Rabindranath Tagore, a polymath whose contribution to Indian literature cannot be described in mere words, was a man of many talents and interests. He, throughout his lifetime, travelled to about thirty seven countries. It is but natural that such a celebrated man must have met all kinds of people, a lot of whom were his admirers. However, out of all those people, one of the most noteworthy admirers of Tagore was Argentine writer, Victoria Ocampo.
A writer herself, she developed an uncanny fascination for Tagore and hosted him during his 1924 visit to Buenos Aires. Tagore too grew fond of her and what those two shared was something unusual and special. It was certainly a beautiful chapter in both of their lives. A 2017 film by the name 'Thinking of him' explores this 'platonic love' dynamics between the two. An Indo-Argentine film, it is directed by Argentine director Pablo Cesar. After travelling to several film festivals and being screened in several countries, the film is finally set to release in India on May 6, 2022, just a day before Tagore' 161st birth anniversary.
In Tagore's role is Victor Banerjee and Eleonora Wexler plays Victoria Ocampo in the film. Raima Sen and Hector Bordoni are also a part of the film. While talking about Rabindranath Tagore, Victor Banerjee in a press conference said, "Tagore educated children in the lap of nature at Shanti Niketan. He was a different man altogether, read poetries to children. People across the world wanted to discover how Tagore imparted education and went to Shanti Niketan for that." Further, while talking about the film, he said, "The film is from the eyes of Victoria Ocampo and reflects the perceptions Argentinians had of Tagore. It is not an Indian film. In the film, you'll see how one of the most prominent and intellectual women of South America of her times admired Tagore and in a way, worshipped him."
Victor Banerjee also said that it is always a challenge to play someone who is already so well known. He said, "Tagore is alive in the minds of people. You're actually interfering with what people already think of Tagore." On being asked about how he prepared for the role, Victor says, "I watched some footage and there were limited footages available. There were some spoken speeches of him that I listened to understand how he pronounced certain ways in a peculiar way. I got to know that even though his mind was extraordinarily different, he was not an extraordinarily different man." He also said that the film is about Ocampo and not about Tagore. It is about her attitude towards Tagore.
Moving to the film, it plays around in two different timelines. One showing Tagore and Ocampo's meeting and their relationships which is shot in black and white while other, a modern parallel in which an Argentine teacher goes to Shanti Niketan to understand Tagore's way of teaching and find some answers.
In the parts where Tagore and Ocampo's relationship is explored, I must say that Banerjee plays the role with sincerity with just enough vulnerable body language. Eleonora Wexler as Victoria Ocampo is also graceful, however, at times, she loses finesse, especially when she shares screen with Banerjee. However, that has less to do with her acting skills and more to do with the material provided to her.
My foremost criticism to the film is that Ocampo was a well celebrated lady herself, a writer and an intellect. However, in the film, she is reduced to just being an admirer of Tagore. No other aspect of her personality is explored beneath the surface. Although that was the center stage of the film, however, in my opinion, Ocampo was robbed of her more important qualities and shades.
The film uses the narration of poems of Tagore in the backdrop when Tagore and Ocampo are away and it plays out beautifully. The admiration that both Tagore and Ocampo shared for each other is very evident throughout the film. However, the pace of the film is slow and it struggles to keep audience's attention.
In the parts when Felix (Hector Bordoni) visits to Shanti Niketan, he meets Kamali (Raima Sen). Though he goes there is search for some answers, his enthusiasm fades away as the film progresses and you keep wondering the point of it all. Felix's relations with his father at once feels like the centre of his problems but again, it isn't explored in depths. Although Sen had the potential to leave a mark but she doesn't get to do that.
Overall, if you're interested in delving into an important chapter of Tagore' life, it could be an interesting watch. However, we must warn you, you won't be able to delve deep.