Love for Tagore’s poetry led Gulzar to a deeper study of Bangla

Gulzar and Shantanu Moitra come together for ‘Tapur Tupur: Bachche, Bachpan Aur Bachpana’, which will be staged on January 7 at the Jamshed Bhabha Theatre in Mumbai.

January 04, 2024 06:12 pm | Updated January 05, 2024 06:04 pm IST

Veteran lyricist Gulzar.

Veteran lyricist Gulzar. | Photo Credit: ROHIT JAIN PARAS

There’s feather-drop silence in Gulzar’s room at his Pali Hill residence in Mumbai, and books of various sizes adorn his table and shelves. As usual, the veteran writer looks graceful in white, as he talks about his latest project.

On January 7, Gulzar will be joined by composer Shantanu Moitra in presenting the show ‘Tapur Tupur: Bachche, Bachpan Aur Bachpana’ at the Jamshed Bhabha Theatre, Mumbai. It will feature children’s poetry by Rabindranath Tagore, and translated into Hindi by Gulzar. Some of these poems were featured in the book Nindiya Chor (The Crescent Moon) and later recited by Gulzar in the 2016 album Tapur Tapur: Tagore Poems For Children By Gulzar.

Part of the Citi NCPA Aadi Anant series, the show will have additional inputs in the form of vocals by Shaan, Mahalakshmi Iyer and Rekha Bhardwaj, besides a group of children. According to Shantanu, composing music offered a special challenge, and he and Gulzar spent hours going back and forth between the words and the tunes. Tagore’s poetry has fascinated Gulzar since childhood. After his family settled in Delhi following the Partition, he once borrowed a book from a local library. He says, “These were Urdu translations, but they sowed the seed in me. Growing up in the company of Bengali friends, I realised that Tagore is a household name in Bengal. The language is quite simple to learn and I put my heart and mind into it.”


Gulzar | Photo Credit: ROHIT JAIN PARAS

What started as a passion turned into a deeper study. Gulzar says he was impressed by the fact that Tagore was equally at ease with romantic poetry as he was with socio-political issues.

“Every language has its own culture, and I had to reach a point where my use of Hindustani would bring out Tagore’s meaning effectively. Once I was confident it would, I completed my project,” says Gulzar, who wants people within India to understand Tagore’s poetry.

Composer Shantanu Moitra.

Composer Shantanu Moitra. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Besides books, the other way of creating awareness was through music. Shantanu recalls, “Since Tagore had composed most of the songs himself, we wanted to choose those he hadn’t composed. I would thus keep the original Bengali poem in mind to create the basic structure, and Gulzar-saab would see whether it suited the translation. It was a two-way process.”

The forthcoming show will be of 90 minutes. It will include songs interspersed with Gulzar’s recitation of children’s poetry and narration of anecdotes.

With his upbringing in Rabindra Sangeet, Shaan was a natural choice. Mahalakshmi Iyer had worked with Shantanu earlier on an album. Rekha Bhardwaj will sing the more earthy songs.

According to Shantanu, working with Gulzar has been a rewarding experience. He says, “Music is just one aspect. We can talk about anything from astronomy to literature.” Gulzar’s translation of Tagore comes to mind: ‘Bhrishti pode tapur tupur, barish barse tapur tupur, bhrishti pode tapur tupur, barish barse tapur tupur, din ki roshni bujhne lagi hai, sooraj doob chala hai, baadal phail gaya aakash mein, chaand ko dhoondh raha hai’

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