Making style statement with Tagore kitsch

Posted by on May 7th, 2010 and filed under Art/Culture, Lifestyle/Fashion. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

New Delhi, May 7 (IANS) 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 IANS: ‘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 IANS 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.

(Shilpa Raina can be contacted at

Categories: Art/Culture, Lifestyle/Fashion

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