India was under colonial rule when Nobel laureate and nationalist, Rabindranath Tagore felt impelled to create an educational institution which would be rooted in Indian ethos. Institutions of higher learning in the Indian subcontinent followed a curriculum of transplanted Western sensibilities propagated by the British, so in a spirit of reform, Shantiniketan was set up in 1921.
The British were avid record keepers of the Empire and needed an army of clerks and draughtsmen to maintain and illustrate these records. All educational institutions were oriented to cater to this need. We therefore had Indians learning to draw plaster of Paris heads of Greek Gods, or painting delicate watercolours of daffodils.
Tagore and his family established Shantiniketan in Bengal to educate the native youth in an idiom which was rooted in India’s soil. Shantiniketan means Abode of Peace, and the university named Vishwa-Bharati which implies India’s communion with the world.
The art school at Vishwa- Bharati was path-breaking as classes were held outdoors in the midst of nature. The subject of artistic compositions was the flora and fauna of India, murals such as the historic works at Ajanta Ellora, the inspiration.
Students were privileged to learn from masters such as Nandalal Bose, Ram Kinker Baij and Tagore himself. The Art of Shantiniketan has maintained these principles and is showcased in our film, presented ably by well-known actress Lillette Dubey.
Directed by Anita Gurnani and Selina Sen (India)