Satyajit Ray's 54-minute black-and-white documentary on the life of Indian Nobel Prize winning poet Rabindranath Tagore was made to coincide with and celebrate the hundredth anniversary of Tagore's birth. The film won the President's Gold Medal Award, New Delhi, 1961 and the Golden Seal, Locarno, 1961. Tagore, a poet, playwright, painter, and composer, was the first non-European to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913 "because of his profoundly sensitive, fresh and beautiful verse, by which, with consummate skill, he has made his poetic thought, expressed in his own English words, a part of the literature of the West."
The film is composed of dramatized episodes from the poet's life and archived images and documents. The documentary covers his childhood, marriage, trip to England in 1912 where he renounced his knighthood in protest to the Jallianwala Bagh massacre in 1919. Also depicted is Tagore's lifelong dedication to education and his creation of Visva-Bharati University and his travels around the world to collect money for his school. It is a straightforward factual documentary that unfortunately does not include any of Tagore's poetry because Ray did not believe that any English translation did it justice.
In my view, however, the film is the poorer for it and lacks a lyrical touch even though Ray has been reported to have said in the biography Satyajit Ray: The Inner Eye by W. Andrew Robinson, "Ten or twelve minutes of it are among the most moving and powerful things that I have produced." Unfortunately, it is very difficult to assess its true quality because the print is badly damaged and could not be restored by the Academy Film Archive which restored nineteen of Ray's films.
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