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Lost Tagore film comes alive in 3D remake at Cannes fete

American director Karl Bardosh shot the dance drama

A 3D colour recreation of the only film that Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore ever made, Natir Puja (1932), was unveiled in this year’s Cannes Film Market.

Karl Bardosh, an American academic and film-maker who was born in Hungary, has brought alive the film that was destroyed in a 1933 fire in the warehouse of New Theatres, Calcutta.

Prof. Bardosh’s film is titled Natir Puja — The Court Dancer and is based on a dance drama composed by Tagore.

“I filmed on the very soundstage in New Theatres where Tagore shot Natir Puja ,” says Prof. Bardosh, who has taught in New York University Tisch School of the Arts for two decades.

He has also been a pioneering film-maker who created a new genre called ‘poetry music videos’, with a film on poet Allen Ginsberg.

“As a researcher my interest in Tagore goes back a long, long way. I have always wanted to make a film inspired by his work,” says Prof. Bardosh.

Filmed in 3D by Dutch cinematographer Leonard Retel Helmrich, who devised the innovative “single shot cinema” technique, Natir Puja — The Court Dancer features Sujata Awon Pradhan’s Kolkata-based dance group Nrityalok. It is a recipient of the ‘Best Cultural Film’ title in the Cannes World Cinema Initiative this year.

On the film’s soundtrack is the voice of noted Rabindrasangeet exponent Jayati Chakraborty.

Natir Puja — The Court Dancer had its world premiere last week at the New York Indian Film Festival before making the trip to the Cannes Film Festival.

Soon in India

“It will travel to Bangladesh next. It will be screened for the country’s Prime Minister. I am now looking for its distribution in India and am in talks with a couple of leading exhibitors,” says Prof. Bardosh.

The project germinated with the intention of marking the centenary of Indian cinema and the conferment of the Nobel Prize on Tagore, says Prof. Bardosh. During his research, he stumbled upon the story of the lost film made by the great Bengali poet and decided to retrieve it from the cobwebs of time.

“I see myself as only a medium. It is Tagore’s hand that has driven me to realise this dream,” says Prof. Bardosh.

The message of Tagore’s dance drama: warning against murder committed in religious hatred is as timely as it was in the 2400-year-old Buddhist legend that was Tagore’s source material.

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