Making style statement with Tagore kitsch

New Delhi: T-shirts, coffee mugs and posters carrying lines from Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore`s writings or prints of his paintings are popular picks for Bengali youngsters across India who want to stay connected to culture and make a style statement at the same time.

A poet, novelist, playwright and painter, Tagore`s creativity knew no bounds and even today his genius reaches out to the young in new, kitschy ways as his 150th birth anniversary dawns May 9.

Sumit Sen, a law student in Kolkata, told reporters: "I feel proud to wear a T-shirt with Tagore`s paintings imprinted on them. It not only stands out in a crowd of T-shirts with banal one-liners in English, it also democratises Tagore."

"He reaches out much more easily among ordinary people like me who are not part of the cultural elite," he added.

Kolkata-based designer Abhishek Dutta says he has grown up with Tagore`s literature and poems, something done by every Bengali kid who resides in West Bengal.

"Any Bengali who has grown up in Kolkata can`t skip his songs, literature. I remember during childhood we used to have an entire day dedicated to Tagore`s birthday," Dutta said from Kolkata.

"His work, especially his one liners, have been used a lot on T-shirts, mugs, table mats. A lot of his sketches have also been used."

Pali Sachdev, another Kolkata-based designer, is contemplating the idea of churning out a collection based on Tagore`s work.

"His work is genuinely timeless and I feel that a lot more can be done to showcase some of it. It has been on my mind for a long time," Sachdev from label Monapali told reporters over phone from Kolkata.

Some much quoted lines of Tagore are: "We come nearest to the great when we are great in humility"; "Faith is the bird that sings when the dawn is still dark"; "God seeks comrades and claims love, the Devil seeks slaves and claims obedience"; "God respects me when I work, but god loves me when I sing".

Pune-based mediaperson Biswadip Mitra said: "I find it easier to express my feelings through Tagore, be it his songs like `Anondodhara Bohichhe Bhubane` and `Tumi Rawbe Nirawbe`, or the lines in Tagore`s famous novel `Shesher Kobita`."

Mitra says he prefers using Tagore`s poems on greeting cards.

"I prefer sending greeting cards carrying Tagore`s poems or songs or his paintings, rather than the regular Westernised stuff one gets in the chain stores. For me, Tagore`s creations are one of the best ways to stay connected to my roots and with the people I love.

"Customised kitsch with Tagore`s creations on them is always wonderful," he said.

But Dutta feels youngsters who make a style statement using his kitch should also try to dig deeper into his works.

"Today`s youngsters say they are proud of Tagore, but the problem is that most of them don`t have insight into his literature, life or anything."

Jabalpur-based artist Sajan Kurien Mathew feels while using Tagore`s lines one should give importance to quality.

"Using Tagore`s paintings or lines from his songs and poems on mugs and T-shirts or as posters isn`t bad. But, I think, if these prints are not done properly, then the excellence of Tagore`s creations will be lost. And that will be an insult to the great man," said Mathew.

Kolkata-based sculptor Tapas Sarkar feels the same.

"Art has become commercial no doubt, but there must be a limit to everything. One may argue that by imprinting a few lines from Tagore`s songs and poems or imprinting his paintings on a T-shirt, younger people can be made aware of the immense talents of Gurudev," said Sarkar.

"But I fear it might trivialise his creations. Rabindranath cannot be branded that way. He`s beyond any branding," he added.



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