Friday, 2 November 2012

Tagore and Bollywood and me

Well, Tagore did have a lot to say
about injustice. And also the Pathan.
For sure he would have enjoyed Ray.
Because Teen Kanya and Ghare Baire
are Tagore’s own. But suppose
he’d been given a chance at both highs and lows -
like Bollywood, and My Name Is Khan?
He’d probably be able to fuse the views
in a nonchalant “Question” that answers itself.
He’d probably say, “My girl, don’t lose
your cool or perspective, we each choose
different routes, but then each arrives
in the end to the same screening. Stereotypes
are just a simplified way to help.”
And I of course would be rendered speechless
if the man himself were to speak to me
but let’s suppose I’m more than I am, or less
aware of his works and greatness
and I’d find my tongue and endlessly argue
“How can you, Sir?! Promote this view
that Bollywood is all there is to see?”
“There’s so much more to us than the syrup,
the frosted fairy tales, glitzy but shallow
that Bollywood routinely dishes up.”
He’d say, “The truth, my child, is always tough.
A part is always taken to mean the whole -
See, I’ve become the sole poet, the soul
of Bengal, and every poet stands in this shadow.”
And I’d argue back, “But that’s right and good”
(we’ll persist with the pretence of my cheek and nerve)
“anyone would choose you, I know they would
because you are very different from Bollywood
Those films, what they portray is all wrong
Our lives are not just catchy song-
and-dance numbers, and pretty curves.”
He’d smile a tired smile, the old easily tire
he’d say, fed up of the arguments
“Listen woman, just hold your fire
We never sing solo, it’s always a choir
though one voice may seem louder. A stereotype,
a snatch of song, may serve to whet the appetite
and lure in viewers to other songs, other events.”
“What do you call him? this chap SRK
seems to have got an interesting review,
and yes K Jo is certainly no Ray
but then should he be? A million ways
to sing and live, that’s what we’re about
the audience will realise that beyond a doubt
someday soon, and so my girl, will you.”
Over the last decade or so, Bollywood films have been feted and celebrated in the West. They have always had a very admiring audience across Africa and the Middle East, and many Indian actors have a fan following among these countries to rival those at home. I enjoy a good Bollywood masala movie as much as the next person, but I am a little bemused at the increasing typecasting of Bollywood movies as the representative of all Indian films, and extending that further to Indian culture as a whole. India produces films in Tamil, Malayalam, Bengali, and many other languages; and in regional film studios away from the big money and muscles of the Mumbai film industry; it has a growing and vibrant parallel cinema where film makers of great talent showcase a different India from what is depicted in most Bollywood movies. But these are not as widely known let alone celebrated.

Tagore died while the Indian film industry was still taking baby steps, before many of his stories/novels were made into films, his songs used to augment many film scores.  Tagore was a polymath, not just a poet.  He justifiably casts a long shadow on Bengali literature, so much so that very few of the subsequent writers/poets are known to other communities in India or outside of it.
  "Question" (Prashna in Bengali) is one of his poems, written after the Jallianwala bagh massacre.
SRK - Shah Rukh Khan is a very popular Indian actor, and K Jo  refers to Karan Johar, a director and  TV celebrity host.  Satyajit Ray was a world famous Bengali film director with many foreign  awards to his name.  He made some of Tagore's works into films.

Shared at dVerse


  1. Wow, I absolutely loved this as I have seen some of Satyajit Ray's films and love art film in general and knew of Tagore through them and E.M. Forster. I wish I could read his poems in the original Bengali. His astounding and prodigious outpouring casts a lasting legacy. Also I am a huge fan of AR Rahman so I have seen quite a few Bollywood films and his collaboration with Webber on Bombay Dreams the musical. Excellent take on the prompt.

    1. Thanks for the visit and feedback. I am a fan of Rahman too! and Bengali is worth learning/speaking/reading just to read Tagore in the original...and some of the other poets who write in it :)

  2. nice...have seen a few bollywood movies...and can imagine the feeling of it being typecast as the only kind of entertainment....anna is obviously a little more cultured than i am...smiles...

    1. thank you for reading...hope you enjoyed the movies :)

  3. I like the local color and application to your culture and cinema. Just like Bollywood is not all of India, Hollywood is not all of USA too. I think people are quick to generalize and lump all things together, without seeing the other side~ And I admire the work of Tagore ~

    1. Exactly so! for many of us (non-Americans) USA is neatly bundled up in Hollywood and fast food, and at another end, in Emily Dickinson and Eliot and Twain! Both views are incomplete...thank you for the feedback.


Comment moderation is on. Anonymous comments will be deleted forthwith. Nonymous comments always welcome :) Thank you for your patience!