“Sonar Tari” or “The Golden Boat”, published in 1894, is one of the most celebrated collection of poems of Rabindranath Tagore during the Shelaidaha years and his first popular success. The first title poem is relatively brief – the poet sits “sad and alone on the bare riverbank, sheaves of cut paddy waiting beside him. A boat approaches steered by a mysterious figure, who agrees to load the paddy”.
A programme based on selected letters, poems and songs that Rabindranath Tagore wrote during his several stays around the river Padma in Shelaidaha, Shahjadpur, Kushtia and Patisar (now in Bangladesh) was presented to a niche audience in the Birla Academy of Art and Culture, Kolkata, by distinguished Rabindra Sangeet singer, actor and cultural historian, Debashish Raychaudhuri, daughter Rohini and well-known elocutionist, actor and TV personality Chaitali Dasgupta. The father-daughter duo – the only in the world of Rabindra Sangeet– shared the distinction of being the first to present songs of Tagore at the International Music Festival in Belfast at the Great Hall of Queens, at the Tagore Festival in London in October 2010 together with William Radice and Bernard Hughes.
The three artists began their voyage on board the ‘Sonar Tori’ to present a selection of Tagore’s golden harvest written between 1891 and 1911, with Chaitali’s apt recitation ,“Hey Padma aamar tomaye dekha shoto shoto bar” (Dear Padma, I have seen you a hundred times) from the poem “Padma” included in the collection “Chaitali”. The “Kuthibari” or official rest houses along the Padma river along which the poet travelled (on the boat named Padma too!) were locations of his most creative period. In 1892 at Shahjadpur’s Kuthibari, Tagore composed the poem “Nara-nari” which was set to tune and transformed into a very meaningful “Khachar Pakhi” (dui pakhi). Tagore’s genius was evident in his revelation of feelings as in his favourite song “Bodo bedonar moto” sung passionately by Debashish where the poet writes a song of despair out of happiness!
The fare comprised readings of letters written to his niece Indira, daughter-in-law Pratima Devi and Kshitimohan Sen, Tagore’s introduction to Sonar Tori, narration by Debashish from the short story “Ekta Asharey Golpo” that was later transformed into the dance drama “Tasher Desh”, the poet’s opinion on “Karma”– on the occasion of Rakhi Bandan and a bouquet of delightful songs comprising different taalas, compositions, rendered with deep involvement and understanding by artists. There were moments in the songs “Kedilo aaghat” and “Jagotey Ananda Jogney” by Debashish where the inspirational mood overtakes the shackles of scholarship and the listener hears the beauty of the lyrics and tune. Rohini has a fascinating tonal quality and the timbre in her voice. Chaitali is a seasoned artist and her renditions have sensitive strokes of aesthetic excellence. A special mention for the duet “Aami Kemon koriya janabo” from the poem “Milan”, in the collection “Kheya”. The presentation accompanied by the tabla, synthesizer and special effects was indeed a worthy experience.