Nobel laureate, knight and all-around Renaissance man Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) composed, wrote, painted, earned raves from William Butler Yeats, hobnobbed with Mahatma Gandhi and Albert Einstein, gave the Hibbert Lectures at University of Oxford and even founded the Visva-Bharati University. Tagore seems endlessly fascinating. But to say the new documentary "Rabindranath Tagore: The Poet of Eternity" doesn't do him justice would be an understatement.
Directed by Partha S. Bhattacharya, a professional engineer, the film feels more appropriate for public-access television. It's essentially a glorified PowerPoint presentation that juxtaposes archival footage — an echo chamber of interviews, readings and performances taken entirely out of context — with amateurish stock footage and a short running time.
The heavily editorialized voice-over narration by actor Jagannath Guha has that once-upon-a-time quality of a fable. Dust-jacket endorsements from the likes of Aung San Suu Kyi scroll across the screen as if this were a political campaign ad. Several academic types interviewed here can't seem to explain Tagore's importance.
By contrast, the 1961 "Rabindranath Tagore" by Satyajit Ray provided absorbing and enlightening context on the upbringing, travels, personal tragedies and political climate that informed Tagore's artistry and convictions. Now that's how you do it like a pro.
"Rabindranath Tagore: The Poet of Eternity."
MPAA rating: None.
Running time: 1 hour.
Playing: At Laemmle's Playhouse 7, Pasadena.