Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Charulata: Satyajit Ray (1964)



The film contains a famous scene in which Charu (Madhabi Mukherjee) sings Rabindranath Tagore's song "Phule Phule Dhole Dhole" on a swing, while looking at Amal (Soumitra Chatterjee). The scene is referenced in the Bollywood film Parineeta during the song sequence, Soona Man Ka Aangan. Indeed, Parineeta 's Lalita (Vidya Balan) is dressed to resemble Nastanirh/Charulata 's Charu. Furthermore, Parineeta is based upon the novel Parineeta by Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay who was a noted contemporary of Tagore (and who also wrote novels concerned with social reform).

Tagore's 'Phule Phule Dhole Dhole' is taken from the 'geetinatyo' (song-based play) 'Kaalmrigoya'. This is set in the second scene of the play, where the place of action is a forest. In the forest, a number of 'forest-goddesses' have gathered and this song is part of a chorus by the former. It was first acted out on December 23, 1882. 'Ye Banks and Braes' was composed by Burns in 1791, and is a very popular Scots song.

Santidev Ghosh gives a beautiful account of how Rabindranath was well-accustomed to European musical tradition even before his first visit to England when he was 17, in the 3rd chapter of Rabindrasangeet Vichitra. It is also here that the author clearly mentions that Tagore's first real brush with musical experimentation was with the play 'Valmiki Pratibha', first publicly performed in February 1881. This play had three songs set in European style, two of them being used in the voices of dacoits ('Kali Kali bolo re aaj' and 'Tobe aaye shobe aaye') and one Irish tune being used as a lonesome wail by the goddess of the forest ('Mori o kahaaro bachha'). The massive success of this prompted Tagore to remark that 'Valmiki Pratibha' was 'a garland of drama in a thread of songs'. Due to the immense success of 'Valmiki Pratibha', 'Kaalmrigoya''s songs had this structure too. Since Tagore was no stranger to European music, it is entirely possible that he had heard Burns' song and had composed 'Phule Phule Dhole Dhole' in a similar tune. In fact 2 other songs of Tagore, 'Kotobaaro Bhebechhinu' and 'Puraano Shei Diner Kotha' are heavily inspired from 'Drink to me only with thine eyes' and 'Auld Lang Syne' respectively.

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