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On Rabindranath Tagore’s Birth Anniversary, Subhash K Jha Selects 5 Hindi Films Adapted From Tagore

Filmmakers in Bengal love Tagore, not just  Sharmila  but also  the Grand Old Man  of letters Rabindranath Tagore whose  novels and short stories have been ternally adapted  by Bengali filmmakers from Satyajit Ray(Teen Kanya, Charulata, Ghaire Bhaire) to Rituparno Ghosh(Chokher Bali). In Hindi  too, Tagore was dominant force until the close  of the last century. Here  are  the  five notable films in Hindi that were based on Tagore’s fiction.

1.     Ghunghat(1960): Based   on Tagore’s celebrated  novel  Nouka Dubi this is  the story  of marital misalliances  told against the backdrop of  a ferocious storm and a boat capsize. Though  a bit too melodramatic and  cluttured with convenient  coincidences,  the story has  a powerful message  on giving women the right to  decide which way their heart goes. Ghunghat  had a stellar performance  by Bina Rai. In a  Anthony Hopkins-Chadwick Boseman situation, Ms Rai took the Filmfare award from Madhubala for a far  more  popular performance in Mughal-eAzamGhunghat is also notable for Ravi ’s music  score with Lataji’s Lage na mora jiya topping charts  for months.The same  Tagore story was  filmed as Milan  in 1946 by Nitin Bose   and by  Rituparno Ghosh in Bengali as  Nouka Dubi featuring sisters Raima and Riya Sen.

2.      Kabuliwala(1962): Bengali director Hemen Gupta adapted  Tagore’s 1892  short  story  into  an immensely  moving story of a bond that grows between a Pathan dryfruit seller  from Afghanistan  and a little girl Mini  in Kolkata where the Pathan  sells his  merchandise.A tender tale told in wispy whispering colours  of love and  friendship   Kabuliwala  remains  a stirring testament  to its times as well as a timeless tale of  togetherness. Most memorable  for Balraj Sahni’s towering  performance in  the title  role  and  that Manna Dey ode to homesickness Ae mere pyare watan. Recently Danny Denzongpa  reprised  the role in Bioscopewala  (the Pathan  changeth  his  profession)  and made it clear  he wasn’t  competing with the great Balraj Sahni. Copy that.

3.     Uphaar(1971):  Jaya Bhaduri as the child bride Mrinmayee gave her  career’s best  performance.  Even  Tagore  who wrote  the story Samapti  in  1893 would have been  pleased with  Ms Bhaduri’s  ebullient  performance as  the  precocious  child-woman  whose patient  husband(Swarup Dutt) teaches  her a thing or two about meaningful  relationships. Though Guddi got her more attention at  career-start  I think Jaya was  far  more  spirited  here. Aparna Sen had played  the same   child-woman in Satyajit Ray’s Teen Kanya.

4.     Geet Gaata Chal(1975):  Rajshri’s Productions who did Uphaar, this time took on Tagore’s novel Atithee which stands out for focusing  on a male  protagonist. Normally Tagore’s heroes were women.This  time it’s  Shyam, played  by Sachin Pilgaonkar  in his first adult role. Ravindra Jain’s music went  a long way in making this  small-budget  musical a  hit.

5.     Lekin(1990):  The  last significant Tagore adaptation in Hindi  and director Gulzar’s first tryst with  Tagore, this ghost story was  adapted  from Tagore’s short story Kshudhit Pashaan. Dimple  Kapadia who played the ghost Rewa didn’t stop calling producer Lata Mangeshkar and director Gulzar  until  she got  the role. She  also got to sing Lataji and composer Hridaynath Mangeshkar’s exquisite melodies Yaara seeli seeli, Suniyoji  araj and Kesariya balma.

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