Posts Tagged ‘SSVAD


রক্তকরবী (The Red Brush)


“Annabelle, aren’t you afraid of the Yaksha City?”



The Yaksha City: behind a pasteboard décors lies a fearsome place whose King – Raja – stands unrevealed behind an invisible net.

The Yaksha City: scenery of Raktakarabi, Tagore’s roughly symbolic drama about the deplorable aspects of modern life, the slavery of work and the conflicts between Power and Liberty.

The Poets’ biggest failure in the western world. Some will say the English translation – by Tagore himself – could not transcribe the Bengali reality. “The problem, hard to avoid, is that the Englished Tagore is not the same as the Bengali Rabindranath” (Sisir Kumar Ghose, 1986)*



“There is the inevitable King again, though there is here no Queen; but there are numerous functionaries like the Governor, Assistant Governor, Deputy Governor, Doctor, Professor, Headman, Wrestler, etc… The soul of the play, whoever, is the girl Nandini, the challenge of virgin beauty to the world of the male” (K. R. Srinavasa, 1987)*





What decided Salil Sahani to tackle the adaptation of Rabindranath Tagore’s ununderstood Raktakarabi? Is it precisely this universal truth so anchored in the Bengali scenery? Or is it his admiration for the beautiful and pure Nandini, renamed Annabel for the occasion? What we do know is that Salil wanted its work to reflect a wider reality. Fe found its lead actors wandering in the alleys of Visva Bharati University, and the cast happened to reflect Santiniketan’s cosmopolitness.



“Here in this Yaksha City, there are foremen, headmen, there are diggers and scholars, like myself, there are guards, executioners and undertakers, all goes well. But Annabelle… Annabelle is out of element. She is a tuned up lyre in the midst of the clamour of the market place.”



The King’s voice is American – Drrramatically Hollywoodian I should say! –, the Antiquarian offers an authentic British accent, the Professeur has this typically quavering French tone and Annabel, beloved Annabel, has the fairness of a Polish beauty. The remaining actors come from all over India, Goa, Kashmir, Nagaland or Visva Bharati’s 50th Battalion.



“Yaksha City is a place under an eclipse. The shadow demon of the gold mine has devoured it. It is neither whole itself nor does it allow any one else to remain whole.”



“Annabel, do you know, even the Creator made you wonderful behind your mare beauty? I want to snatch you out to grab you into my fist, but I can’t hold you. I want to examine you, scrutinize you.   If I can’t, I’ want to crash you.”



“I told you, Annabelle. You won’t see the wounds from the outside.”



“Working as a labourer is necessary for the survival, again it is necessary to forget. Without wine how will we forget all this?”



“I am 69 W / 1994, came here seventeen years ago. I was a human being there, in my village. Here I am playing the role of a number in a gambling. Gambling continues over us.”



Are you hungry?
Are you sick?
Are you begging for a break?



Are you sweet?
Are you fresh?
Are you strung up by the wrists?







Did Salil succeed in redeem Tagore’s Drama? In spite of the general good-will, some rather cheap elements in the scenery, the costumes and make-up, a slapdash coup de pinceau, a poorly-imaginative lightening-job, beginners’ acting maladresses… globally the lack of attention in details and the evident last minute rush are to be deplored. However the task was of scale and the event without a doubt an acclaimed and inspiring Première in Santiniketan. It certainly will mark the débuts of the town’s new Art Center, SSVAD – Santiniketan Society of Visual Art and Design – inaugurated last November. Moreover there was some truly great moments: Annabelle dismayed watching the screened shadows of her beloved camarades, the sweltering scene of drunk diggers spaced-out to the sound of Radiohead’s We Suck Young Blood, and the Red Brush itself, as another character, replacing Tagore’s Red Oleanders.



All quotes come from Salil Sahani’s translation of  Raktakarabi from Rabindranath Tagore




SSVAD – Santiniketan Society of Visual Art and Design



* “The Unrecognized Work of Tagore as Translator: An Assessment of Red Oleanders”, Basudeb Chakraborti, University of Kalyani, India