8 Must-Watch ‘Stories by Rabindranath Tagore’

The celebrated Bollywood director, Anurag Basu, brought to life the characters and stories penned by the legendary poet Rabindranath Tagore in the 2015 television series ‘Stories by Rabindranath Tagore.’ This beautiful rendition of the literary vision of Tagore and the visual storytelling skills of Basu will take you back to the undivided Bengal of colonial India.


While most people are aware of the political riots and movements of the time, few of us know about the lives of ordinary people during that era. Through its protagonists, Rabindranath Tagore's short stories provide insight into the rural, cultural, and social aspects of early twentieth-century Bengal. We have picked some of our favorite tales from the series. Check them out below!

1. Chokher Bali (Episode 1,2,3)

Image Via Epic Channel

Chokher Bali is one of the most acclaimed works of Tagore. The story revolves around Binodini, a beautiful young, educated, and rebellious widow who is considered unfit for sheltering in widow asylums due to her free-spirited attitude. She later finds herself in the home of Mohendra, the man who had refused to marry her, and his naive illiterate wife, Ashalata. The way Binodini’s relationship unfolds with these individuals and with Mohendra’s friend Bihari forms the crux of the story. Through Chokher Bali, Tagore addressed contemporary issues, such as women's literacy, widowhood, and infidelity.


2. Atithi (Episode 4)

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Tarapada, a teenager, runs away from his home in search of new experiences, knowledge, and people, much to the dismay of his parents. However, on his latest flight, he meets a wealthy zamindar who becomes fond of him and invites him to live in his house with his family. Here, Tarapada sees himself getting entangled in the web of relationships. What will he choose in this situation- love or freedom?- a question almost all of us struggle with at some point in our lives.


3. Maanbhanjan (Episode 5)

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Maanbhanjan is a heartwarming story about Giribala, a young married woman whose husband has fallen out of love with her. While he pines for and spends all of his inherited wealth on a theatre artist, Giribala struggles to find happiness in her husband's gigantic mansion. Agitated on learning about her husband’s new love interest and determined to win him back, she unknowingly opens the doors to her liberation. Maanbhanjan is an inspiring tale motivating women to not compromise in both relationships and life.


4. Punishment (Episode 8)

Image via Epic Channel

At first glance, Punishment appears to be the story of a typical Bengali household run by two brothers and their constantly bickering wives. Mini, one of the ladies, is an ambitious young woman with a devoted husband. However, things turn for the worse after her sister-in-law dies by accident. Her husband suddenly accuses her of murder while assuring her that he will save her from all the trouble. Mini is eventually punished for a crime she did not commit. She manages to avenge her husband for the gross injustice meted out to her by using silence as a weapon. While her lips remain sealed, her eyes ignite a rebellion against those who regard women as mere objects to be played with as per convenience.

5. Chutti (Episode 14)

Image via Epic channel

From a child's perspective, this story sheds light on the differences between life in rural and urban areas. Phtaik, a vivacious village boy, abandons his family to pursue his dream of living in the bustling city of Kolkata. Initially mesmerized by the motor cars and tall buildings of the city, Phatik is eager to embark on his new journey. Soon, he sees the ugly side of life. Circumstances become so intolerable for the child that he takes a dangerous step to return home. Unfortunately, things do not go as planned for him. The story concludes on a sad note, emphasizing how a little understanding, patience, and politeness can make a difference in the life of a child.


6. Two Sisters (Episode 17, 18)

Image via Epic channel

This story is about the qualities that a man seeks in an ideal wife. He wants her to take care of all his needs and the household like a mother. At the same time, he wants her to be his friend and lover. But, the chances of getting such a wife that matches his ‘ideals’ in reality is undoubtedly rare. The same happens with Shashank. He is happily married to a woman who takes care of him like a baby. However, her overprotective attitude and motherly scolding make him feel trapped. He finds the necessary freedom in her sister, who reciprocates his feelings, and his happy marital life is soon shattered. Basu portrays the key elements of this story—guilt, love, passion, heartbreak, sacrifice, and gratitude—beautifully, capturing the human touch that is a key element in all of Tagore's stories.


7. Mrinal ki Chitthi (Episode 19)

Image via Epic Channel

Through Mrinal, Tagore challenged the age-old norms of society that suppressed women by treating them as lowly humans. Mrinal, an educated and highly skilled woman, is married off as a child bride to a wealthy but conservative family. None of the family members care about her other traits except her looks. She is expected to do nothing more than her duties as a wife and daughter-in-law. Initially, Mrinal silently accepts her fate, but the last straw comes when the family severely mistreats Bindu, the niece of her older sister-in-law. Mrinal finally realizes her worth and decides to leave the house to live the life she deserves. The story breathes feminism and encourages women to break free from patriarchal norms and carve their own destinies.


8. Aparichita (Episode 20)

Image via Epic channel

Aparachita is another empowering tale with the practice of dowry as the primary backdrop. On the wedding day of Anupam and Kalyani, Anupam’s dominant uncle asks Kalyani’s father to bring her wedding jewelry as he wants to check the gold’s authenticity. Shocked and insulted, he goes to his daughter and asks her to remove her wedding jewelry. He gets its authenticity checked and politely calls off the wedding. Fate brings Anupam and Kalyani together once again. Anupam regrets remaining silent on the day of their unfortunate break-off and proposes to Kalyani for marriage again. However, Kalyani rejects it and thank him as had the marriage not been canceled, she wouldn't have been able to live the life she wanted.


Without a doubt, Anurag Basu’s representation of some of the best stories by Rabindranath Tagore takes us on an emotional ride, throwing light on various social issues and practices and the place of women in society. If you are also curious about the life of the common Indian people during the colonial era, make sure to watch this beautiful rendition of Tagore’s stories from the lens of Basu coupled with melodious music and strong acting.


AUTHOR

Akshita Rana

Pratha Editor-in-Chief


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