensitive even in his writings — at least, the so-called translations that I have read. I cannot read Bangla.
How did you choose the pieces for the event? Did you translate them in Hindi yourself?
The number of translations in Hindi was very little. Surprisingly, more work is done in London! A gentleman called Ashoke Mishra gave me the number of another Mishra, who gave me lots of Hindi translations, and that helped. Of all the stories that I had read, I selected “Pinjar’ and “The Beggar Woman”. But “The Beggar Woman” has been done a number of times. The bizarre and imaginative quality of “Pinjar” had intrigued me and I liked the flow of the story too and it would give me a lot of scope for dramatising. So I decided on it.
Gulzar was doing some Hindi translations of Tagore. Did you get to read them?
He did agree at some point as I would have liked to use them for the event, but by the time I went he got into a publisher’s agreement and was strictly told I cannot have access. Translations of Tagore are not many but for a good performance language is not a hindrance. But yes, for a verbal one or stand-up comedy it is.
Would you ever use this experience, Tagore’s philosophy, in your life?
It’s very difficult to say how I would use it. Obviously you soak it in but you don’t know what use it’s going to be. I think ‘use’ is a very loose word. But obviously somewhere it has touched me. I feel the resonance of Tagore, so there’ll be some reminiscence of this exposure that will remain with me and I hope it does!