`Both the narratives make for an easy reading with their imaginative descriptions, lucid language and artistic cohesion.'
SARAT CHANDRA CHATTOPADHYAY, the literary mughal of Bengal was born in the 19th Century but his novels remain eminently popular even today. Women and love being his pet themes, Sarat Chandra's seminal works are a masterful tapestry of not just Bengali life but an exploration of noble and complex human emotions and relationships and the triumph of love suffused with pain and suffering.
It is his respectful portrayal of women that makes Sarat Chandra a delightful writer with an appeal that transcends readers of all ages. Given his taut contemporary script and theme of love that keeps pace with any age, many of his works have also been made into films including the evergreen hit, "Devdas".
Even before translated works of Sarat Chandra's novels were perhaps available to the non-Bengali reader, filmmakers found in his literary portfolio a rich repertoire of themes, characters and emotions that were compelling enough to stir liberal hopes and conservative fears of the people. His novels have, therefore, remained a goldmine for directors from the tinsel town.
As long as people love "love stories", Sarat Chandra's works will never grow old in appeal or be outdated in context. Whether it is Devdas or Charitrahin, Shesh Prashna, Shesher Parichay, Pather Dabi, Biraj Bau or Grihadaha, the strength of Sarat Chandra's novels lies in the utter simplicity of his writing style and his control of every detail of his characters. His novels are a playground of both aristocracy and middle class chauvinism.
Writing in an era when radical chic was in high fashion, Sarat Chandra's books were always a medium for social analysis, appealing to the sensibilities of his readers. Datta was first published in 1918. It dwells on the growing attachment between an affluent Brahmo Samaj woman and an indigent Hindu young man despite all odds. The novel is serious and at the same time, reveals the author's flashes of humour. It unveils a deep understanding of human psychology with occasional barbs at religious bigots. Skilfully woven, the romantic tale, set against a milieu of social and cultural conflicts spawned by reforms during what is often described as the Renaissance period in Bengal, grips one's attention till the last line is read.
Considered as one of his very popular novels, Datta too has been filmed several times in Tollywood and Bollywood. It is about Bejoya, whose father gives her away to his friend's son. But another friend and his son scheme and manipulate her and her property once she is orphaned. But the girl after almost giving in to their pressure realises her true feelings and is able to withstand all adversities while retaining her sense of balance, humour and emotions. Undoubtedly, the novel is a sure recipe for an instant hit, whether read or seen.
* * *
THE other translated work is an interesting collection of short stories by yet another popular Bengali writer of the 19th Century, Saradindu Bandopadhyay. This new age writer also remains popular 100 years on.
Edges of a world
Saradindu's collection, The Scarlet Dusk, is a compilation of stories that explore the edges of the world where modernity and tradition, fear and hope, murder and retribution, belief and religion, blend and clash. Each of the five stories, including "The Scarlet Dusk" his first significant short story with the Bengali title "Raktasandhya" published in 1939 beautifully layer a man's discovery of submerged aspects of his personality and emotions, needs and desire.
Though Saradindu was more popular for his novels featuring the detective Byomkesh Bakshi, his authorial supremacy also moves effortlessly from one incarnation to another, delving into the depths of human characters and finding solutions to intricate problems.
The two books combine to present an endearing panorama of themes, a multitude of emotions, a stream of vivid characters, a novelscape of events that illuminate the world of readers. Studded with flourishes and flamboyancy, history and contemporary setting, the shock and tranquillity of unfurling events, the structural and experimental interludes, both the narratives make for an easy reading with their imaginative descriptions, lucid language and artistic cohesion.
Datta, Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay, translated by Sukhendu Ray; The Scarlet Dusk, Saradindu Bandopadhyay, translated by Malobika Bhattacharya; Rupa, Rs.195 each.
Send this article to Friends by