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The Human in Tagore

William Radice

By Utpal K. Banerjee
Niyogi Books, New Delhi, 2011, pp.259, 0.00

By Nityapriya Ghosh
Niyogi Books, New Delhi, 2011, pp.278, 0.00

By Sovon Som
Niyogi Books, New Delhi, 2011, pp.95, 0.00


Niyogi Books are making a valuable contribution to the study and under-standing of Rabindranath Tagore, especially at this time of anniversary cele-brations when there are so many books to choose from. The three books here are all handsomely produced, with numerous, high-quality illustrations. Thanks to modern spell-checkers, proof-reading standards are reaso-nable, but I did quite often notice missing words, suggesting that editorial eyes did not focus quite as hard on the text as on the lay-out and design. For academic or scholarly readers, the main drawback of all three books is their lack of annotation or referencing. True, less specialized readers might be put off by such things, but there are ways of supplying them discreetly. All three books have indexes, but Utpal Banerjee's book lacks even a Biblio-graphy. In Sovon Som's book, something has gone badly wrong in that bracketed references are given in the text, but when one turns to the back for bibliographical details one finds a list of 'references' with footnote numbers that are nowhere to be found in the text! Maybe this confusion arose because of the author's death in 2010, but there is really no excuse for it. Of the three, I enjoyed Utpal Banerjee's book the most, as it is written con amore throughout, and for the non-Bengali reader who may not be familiar with the dance traditions of Santiniketan it fills a major gap. The author has hunted through the Visva-Bharati archives to come up with a clear and vivid account of Tagore's lifelong experiments with music, performance and dance, and shown how dance was central to his educa-tional and aesthetic ideals. My impression, after reading it, is that Visva-Bharati in many ways worked best on the dance-floor, with a continuous, evolutionary process of creative interaction, drawing sustenance not only from the classical and folk traditions of India (Manipuri, Kathakali, Mohiniyattam; Garba, Baul, Chhau), but from further afield. A com-plete account of Tagore as a dance-initiator has to rove from western opera or lieder or Isadora Duncan to Java, Bali and Sri Lanka, and Banerjee enthusiastically rises to the task, supplying copious background information, detailed accounts of the evolution of his major dance-dramas, and biographies of Pratima Devi, Santidev Ghosh and other key collabo-rators. He shows that dance for Tagore was always collaborative, never solitary (did it therefore offer welcome release from the lone-liness and introspection of other aspects of his creative life?), ...

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