You can move a Bengali out of Bengal but never Bengal out of a Bengali. And therefore despite being educated and lived abroad, Isheeta Ganguly is every inch a Bengali. Being raised in different parts of the world her music intricately weaves the many threads of her musical journey but this fusion singer of the Indian diaspora could not stay away from Rabindra Sangeet. Hence when she decided to direct a play, it was obvious that the story was inspired from Tagore's works.
Tagore, the muse
"Three Women is a musical theatre crafted on the evolution of two protagonist women from Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore's novellas -- Bimala (from Ghare Baire) and Charu (from Nastanirh). Their lives are seen through the 21st century eyes of Kadambari Devi, Tagore's sister-in-law who was his lifelong muse," she explains. It was also rumoured that Kadambari committed suicide when Tagore agreed to marry someone else. "Kadambari's early, untimely death did not prevent Tagore from continuing to use her reflection as a source of inspiration throughout his life -- even into the paintings he created in the very last few days of his life," says Isheeta.
Tagore's protagonist women from the 19th century Bengali Renaissance literary contexts are agents of change in their eras, who negotiate their identities through the flux and upheaval of dramatic and at times forbidden relationships while swinging a pendulum away from the patriarchal expectations of their milieu towards a life closer to their own aspirations. "But are these women free even in today? Three Women is the contemporary response to that same very question answered through the lens of a modern day Kadambari," she says adding that "Women are constantly negotiating their individuality and freedom in this largely male-dominated world."
Music on stage
Isheeta, till now has released her eight albums, has not only written and directed the play but is also giving music in it. Her latest album Damaru also featured track by famous musician Shantanu Moitra. One of the tracks of the album, Vande Mataram features John Abraham's recital of one of Tagore's poems from Gitanjali. "I'm a music person, the play is nothing if it's not a musical," she says adding that, "I always experiences Tagore from the eyes of an outsider as I have stayed mostly out of India. But the way he has written about women in 19th century, nobody else has."
Relevant even today
Tagore's love for Kadambari surfaced in many of his more than 2000 originally composed songs, in his short stories and in the protagonist women he brought to life in various novels including Ghare Baire and Nastanirh, which gave birth to Bimala and Charu -- the central characters re-interpreted in the play. "As women negotiate similar issues of identity, self-worth and relevance in the 21st century social marketplace, the stories of Bimala, Charu and Kadambari are more poignant today," adds isheeta. Three Women reminds us that the key themes from the gender matrix in 19th century Bengal still resonate as similar questions today.
(The performance which will feature actors Dilnaz Irani, Leeza Mangaldas and Renu Roy, will be premiered during the Kala Ghoda Festival on February 2 at Hornman Circle.)