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Saturday, November 16, 2013

Celebrating a 100 years of Tagore's Nobel Prize

Tagore aficionados couldn’t have imagined a better evening than the one last Sunday (9 November 2013) at Toronto’s George Weston recital hall organized by Inspirations 2013 to celebrate the centenary of Rabindranath Tagore’s Nobel Prize for Literature.

Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) was the first Asian and non-European Nobel Laureate (Literature, 1913).

The creative team for the evening comprised Manasi Adhikari of the Gitanjali, Ananya Mukherjee-Reed of York University and Enakshi Sinha of Mrudanga.

In a message explaining the raison d’etre of Inspirations 2013, the creative team said, “With Inspirations, we celebrate those aspects of Tagore’s vision that are universal and utterly contemporary. The fundamental equality between all human beings, the need to resist all forms of injustice, and the infinite possibility of deepening our understanding of each other – these are some of his values. Tagore saw the arts as a powerful medium of social change. It enables us to reach new heights of creative self-expression where everyone can come together – irrespective of language, identity, race, nationality or religion.”

The Tagore Anniversary Celebrations Committee of Toronto (TACCT) pivoted the organizing of the program with many organizations collaborating. The TACCT had organized many programs during Tagore’s 150th birth anniversary in 2011.

Grace Hong
Debshankar Roy
The evening began with musical renditions of Tagore’s compositions performed by a unique combination of choir and orchestra music. Debshankar Roy of Violin Brothers was the conductor and Grace Hong was the concert master. Mansi Adhikari was the music director.

The highlight of this musical prelude was the English rendition of Tagore’s most famous Ekla Chalo Re written when Bengal was Partitioned in 1905. It was Mahatma Gandhi’s favourite poem. Listen to Amitabh Bachchan's rendition of the classic here (from the film Kahani; dir: Sujoy Ghosh; music Vishal Shekhar): Ekla Chalo Re

The second part of the program was the presentation of Inspirations Spirit Awards in honour of Rabindranath Tagore to some of Toronto’s leading citizens who have contributed to improving our world by making it more inclusive. 

John Van Burek, the artistic director and founder of Pleiades Theatre, and director of Tagore’s Dak Ghar, and Ananya-Mukherjee-Reed, Professor, York University hosted this segment of the program.

The Inspirations Spirit Award were given to:

Dionne Brand, Canada’s leading poet of social justice, for Poetry and Social Justice
Matt Galloway, host, Metro Morning, CBC, for Diversity and Social Inclusion
Inner City Angles & its Executive Director Jane Howard Baker, for Empowerment through the Arts
Ontario Co-operative Association and its Executive Director Mark Ventry  for Building Inclusive Economies

Chandalika, Tagore’s timeless saga of a young Dalit girl’s love and sacrifice, was the grand finale to the evening. “The production brought together several forms of Indian classical dance accompanied by live music, drama and narration.” 

Manasi Adhikari directed the dance drama, and Ananya Mukherjee-Reed translated the epic into English. For other credits see here: Inspirations 2013

The audio-visual slides that translated Tagore’s poems from Bengali to English helped the non-Bengali knowing audience understand and appreciate the magic of Tagore’s poetry. Also, it was heartening to note the support the event received from Tagore lovers. The large hall in North York was nearly full.

Images: https://www.facebook.com/Inspirations2013toronto?fref=ts 

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