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Gaganendranath gave a rainy touch to Rabindranath Tagore’s Jibonsmriti   

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The rainy season has made a late but grand entrance into Bengal this year. Kolkata has finally drenched her wings. And the time has come to sing to your girlfriend silly band songs like, “Tumi brishti bhijona thanda lege jabe...” or whisper Joy Goswami’s Jara Brishtite Bhijechhilo to your lady love. 

It is indeed a fact that monsoon submerges creative minds especially artists into endless waves of creative thoughts, that get their expressions on canvas. Ever since the Mughal era artists have answered to the sensual call of the rains by rendering its romance on a blank page. In fact, countless paintings were commissioned by Royal families with various compositions on the theme of the season including storm, cloud, rain, thunder and eternal love saga of Radha and Krishna. 

But artists of Bengal had a different mood with regard to the season. Waterlogged fields, pedestrians with umbrellas, or an entire city flooded with torrential rain were some of their persistent themes. Once, Abanindranath Tagore went to Shahzadpur to take care of their family business. Shahzadpur was then submerged in rain. The villages, the local government office, the rail station, all were flooded. And true to his predilections as an artist, Abanindranath abandoned all matters of the zamindari in favour of taking his family boat and his supplies of colours to capture Bengal under the spell of the rainy season.

Like Abanindranath his elder brother Gaganendranath Tagore too had drawn snapshots of rural Bengal in the midst of the rains. But what he did in association with his uncle Rabindranath Tagore simply has to be mentioned here in length. Shilaidaha’s Nagendranath Gangopadhyay had just published Rabindranath’s Jibonsmriti from Adi Brahmo Samaj press. And in that book, Gaganendranath’s loving illustrations on each page had imparted a vibrantly nostalgic dimension to the words of Rabindranath. In Jibonsmriti, Rabindranath has described the Joransanko Thakurbari as being swept under the rain and has lamented about how his tutor Aghor Babu would brave the storm under a giant umbrella to report for duty. Gaganendranath has tenderly immortalised that moment in soft wash in his own charismatic manner.

On the other hand, artist Ram Gopal Bijoy Borgiyo has profoundly enlivened Kalidasa’s Meghaduta (The Cloud-Messenger) with his illustrations. He has borrowed the way in which storm clouds travelled the sky to depict the story with his own mesmerising lines. Again, Ramkinkar Baij had once sketched rain beating down on a bridge over a canal in Shantiniketan in linocut. The tiny man with an umbrella getting almost swept off his feet in the ongoing storm succinctly expresses the intensity of the downpour. In present times Bikash Bhattacharya and others have also included themes of the rainy season in their landscapes and compositions. In a way, therefore, it is undeniable how the appeal of the season repeatedly makes a poet out of true artists with its own characteristic magnetism.