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-eAzam. Ghunghat 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.