JORASANKO THEATRE : THE PLACE WHERE RABINDRANATHTAGORE STARTED HIS “DRAMA”TIC JOURNEY!
Born into the aristocratic and renowned Tagore family of Jorasanko, Rabindranath Tagore grew up in his sprawling ancestral home in an atmosphere of culture, active social life and surging nationalism. Tagore family, with a rich history of over 300 years, has played a significant role in Bengal Renaissance and has yielded several gifted individuals who have contributed substantially to the fileds of literature, art, music, business, culinary craft, classy fashion, religious and social reformation, etc. Bengali theatre too, is largely indebted to this iconic family of Bengal because the foremost bengali theatre in Kolkata was formed in the abode of Prasanna Kumar Tagore in 1831. It was a make shift auditorium that was built at his home, in Narkeldanga. The Jorasanko Theatre too, was established in the ancestral home of Tagore family in Jorasanko by Nagendra Nath Tagore. Thus Jorasanko Theatre began its journey with talented individuals from the family like Gyanendra Nath, Gunendra Nath, Dwijendra Nath, Jyotirindra Nath and was later enriched by the active participation of another scion of the Tagore family – Rabindranath Tagore.
JORASANKO THEATRE : THE INITIAL STAGE IN A NUT-SHELL
After the establishment of the Jorasanko Theatre, the first play that was enacted there was Michael Madhusudan Dutta’s Krishna Kumari. The next enactment was based on a satire written by the same author and it was called ” Ekei ki boley sobhyota? ” At the time of these two plays, Rabindranath Tagore was just an infant. The first hugely successful production of Jorasanko Theatre was “Naba Natok ” written by Pandit Ramnarayan Tarkaratna. Great preparations were taken for this play and Rabindranath Tagore who was a boy of six at this time, imbibed his basic theatrical sense from this ambience. Naba Natok was enacted nine times consecutively. However, after this play, this theatre group was dissolved.
JORASANKO THEATRE : TAGORE’S INITIATION INTO THE THEATRE
At the age of thirteen years only , Tagore translated Shakespeare’s Macbeth into Bengali. It’s absolutely not essential to evaluate the quality of this literary work but what is important is to realise the kind of literary ambience in which he grew up, that propelled him to take up such a difficult task at such a tender age. After the dissolution of the earlier theatre group of Jorasanko, they formed another association named ” Bidyojon Samagam”, which often arranged musical performances, recitations and enactment of plays. It is in this association that Jyotirindra Nath Tagore’s satire ” Emon kormo ar korbo na ” was staged and Tagore enacted the character of Akhil babu – his first ever performance in a theatre. Aftet this, at the age of seventeen only, Tagore went to Europe. It was during his stay in Europe that he started penning the opera “Bhogno-hridoy”. While in Europe, the western opera and melody impressed Tagore a lot and it is his love for Oriental as well as European melody that gave birth to Valmiki Pratibha. At the age of twenty only he wrote his first drama-opera Valmiki Pratibha, which was enacted in the ancestral home of Tagore in Jorasanko, in February 1881. Tagore himself played the titular character and his niece Praha Devi essayed the role of Goddess Saraswati. Through this drama Tagore explored a wide range of dramatic styles and emotions, including usage of revamped kirtans and adaptation of traditional English and Irish folk melodies. This was the first play in which the young women from Tagore’s family enacted on stage.
After this Tagore wrote another drama-opera named ” Kal-Mrigaya”. This was staged on 23rd December, 1882 in which Tagore played the role of the blind sage and Jyotirindra Nath Tagore played the character of King Dasharatha. The enactment of this play was attended by several elite people, well-known authors and editors of Calcutta and the news papers carried rave reviews. However, with this enactment the final episode of Jorasanko Theatre came to an end.