For once, no one, not even Nobel winner Amartya Sen, is predicting what will happen. In the new year, Viswa Bharati authorities have lost their sole copyright on literary works of and music composed by Rabindranath Tagore. Except for lip-smacking publishers who sniff a business opportunity, no one is cheering yet. Whether the unbridled proliferation of Tagore's literature and music will make a hundred flowers bloom, or turn into a recipe for disaster, is a question time alone can answer. And we are talking of big business here—as many 25 publishers are in the race and the range of investment anywhere around Rs 5 crore. The debate has been fierce among pro-changers and no-changers. The balance, it seems, favours the pros slightly.
Viswa Bharati authorities are universally commended for jealously safeguarding the high quality and purity of Tagore's literature and music over the years. However, they did little to popularise the universal poet's message among the masses. The stodgy books produced by VB, with their bland cream-coloured covers year after year, made no concession to constantly evolving cover designs the world over. The young regard them as prescribed texts, urbanites dutifully stack them in book shelves, while rural folk ignore them. The prices of VB-produced books ranged from Rs 75 to Rs 300 (standard fare) and more for collected works.