Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Tagore and Ocampo: Amitabh Bachchan to play Nobel laureate poet

Amitabh Bachchan has donned a mind-numbing array of masks in a legendary, often mythical silver-screen career spanning more than 40 years.  His latest role will perhaps be his most challenging - not to mention symbolic - yet, in a film that brings together India’s greatest poet and the country’s greatest thespian.  Argentine director Pablo Cesar’s new film ‘Thinking of Him’ will see the Big B take on the role of Rabinranath Tagore, the Bengali polymath whose profound influence continues to resonate through the entire Indian cultural spectrum. 
Born in 1861, Tagore put together a staggering body of work, Novels and Plays to Poetry, most notably the epic ‘Gitanjali’.  His work earned him a Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913, the first non-European winner of the prize.  A film exploring Tagore’s life would be a titanic undertaking, so director Cesar concerns himself with exploring a little known aspect of the great poet’s life; a 1924 trip to Argentina and his “intimate but entirely platonic” relationship with Argentine feminist writer, literary magazine editor and cultural activist Victoria Ocampo and how that relationship reflected in each other’s work.
"The film will be set partly in present times and partly in the 1920s," says Cesar.
"The idea is to emphasise the continuing relevance of Tagore.  I began pre-production in 2008 following a suggestion made by India's ambassador to Argentina" the director added.
Ocampo was reported to idolize Tagore after reading Andre Gide’s French translation of ‘Gitanjali’ in 1914 and was influenced by the poet’s work.  For his part Tagore dedicated his 1925 book of poems, ‘Purabi’, to his Argentine friend and took up painting on Ocampo’s suggestion.  In 1930 Ocampo organized Tagore’s first art exhibition in Paris and the two exchanged a series of letters until the poet’s death.
Ocampo was legally separated from her husband - divorce wasn't possible in Catholic Argentina of the day - in the wake of an affair with his cousin but she never remarried.
Tagore’s sojourn to Argentina was not planned.  Whilst sailing to Peru from Europe, the poet was forced by an illness to stop over in Buenos Aires.  He spent two months recuperating at a villa near the city and Ocampo looked after the poet.  Whilst recuperating, Tagore wrote as many as 30 poems.
One of them - ‘Atithi’ opens with the lines, "The days of my sojourn overseas, you filled to the fullest, woman, with the nectar of your sweetness".
The English-Bengali-Spanish language film will be released internationally in 2012, 151 years after the birth of India’s illustrious poet.
- Vijitha Alles/Reports

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