Rabindra Nritya/Tagore Dances in Bengali Films

Saturday, November 29, 2014
In my efforts over the past year to look beyond my focus on South Indian cinema dance to see what other regional cinemas of India have to offer, my research on Odissi, Manipuri, and Sattriya film dances led me eastward to the cinemas of Odisha in East India and Manipur and Assam in Northeast India. But what about the cinema of Bengal situated directly in between those states and also one of India's major film-making centers since the craft began? (Note: I am focusing on Indian Bengali films produced in Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) and the Indian state of West Bengal—not those produced in what was East Bengal and East Pakistan near/after partition/independence and now is Bangladesh).

Other regional Indian classical dance forms had been depicted in a few Bengali films with an authentic earnestness and execution. For example, the best Kathak nritta in a non-Mujra setting in Indian cinema can be found in Jalsaghar (1958), Khudito Pashan (1960), and Basanta Bahar (1957); Odissi dance was skillfully depicted in Nirjana Saikate (1963) and Yugant (1995); and the infamous Anjana Banerjee performed decent Bharatanatyam in Chhandaneer (1989). That's not to say that examples of bad faux-classical dance are not found in Bengali cinema. There are plenty such as Abhiman (1986), Jamalay Jibanta Manush (1958), and some faux-Manipuri dances—but when good dance is showcased in Bengali films, it is really good. And there are certainly folk dance forms of the region most notably Chhau that have also been showcased in a few Bengali films.

Jalsaghar (1958)
The popularity of Kathak and Odissi dance depictions in Bengali films makes historical sense. Kathak dancer and scholar Pallabi Chakravorty [3] describes how female court dancers in north and east India during British rule became "popularly known as nautch dancers" but also "as tawaifs in the royal courts of north India and baijis or nautch dancers in nineteenth-century Bengal." As kingdoms continued to decline, in the late nineteenth-century Calcutta "became the prime destination for displaced dancers and musicians from the north, who found new sources of patronage among the Bengali elite" particularly in the "music rooms of the Bengali zamindars (landlords)." Ah, now I understand the background of Roshan Kumari's thrilling Kathak dance in Jalsaghar ("The Music Room," 1958)! The appearance of Odissi dance in Bengali films is not surprising as well. Certainly Odisha is close to Bengal and shares many cultural similarities, but as scholar Nandini Sikand has shown, there is a history of women with Bengali backgrounds becoming prominent Odissi dancers such as Ritha Devi, Indrani Rahman (married into a Kolkata family), and recently Sharmila Biswas [13].

So while the depiction of Kathak and Odissi in Bengali films had a uniquely Bengali precedent, I continued to wonder...was there a uniquely-Bengali dance depicted in Bengali films? For some time I assumed there simply was not because from my limited experience Bengali films seemed to be mostly "serious" and "artsy." This perception appears to be accurate especially for pre-1980s films. Historian Sharmistha Gooptu has shown that long before Satyajit Ray, Calcutta productions were "distinguished through their association with Bengali literary and avant-garde cultures" and were deliberately made and seen as noncommercial art for the Bengali audience which had different tastes than the all-India market and demanded films with quality storylines and acting [5]. Cinematic dance depictions were not well received in Bengal. Silent/early Bengali films like Andhare Alo, Pati Bhakti, Bilwamangal, and Tara the Dancer which had courtesan/nautch characters were criticized for "depicting the life of prostitutes" [5]. Sharmistha reveals a fascinating nugget of information—that director Binay Bandopadhyay (Banerjee) "brought the song and dance film" to Bengali cinema, but he lamented his receiving "only abuses and criticism" by critics who upheld the virtues of the "refinement and decency" of Bengali films as opposed to the "cheap and commercial" focus of the Hindi cinema of Bombay [5]. I wish I could track down the films he was associated with, but I've not had success finding information about him.

Looking beyond cinema, unlike some other Indian states/regions with film production centers, Bengal does not have a "classical" dance tradition of its own (though in recent years Dr. Mahua Mukherjee has made a claim to have reconstructed a lost Bengali classical dance form called "Gaudiya Nritya," but the dance's acceptance and "classicism" is controversial and its current status confusing given that this Narthaki article says the dance "is the most recent inclusion under the Sangeet Natak Akademi’s list of ‘classical’ dances of India" but I've not found any evidence of this and most other sources describe the form's "classicism" as disputed).

While Bengal may not have an indigenous classical dance tradition, it does have a unique claim in the history of dance in India—it's where modern/contemporary Indian dance began! Following the Bengal Renaissance, "Bengal provided one of the most fertile grounds in India from which a modernist movement in art and sculpture, theatre, music and dance was spawned in the twentieth century" [10]. Modern/contemporary Indian dance began with two charismatic Bengalis: Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) and later Uday Shankar (1900-1977). Bengal was also the site of the founding of the Indian People's Theatre Association (IPTA) in 1942 whose influential dance squad was led by former Uday Shankar dance school-associates Shanti Bardhan, Narendra Sharma, and Sachin Shankar [2].

But of all those artists, it is Rabindranath Tagore and his everlasting popularity in Bengal that provides the key to unlocking plentiful examples of a uniquely Bengali dance in Bengali cinema. I can't believe the answer was there all along in YouTube sensation Anjana Banerjee's dances to Tagore songs in the film Chhandaneer!

Rabindranath Tagore

Rabindranath Tagore (1909)
Described by Ram Gopal as "that bearded, white sage of beauty and poetry" [6], Rabindranath Tagore seems most often remembered today for his prolific output of literature and music. While conflicting information abounds in some of the details of his life, I'll do my best to give a fair summary. Tagore was the first non-European Nobel laureate who received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1913, and he "dominated the literary scene in India for more than half a century" [14]. Tagore also created his own style of music called "Rabindra Sangeet" penning the lyrics for his compositions which number over 2,000 (and include both India and Bangladesh's national anthems), and he "fashioned his own genre of dance drama, a unique blend of dance, theater and songs" [2]. Tagore's output and influence did not stop there. He was also "one of the most prominent intellectuals in Bengal in the first half of the twentieth century" [11] and "along with [Gandhi] was one of the most significant voices in India's journey towards post-colonial modernity" [10]. His family connections to the reformist Brahmo Samaj movement, his ideas and efforts on education, and his penchant for painting rounded out his long list of achievements and influences. In short, he was an Indian cultural icon and continues to be so particularly in West Bengal today [9].

While he is well remembered for his songs and dance dramas/musical plays, his work and philosophy of dance and movement seem to be less known outside of dance circles (especially outside of India). Dance was the last artistic endeavor that Tagore embarked upon, and he "saw dance as the perfect articulation of his songs and poetry" and developed a modern/contemporary approach to dance [1,2]. Tagore wrote, "The main function of the art of dancing is expressed in the beauty and the grace generated by the movement of the body in specific ways – sometimes even without specific meanings. The joy in that is of feeling the rhythm" [8]. Unlike the "classical" dances that were being reconstructed during this time by contemporaries like Vallathol (Kathakali) and Rukmini Devi (Bharatanatyam), Tagore saw dance free of a need to associate with the rules, movement, and narrative/plot prescriptions of ancient texts and instead placed the dance in an expressive contemporary context concerned with human situations [1,8].

Tagore with Shapmochan Troupe, likely 1930s [16]
It all began at the alternative educational school Shantiniketan that he established in Bengal in 1901 (and known today as Visva-Bharati). "Here, in spite of society’s serious reservations against such practices in education, he gave an important position to music, drama and the visual arts," and from the beginning "he encouraged and participated in dance-dramas where all the students and Tagore himself would use body movements in a dramatic or theatrical format along with songs" [8]. While dance was initially spontaneous and "mere embellishment to the songs" drawn from Manipuri and folk dance vocabulary, he later looked to various existing classical and traditional styles of India, Southeast Asia, and a bit of European modern dance "to find a vocabulary to shore up the metaphoric and dramatic imagery of his songs and dance dramas" [2]. Between 1921-1940, his style fully flowered in development [11], and he invited teachers from extant styles to teach at his school and developed a training method for his students. He didn't involve himself with the professional Bengali theater of the day and instead drew audiences to his Santiniketan productions [2]. Similar to the classical dance reconstructions, he made dance respectable and accessible to the middle-class woman, in his case the Bengali woman [2].

Sounds a bit too similar to Uday Shankar and his Almora Center, you might ask? While Tagore and Shankar's institutions were both similar, scholar Prarthana Purkayastha points out that "Shankar went one step further and pushed the boundaries of choreography by introducing elements of improvisation, underlining the importance of a conscious relationship between the gestures of daily life and dance movements" and he "established a training system in which prominence was given to an in-depth knowledge of the body and its various components." [15]. While Tagore is said to have joined the stage in some of his productions, he was much older and does not seem to have danced solo or focused on himself as a distinct artist. Aishika Chakraborty says it best: "If Rabindranath was the first to conceptualize Indian modern dance, Uday Shankar was the first to apply it" by bringing Indian dance to the rest of the world with his youthful physical and artistic charm [2].

Existing at a time when there was no acceptance of dance outside of the classical/folk binary, "The works of Tagore and Shankar, in opening up dance to a process of experimentation and to the coming together of multiple forms, have generally been seen as a way to self-discovery and self-definition" [8]. Depending on your point of view, Tagore and Shankar initiated a modern dance tradition in India or at least provided the building blocks and inspiration for those who came later. Tagore is especially important because he seems to have been among the very first influential figures in India to have an interest in dance as creative expression, though many consider Uday Shankar to be the first modern Indian dancer. It has been suggested that the success of Tagore and Shankar despite enormous cultural hurdles was largely due to their personal charisma (1,18).

The dance style that Tagore created goes by many names today: Rabindra Nritya (seemingly the most popular), Rabindrik Dance, Tagore Dance, and other variations. Given that it "never developed as a formally codified style with the kind of specific and methodized technique that a discipline demands," Rabindra Nritya "has existed for decades now as an undefined territory of art whose only laws are: that the dance must be set to Tagore’s songs; that it must represent the meaning of the songs through body movements; and that these movements must be fluid and rhythmic" [1]. The dance style seems to have lost steam after Tagore died, and similar to Uday Shankar's style, Tagore's students and followers seem to have preserved the Shantiniketan style in amber and rigidly adhered to the form of his dance instead of its revolutionary philosophy and ideals [8]. Ranjabati Sircar, daughter of the Bengali dancer Manjusri Chaki-Sircar whose Navanritya dance could be seen as a worthy successor to Tagore's dance philosophy legacy, has said that Rabindra Nritya became stereotyped with each lyrical word literally interpreted through gesture [2], and Sunil Kothari adds criticism of the "oft-repeated movements without any regard for the lyrics" [17].

Rabindra Nritya in Bengali Cinema

Once I learned how popular Tagore continues to be in Bengal today, I was not surprised that his special brand of music and dances inspired by it are fairly plentiful in Bengali cinema. The popularity goes all the way back to the beginning. In describing the Calcutta film production powerhouse New Theatres which was founded in 1930 by B.N. Sircar, Sharmistha Gooptu notes that its prestigious reputation was gained through its connection to Tagore as well as B.N. Sircar's "reputation as a gentleman," and it was New Theatres that "popularised Rabindra Sangeet, which had hitherto been confined to the hallowed precints of Santiniketan" [4]. New Theatres even produced the 1931/2 film version of Tagore's drama Natir Puja ("The Dancing Girls Worship") which featured not only Tagore himself on screen as well as in the director's seat but also student performers from Shantiniketan and an "interpretive dance" [4].

The video below from the Indiancine.ma annotated online archive (alternatively on YouTube in lesser quality) is according to the info notes "a simple recording" of the Natir Puja stage play in 1926, not the actual 1931/2 film directed by Tagore. I've embedded just the dance portion. What a fascinating glimpse of Tagorean dance in the 1920s! The slow, graceful movements seem inspired by Manipuri dance; I wonder if that segment is very similar to the "interpretive dance" the film is said to contain. To honor the 150th birth anniversary of Tagore, the NFDC and Government of India released a DVD set of his stories as depicted in cinema including a "partial but restored" Natir Puja on the bonus disc! I've not been able to track down a copy of the DVD to see how it compares to the online footage available.

Listed below is a collection of all the examples of Rabindra Nritya I could find in Bengali cinema grouped into categories. Complicating this effort was my lack of knowledge in Bengali (and any other Indian language!) which makes it difficult to appreciate and understand a dance that is so closely connected to the lyrics. The Geetabitan website was incredibly helpful in finding English translations for many of the songs (which are easily identified by the first few words), but Tagore's poetry can be hard to grasp in English which according to some is due to its being simply untranslatable into other languages. At least Rabindra Sangeet is quite easy to identify after listening to enough examples of it. After going through all the songs in this post, I think those who are unfamiliar with the song genre will agree!

Non-Interpretive Dance

While these first two dances are certainly "fluid and rhythmic" and "set to Tagore's songs," the missing piece is the representation of the lyrics through body movements. I am struck by the lifelessness of the dances. The dancer's faces have no expression, the movements are rigidly set to the simple musical rhythm, and the choreography consists almost entirely of pretty arm and torso movements that have no connection to the sung poetry. Sircar and Kothari's criticisms seem applicable here! While Tagore himself felt that joy in dance could be found in simply "feeling the rhythm," the dancers here don't seem to be feeling any joy, and neither do I as the viewer!

Udayer Pathe (1944) - "Basante Phool Ganthlo" - Bimal Roy's debut film, the social Udayer Pathe has the earliest example of Rabindra Nritya that I was able to find in Bengali cinema beyond Natir Puja. The dance takes place at an opulent home birthday party and is performed by actress Smriti Biwas. I added subtitles to the video sourced from Geetabitan's English translation, and the dance movements seem wholly unconnected with the meaning of the song. Note: Yes, the audio is slightly off, and yes I hate dailymotion too...

English subtitles available in menu - Direct link

Baksa Badal (1965/70) – "Mora Jale Sthole Kato" - Mixed in with the loose Manipuri-inspired movements are a few movements inspired by Bharatanatyam as well as some tell-tale signs of Uday Shankar's style (e.g. the "limp hand") and then the dance transitions to a solo vocal number. While Geetabitan doesn't have an English translation, I have a feeling the content of the lyrics would make no difference.
Starts 37:10

Odissi Influences

These next two dances while having some of the same lifelessness as the ones above are different in that their movement vocabulary is inspired largely by Odissi. I had mentioned in the introduction above Nandini Sikand's [13] point that many women with Bengali backgrounds have become prominent Odissi dancers, but what I found most fascinating is learning of the tension that exists between some Odia and Bengali Odissi dancers. Nandini describes how some "Odissi traditionalist" audience members at recent festivals and performances have booed dancers who perform Odissi to Rabindra Sangeet instead of traditional Odia music. She outlines the importance of understanding these incidents in the the context of the complex history of Odisha and Bengal—a "larger context of Oriya regionalism and a perceived Bengali chauvanism and/or appropriation of Oriya culture" hearkening back to when Orissa was formerly part of the Bengal Presidency under British rule and Bengali elites dominated administrative posts and Odisha fought to maintain its own identity. None of this tension is reflected in the film dances, of course, which seem to randomly pick "pretty" Odissi-inspired movements purely for their aesthetic value.

Bhalobasa Bhalobasa (1985) – "Mamo Chitte Niti Nritte" - The English translation of this song reveals it centers on the concept of an eternal rhythmic dance, but like the dances above, the expressionless dancer does not interpret the lyrics...even with something as simple as "following the waves." I featured this dance once before on the blog but had no idea it was an example of Rabindra Sangeet at that time.

Chander Bari (2007) "Chander Hasi/Hasir Bandh Bhengeche" - No English translation of the lyrics is available, but I have a feeling the meaning makes no difference to the decorative dance movements. I love pretty movements as much as the next person, but somehow in these film dances they fall flat. I suspect the feelings that the songs stir within Bengali audiences override the vapidness of the choreography...

Tagore Dance Dramas

Dadar Kirti (1980) – "Guru Guru Guru Guru" and "Bodhu/Bondhu Kon Aalo" - The heroine of the film, played by Mahua Roychoudhury, performs the character Chitrangada in excerpts of the Tagore dance drama of the same name. At the 2:00 minute mark, Mahua dances solo to the hauntingly-beautiful "Bodhu Kon Aalo" which describes her realization that she is in love with Arjuna. Instead of Geetabitan's awkward translation, I used Deepankar Choudhury's as well as Anandamayee Majumdar's insights to overlay English subtitles on the dance. While many of the movements are purely decorative, when she does act out some of the material aspects of the lyrics (eyes, sunshine, mango buds) and expresses some of the emotions, it all feels very restrained and cold especially the parts describing her waiting eons in misery and woe. If performed by another dancer who internalized and deeply-felt the poetics, I think it could have been much better. Sadly, Mahua died five years after this film was released.

English subtitles available in menu - Direct link

Muktodhara (2012) – This film was based on the real-life story of the Bengali Odissi dancer Alokananda Ray (played by leading Bengali actress Rituparna Sengupta) who in 2007 taught male convicts in a Kolkata jail how to dance and perform the Tagore dance drama Valmiki Pratibha at the jail and then around the country. It's quite an inspiring story (the "Sound-of-Music-in-prison" as NPR calls it) and part of the state of West Bengal's efforts to reform prisons/correctional homes through "cultural therapy" and training in Indian performing arts. The handsome Nigel Akkara played himself in the lead male role in the film, and as in the film, the Valmiki Pratibha story of reformation and transformation led to similar reforms in Nigel and other prisoners. In the playlist below is a brief initial dance practice scene followed by the last 30 minutes of the film where the prisoners perform Valmiki Pratibha on stage. I am mesmerized by the vocals of Sasha Goshal for Nigel in the film.

Kabuliwala (1956) - "Kharobayu Boy Bege" -  Based on Tagore's emotional short story, Kabuliwala features a cute stage performance to the Tagore song "Kharobayu Boy Bege" by a group of children. The lead little girl, the character Mini (played by Sharmila Tagore's younger sister, Tinku Tagore) whom Kabuliwala befriends, is absolutely adorable as she tries to remember all the hand gestures (I think she's trying to do the Manipuri sandansha hand gesture at 1:38). The clip below is poor quality and the audio is off, but it lets us see the dance unlike the full film upload at the Indiancine.ma archive which is grayed out due to its copyright status.  The 1961 Hindi remake released in the centenary year of Tagore's birth can be seen in full on YouTube [video no longer available].

Uday Shankar Influence

Bipasha (1962) - One of the most popular films of the beloved couple of Bengali cinema, Uttam Kumar and Suchitra Sen, Bipasha has one of my favorite black-and-white "spectacle" dances—a multi-part stage dance drama that is highly influenced by Uday Shankar's dance style. But it finds a place on this list because the music for the lead female's solo dance (that begins with "Tomishe...") sounds like Rabindra Sangeet, though I've been unable to confirm the name. The dance drama is called "Upanayan" in the film, and Suchitra Sen's character is invited to watch it by a Christian missionary. Given the Sanskrit-chant style voiceovers and deliberate, energetic group choreography, the number does not seem to be imitating Tagore's brand of dance drama and instead has some strong affinities with Uday Shankar's 1948  film Kalpana. Many elements of the choreography are direct Kalpana inspirations such as the spread-finger hand shimmies, the lead male's extended arms shown from the back, the upper-body isolations, the Manipuri spins and sandansha hand gesture, and the Kathakali-inspired "limp hand."

Left: Bipasha    Right: Kalpana

The lead male and female dancers are fantastic! I have tried my hardest to identify them but have had no luck. My guess is that they might be from the Little Ballet Troupe since they are unlikely to be either Shanti Bardhan (who died in 1954) or the IPTA Central Squad (that broke up by the time the film was made). For a moment I guessed the male might by Narendra Sharma, but judging from extant pictures of him that's been ruled out.

Starts 16:31

Abohoman (2010) – "Gahono Kusumokunjo Maajhe" - Guess who the lead, older dancer is in this song? Mamata Shankar, Uday Shankar's real-life daughter! In the scene, actress and Mamata Shankar Dance School-Trained dancer Ananya Chatterjee (not to be confused with the academic and dancer Ananya Chatterjea) is being trained for the role of Binodini, and the song is the Rabindra Sangeet "Gahan Kushum Kunjo Majhe" from one of Tagore's most famous dance dramas, Bhanu Singar Padabali. The English subtitles for the dance appear once the film's dialogue voiceover stops. It's a beautifully-choreographed dance with lots of Uday Shankar influences. Apparently this is only one of two film dances Mamata has done; the other being a tribal dance in Agantuk.

 All the Rest!

One set of dances I would love to find but seem to not be available are those of Valmiki Banerjee as a dancer in the films Meghdoot (1945) and Sri Tulsidas (1947) and as an assistant dance director in the film Pandit Moshai (1951). Given that he was a key exponent of Rabindra Nritya, I bet the film dances contain some great examples!

Here is a playlist of all the remaining examples of Rabindra Nritya that I found in Bengali cinema with names and descriptions following. I'm sure there are some more that I'm not aware of. Suggestions welcome!  Update: YouTube no longer allows specific time starts in playlists, so the videos may not start at the dance portion.  Navigate through the playlist videos through the menu icon seen when hovering over the video.

Starts with video 10

  • Chhandaneer (1989) - This film is based on the real life of Anjana Banerjee (more infamously known from her hilarious YouTube video) who experimented with performing Bharatanatyam to Tagore's songs in her younger years. I included two dances set to Rabindra Sangeet in the film. In the first clip, she tells a reporter, "There are a few Tagore songs based on South Indian compositions and tunes that can easily be blended with Bharatnatyam. For example, Meenakshi Mamudangdehi...based on this same raga, Tagore composed "Bashanti Hey." The second dance may not be a proper Rabindra Sangeet, but it sounds like it is composed in a similar style with the same intentions.
  • Chitrangada (2012) - "Bodhu Kon Alo" - Set to the same haunting Rabindra Sangeet as the dance from Dadar Kirti above, this film dance features the late Rituparno Ghosh who learned Odissi from Sharmila Biswas for the film. Ghosh, who also directed the film, plays a choreographer who is planning a performance of Tagore's dance drama Chitrangada. In an interview he described the costumes as based on Madam Menaka’s "Oriental style" and says he chose Odissi not Manipuri because "the Manipur that Arjun visited was a part of Kalinga in Orissa. Chitrangada was not the princess of Manipur the state as we usually think she is." 
  • Natobor Not Out (2010) – "Hey Nuton Dekha Dik Aar" - Featuring lovely production values, this song is part of the larger whimsical story of the film. Tagore's portrait features in the procession and in the man's room, and the number was likely choreographed by Bengali film choreographer Sukalyan Bhattacharya who composed another dance in the film (source article no longer locatable now).
  • Dekha/Dakha (1998) "Jibono Lata" or "E Ki Labonye Purno Pran"A brief, slow-paced solo dance set outdoors that seems to match the general spirit of the lyrics' meaning as seen in the English translation.
  • Alo (2003) – "Amar Raat Pohalo" - Actress Rituparna Sengupta dances again in this film in a song choreographed by Sukalyan Bhattacharya. Looking at the English translation, it appears that Rituparna enacts some of the lyrics such as the flute gesture, but for the most part her movements are just pretty...though also performed with feeling.
  • Dhosomi (2012) - "Amar Sokol Roser Dara" - The choreography is sort of an annoying bollywood-meets-Rabindra Nritya mashup, but the song is gorgeous. The English translation reveals that the dancer seems to depict the flowing "stream" analogy and the eyes part amidst her living-room freestyle dance antics.
  • Pushpadhanu (1959) - "Amare Rekho Dali" - While the song is a Rabindra Sangeet, the stage number seems to be mimicking Bharatanatyam in the costume and musical arrangement with the rhythmic interludes and footwork. Luckily Angel added English subtitles to the upload! The choreography doesn't belong to any particular dance tradition and is dominated by circular movements and spins. And I think this might be the laziest faux-flute playing ever captured in film!

Sources (all excellent reads!):

  1. Bose, Mandakranta. "Indian Modernity and Tagore's Dance." University of Toronto Quarterly. Vol 77, No. 4. 2008.
  2. Chakraborty, Aishika. "The Daring Within: Speaking Gender through Navanritya." Dance Matters Performing India. 2010.
  3. Chakravorty, Pallabi. "Dancing into Modernity: Multiple Narratives of India's Kathak Dance." Dance Research Journal. Vol 38, No. 1/2, 2006. 
  4. Gooptu, Sharmistha. "The Glory that Was: An Exploration of the Iconicity of New Theatres." Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Vol 23: 1&2. 2003.
  5. Gooptu, Sharmistha. An Alternative Imaginary: The History of Bengali Cinema, c. 1921-1961. 2009. PhD Diss.
  6. Gopal, Ram. Rhythm in the Heavens: An Autobiography. 1957.
  7. Gopal, Sangita and Sujata Moorti, Eds. Global Bollywood: Travels of Hindi Song and Dance. 2008.
  8. Munsi, Urmimala Sarkar. "Boundaries and Beyond: Problems of Nomenclature in Indian Dance History." Dance: Transcending Borders. 2008.
  9. O'Connell, Joseph and Kathleen. "Introduction: Rabindranath Tagore as 'Cultural Icon'." University of Toronto Quarterly. Vol 77, No. 4.
  10. Purkayastha, Prarthana. "Warrior, Untouchable, Courtesan: Fringe Women in Tagore's Dance Dramas." South Asia Research. 2009. Vol 29 (3): 255-273.
  11. Roy, Haimanti. Citizenship and National Identity in Post-Partition Bengal, 1947-65. 2006. PhD Diss.
  12. Sircar, Manjusri Chaki. "Tagore and Modernization of Dance." New Directions in Indian Dance. 2006. [edited version of 1995 original]
  13. Sikand, Nandini. Dancing with Tradition: a Global Community of Odissi Dancers. 2010. PhD Diss.
  14. Tagore Centenary Issue. Natya Theatre Arts Journal. 1962.
  15. Purkayastha, Prarthana. "Dancing Otherness: Nationalism, Transnationalism, and the Work of Uday Shankar." Dance Research Journal. Vol 44. No 1. 2012.
  16. Isvarmurti, V. Life and Art of CN Vasudevan: Tamil Dancer and Tagore. 1986. 
  17. Kothari, Sunil. "Rabindranath Tagore and Indian Dances: A Reassessment."  Nartanam. Volume XII, No. 2.
  18. Abrahams, Ruth.  The Life and Art of Uday Shankar. 1985. PhD Diss.


  1. Awesome post as always! Very much impressed with the level of scholarship you put in this! With every post you are upping the ante of expectations!

    1. Thanks Raghu! I went back this morning and fixed a bunch of typos that somehow crept in despite my rereading it many times. :) I also fixed the first Chhandaneer video in the last playlist. Hopefully all is well now. :D

  2. Dear Cassidy,

    About Binoy Bannerjee (that is how his name is spelt in Bengali Film Directory): Some of his films include: Shanti ('Peace', 1946), Money Chhilo Asha ('There was hope', 1948), Abhimaan (1949), Gypsy Meye (Gypsy girl, 1950), Minoti (1951), Shyamoli (1952) etc. Of these, Gypsy Meye is probably the film Gooptu is hinting at here although Minoti also has a dance sequence. In both these films, the dance director is Peter Gomez who have been separately credited in the film booklet (not a common thing in those days). I am sharing some of the stills of both these films with you on facebook, since the films themselves are not available. The stills form Gypsy Meye will clearly tell you why the "cultured" middle-class Bengali cine-goer/critics refused to accept Banerjee's film dances (although the still from Minati looks like a Rabindranritya, contrary to his earlier film), especially at the time like 1950-51 when the Bengali film industry is trying very hard to create its own niche and separate itself from the "all-song-and-dance" "formulaic" all-India films marked by stars and high budgets.

    The rest of the post is great! Lovely observation and compilation, especially the links between Kalpana and Bipasa! Thank you for it all...


    P.S. The lead dancer in Bipasa looks very familiar. She has acted in a couple of movies if I am not wrong. Let me try and find out her name.

    1. Hello Pritha! Thank you for this valuable information! Glad to have the thoughts of an expert in this subject (or perhaps an "expert in training"--looking forward to your upcoming dissertation! :D). Oh thank you for the correct spelling of Binoy Bannerjee. That extra n makes all the difference and now I see lots of information on him! Oh how I wish some of these films were available...
      What I found confusing in my research was that there were early films made in Calcutta for the all-India market (often in Hindi/Urdu and some other languages) which Sharmistha described as "unmistakably Hindi films of Bengali imprint," so they wouldn't quite qualify for my post even though they are Bengali productions. Glad to hear you enjoyed the post--do let me know if you know the identity of the lead female dancer in Bipasa. She seems to have dance training and I'm very curious! Best, ~Cassidy

    2. Dear Cassidy,

      I was mistaken about the lead dancers in Bipasha. They are Kumari Anita as Ganga and Achyut Chatterjee as Damodar. The dance has been directed by Atindra Narayan and Samar Ghosh has been an advisor. This information comes up in the title credits of the film.

      Sorry for the confusion.


  3. It was a big relief to see you back. As usual, this post of yours is a feast for the eyes and the ears.


    Hope a new and equally interesting post will come from you soon in the new year.

  5. One not listed is "Sawana Gaganey Ghor Ghanaghata" a evergreen classical by Lata - in Bou Thakuranir Haat (early Uttam - 1953) - though this song is pictured on Nitish Mukherjee not him, and "I don't know who" danseuse.

  6. Thank you! While I'm not able to find video of that song online (the whole film is posted but the songs seem missing), this video of the song appears to have clips from that dance. What a beautiful and haunting song. I found another Rabindra Nritya from the film--the song "Chader Hashi" which is very sweet!

    1. Dear Minai, finally found the full video of 'sawana gahane'. You can see it here https://indiancine.ma/GTM/player/YW It is an amazing mishmash of Sadhona Bose (physical movements) and Uday Shankar (expression).


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