Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) was a Bengali poet who had a tremendous impact on Hindu culture, especially filmmaker Satyajit Ray. Tagore was a leading figure in Brahmoism, a Hindu reform movement, before becoming India’s only writer to win a Nobel Prize in 1913. He also founded a school, Patha Bhavana, to spread his ideas. There, a young Ray studied painting, and, as the story goes, encountered his first books on film. To commemorate the centenary of Tagore’s birth, the Government of India commissioned Ray to direct this documentary, which combines archival documents, commentary, and dramatic reconstructions.
Not known for his nonfiction work, Ray’s first foray into biography was not insignificant. In fact, the director claimed it was more difficult than completing multiple feature films. Following closely in the wake of Ray’s Apu trilogy, the influence of neorealism is still felt in Rabindranath Tagore, where the directness of Ray’s style and his location-shooting in natural environments make room for Tagore’s principles and prose. Some consider Tagore the last representative of the Bengal renaissance–you could argue that it extends to Ray.