Interview:Director Sukla Mitra & Music Director Gautam Mitra on Bengali films TEEN TANAYA, NAUKADUBI, CHOKHER BALI & ROBIR ALOYE

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[Bengali Film-maker SHUKLA MITRA in Calcutta]March 1, 2011 (Washington Bangla Radio) Sukla Mitra, director, and Gautam Mitra, music director of Teen Tanaya (Bengali, 2011) appear in this live conversation with Arijit Chakraborty for WBRi.

Sukla Mitra has narrativised Rabindranath Tagore's short stories and novellas for a long time, including Chokher Bali, Noukadubi, and a set of three telefilms in a series titled Robir Aloy. Ms. Mitra had been thinking of creating and directing Teen Tanaya - based on three of Tagore's poems - for about 3 years. Many of Tagore's short stories have been presented on TV, but rarely of his poems. For Teen Tanaya, Ms. Mitra created 35 to 40 minutes on film for each poem. She had initial concerns about how to narrativize the poems, but once she decided to focus on creating a simple and accessible picture story, the script was not hard to develop at all, particularly because Tagore's writing itself is so picturesque.

Ms. Mitra believes that at the core, every actor secretly desires to engage with Tagore's work at some point, and every actor who participated in the project took the project to heart. Next, she wants to work on a poet from Bangladesh. Initial conversations are underway, and she hopes to begin directing later this year.

Gautam Mitra has about 45 years of experience of directing and performing Rabindrasangeet to make them fit in with other productions. He has not only been singing Tagore's songs since 1967-68 (for Akashvani, Doorsarshan, HMV and so on) but many of the preludes and interludes for those productions were written by him. More recently, in Chokher Bali, he wrote music that put to use only Indian instruments like the Sitar, Sarad, Tanpura, Esraj, Behala and Mandira. In Noukadubi, in contrast, he infused the songs with a western flavor, using both western and Indian instruments. To him, music direction means making the dramatic aspects in a narrative more obvious to the audience and easier to grasp. So, for example in Camellia, the second film in Teen Tanaya, he created in a picnic scene a medley of Tagore's songs all related to the word "Path", developing a music style he thinks is probably a first in the history of Bengali films.

Along with the shared belief in the need for creativity, both the director and the music director share the philosophy that simplicity is the key to success, and that it is vital to keep the business aspects of production and the question of appealing to the masses in mind. The film (or its music) cannot be so abstract that people do not enjoy the story. Ms. Mitra believes in making the narration simple, yet powerful. Mr. Mitra believes in bringing music to an audience in a way that the two fit together; this is how Rabindrasangeet will continue to be relevant to those who enjoy it now, and become relevant for those who have not been able to appreciate its depths and beauty until now.

Tagore's works - both stories and music - will become much more accessible to the ordinary and working classes by the experimental use of musical instruments, and by enriching the process of music production through crossing traditional restrictions on music direction. Both believe that one cannot play around with the core - the music and words of Tagore's writing and songs - but that one can experiment with the scaffolding (preludes, interludes, storyline) on which the narration and the music is supported so that all of it is accessible to, and genuinely enjoyed by various audiences. 

Host: Arijit Chakraborty, WBRi, Toronto, Canada
Guest: Sukla and Gautam Mitra, Calcutta, India
Article: Anita Roy, WBRi, USA
Recording & Editing: Supratim Sanyal, WBRi, USA