8 Unmissable Movies Inspired By The Works Of Rabindranath Tagore
Celebrating Tagore’s Legacy: 8 Cinematic Gems Inspired By The Works Of The Bengali Wordsmith

A must-watch list of hidden gems adapted from Rabindranath Tagore’s literary works

162 years after coming into this world and 82 years after his death, Rabindranath Tagore’s work continues to inspire people around the world. There’s no second-guessing that his literary contributions were seminal. And while that is celebrated, little is known of his intrigue and contribution to Indian cinema. From penning a script called, Child — that largely went unnoticed — to liaising with thespians of his time — such as with Bengali theatre pioneer, Sisir Bhaduri — Tagore knew that cinema would have a tremendous impact, ahead of it changing the way we think, create and live, forever. Serendipitously, his works, have remained after him, to continue stimulating cinephiles and filmmakers the world over. On the month of his birth anniversary, we’re revisiting Indian cinema inspired by the works of the iconic Bengali wordsmith. Have a look: 


Chitrangada: The Crowning Wish (2012) 
Watch: Hoichoi, Amazon Prime Video 
Cast: Rituporno Ghosh, Jisshu Sengupta, Anjan Dutt 



The movie, which is loosely based on Tagore’s play Chitra, portrays the tale of a queer couple stifled by societal norms. The law forbids Rudra and Partho from adopting a child, despite their love for one another. Rudra chooses to have sex-change surgery so that the pair would be recognised as a couple and be able to adopt a child. The film borrows elements from Tagore’s story of Chitrangada, a Manipuri princess raised as a man and warrior, who pursues femininity instead, when she falls in love with Mahabharat hero, Arjun. 


Laboratory (2018) 
Watch: Hoichoi 
Cast: Anirban Bhattacharya, Darshana Banik, Koushik Sen, Nandini Ghoshal  



Based on a short story of the same name, Laboratory opens with Tagore’s vision of what the ideal India should be. Nandakishore Mallik, an engineer with the Indian Railways, envisions a country, where scientists can conduct their research without constraints. To this end, he pursues science at the cost of his interpersonal relationships — a theme that’s further explored through the eyes of his daughter, wife, and eventual successor. 


Lekin… (1990) 
Watch: YouTube 
Cast: Vinod Khanna, Dimple Kapadia, Amjad Khan 



Lekin… is largely based on Tagore’s short story Kshudhit Pashaan, which translates to ‘hungry stones’. Samir, a museum curator, arrives at a former Rajasthani haveli once owned by Raja Param Singh to inventory the royal jewels. But when he runs into a mysterious woman named Reva, he is forced to choose between the past and the present and help solve a supernatural mystery. Apart from Dimple Kapadia’s fantastic performance as Reva, the film was lauded for its impressive soundtrack and tonality, with Lata Mangeshkar and Gulzar working in tandem to adapt Tagore’s haunting tale. 


Noukadubi/Kashmakash (2010) 
Watch: Amazon Prime Video, Zee5 
Cast: Jisshu Sengupta, Riya Sen, Raima Sen 



Based on the eponymous 1906 novel by Tagore, the film is directed by Rituparno Ghosh and centres on Ramesh, a law student who is forced to wed Susheela, the daughter of a widow, despite his feelings for his existing lover. He embarks on a boat to Kolkata with his new bride, but the boat capsizes due to a storm. After surviving the collision, he takes the woman back to Kolkata, only to learn that she is someone else, drawing Ramesh into a sustained slow-burn conflict between his head, heart, and conscience. 


Darbaan (2020) 
Watch: Zee5 
Cast: Sharad Kelkar, Sharib Hashmi, Rasika Dugal, Flora Saini 



Tagore’s 1918 short tale Khokababur Pratyabartan served as the inspiration for the movie. The story revolves around the friendship between Naren, the child of a mining baron, and his carer Raicharan, who are on different social and economic rungs. Following the eventual coal mine nationalisation act of 1973, the family is forced to let the carer go as their fortunes collapse. Years later, Naren seeks out his old companion — resulting in a bittersweet story of loyalty, loss, and human connection. 


Bioscopewala (2017) 
Watch: Disney+ Hotstar 
Cast: Danny Denzongpa, Geetanjali Thapa, Adil Husaain 



The film is set in the 1980s and is an adaptation — or more accurately, an extension — of Rabindranath Tagore’s 1892 short story Kabuliwala, stretched out from the 19th century to 1980s Kolkata and Afghanistan. Bioscopewala has also changed the profession of Rehmat, the main character, from a dry fruit vendor to a man, who travels around showing films to children through his bioscope. He makes friends with Minnie, a 5-year-old who enjoys Rehmat’s bioscope shows. Years later, while looking into her father’s death following an aircraft crash, an adult Minnie runs into the bioscopewala once more — tying up a tale of social conflict, displacement, and love for the world of cinema. 


Chokher Bali (2019) 
Watch: Zee5 
Cast: Chandan Roy Sanyal, Chitrangada Chakraborty, Vijay Varma 



One of Tagore’s most-enduring novels, Chokher Bali has had several adaptations through the decades, with Suman Mukhopadhyay’s 2019 effort being the most recent one. Binodini, a youthful widow, is compelled to reside in Calcutta with Rajlakshmi and her son, Mahendra. Despite being married to Ashalata, Mahendra becomes enamoured with Binodini — creating a spiralling web of mistrust and adultery set against the backdrop of late 19th century Bengal, and its rapidly evolving social norms. 


Charulata (1964) 
Watch: YouTube/MUBI 
Cast: Soumitra Chatterjee, Madhabi Mukherjee, Sailen Mukherjee 



Nastanirh by Rabindranath Tagore served as the inspiration for this critically praised Satyajit Ray movie, which offers a rich tapestry of pent-up emotion, fully imagined characters and poetically shot visuals. Set during the 1870s, Charulata, is an isolated, artistically inclined woman who sees little of her busy publisher husband, Bhupati. Sensing his wife’s loneliness, he encourages his cousin Amal to pay Charulata a visit. As the pair bond, a shared love for art and literature gives way to deeper feelings, resulting in a tragic exploration of marital stagnancy, unrequited romance, and familial bonds. 

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