Monday, February 24, 2020

Devdas (Hindi) - Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay (Book).

Devdas (Hindi) - Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay.
Me the miser on cheap book hunt that too in Hindi, found this gem selling on Amazon under 100/-  and I had picked it for that rainy day which came too early in the form of a classic making me go through a reader's block. My tryst with the legend of Devdas started (Unfortunately) with the Sanjay Leela Bhansali's movie Devdas. Ironically I end up loving the movie for its Dialogues, those lines were literally to die for. Since that day I actually not only wanted to read the classic Bengali Literature and watch the original movie made by Bimal Roy with Dilip Kumar in lead. Guess what, it took me good 17 years I believe to finally achieve that. And I so much regret the same. Finally to come out of the reader's block I picked up this one in Hindi and what a mind-blowing book it turned out. No wonder I hated the man  for destroying his own life and breaking the heart of so many amazing people who loved him till his last breath. One huge mistake and all of their lives go for a toss. But I must say that this is my second Sarat Chandra book which I have read back to back (with Parineeta) and he has definitely gone on top of the respect ladder in my heart and joins his contemporaries like Premchand, Tagore and even my personal all time favorite Satyajit Ray (who I would rate a little lower than all of them, please no brickbats) I am only talking about the Writing. On top of that imagine if a translation is making me say all that, how terrific would be the original Bengali edition. I sometimes wonder why we all have to grow old get burdened with so many responsibilities. If I was still in school or college (dependent on my parents) I would have learned at least Bengali and French for starters to read and watch so many movies respectively.
Devdas and Paro's amazing love story right from the childhood is so heart touching, right like the way even they do not realize when it goes to the next level, the reader too gets hooked to their simple care a damn life styles, dependent on each other for so many daily things was totally one of the best stories that I have ever read. The way Devdas the brat treats her, but she too is no less as she always takes a revenge on him one way or the other but later she always regrets her decisions whereas Devdas is totally different and aloof I would say, he actually never looks back at her. The reason why they fall out and that is the biggest mistake of his life which leads to the heart-breaking end. Sarat Chandra's story telling is so amazing I must say that he gives us not only three important characters but even the support cast in story is totally amazing. I loved the way Devdas' man servant standby him and never leaves him, the way they part had me totally choked with tears falling from my eyes. That was one of those rare moments from the story where I actually felt that Devdas too had a heart after-all especially the way he treats Paro throughout, the fallout, re-unions and the finale. Chandramukhi comes in his life like a breath of fresh air, it is read to be believed as who comes in whose life in reality. Is it Chandramukhi who kind of saves Devdas or is it him who bails her out of a courtesan's life, truly terrific. So far the movies that I have seen, show us a different picture altogether in comparison to what and how Author does it in his story. The sea of change in the three lead characters, the situations, the cross connections, love, affection, pain, sacrifice, regret and so much more is covered so subtly that my words and feelings will do no justice to how actually I felt while going through the story. I will not call it a depressing story but super emotional it indeed is and I again had that helplessness feeling while reading through the character's lives that I so much wished they did what I imagined them to do get some happiness in their life. But of-course the Author has his own ideas.
The totally surprising thing that I found out after reading the terrific book is that, Sarat Chandra claimed himself that he wrote the entire story in an inebriated state and he was ashamed of the same hence it took him good 17 years to let it go for publishing. Check the connection  it took me 17 years to read the book .
Movie Adaptations: The book is adapted so far 19 times and I have seen at-least three versions so far. Bimal Roy (1955), Sanjay Leela Bnahsali (2002) and Anurag Kahsyap (2009). Last week right after I finished the book, I got the Bimal Roy's Devdas and not only me but my kiddo and wifey too fell in love with Dilip Kumar for the way he played the character with elan, simply outstanding. The way Suchitra Sen did the Paro's character and Vyjayantimala played Chandramukhi, legendary it was, totally amazing experience and it was totally magical in black and white. The story is so gloomy at times that the movie being in black and white actually helps and makes more sense. I was so lost in the movie, story and characters that my kiddo actually reversed the movie quite a few times and told me to notice the camera work and long shots done by Bimal Roy, that was totally outstanding. In 1955, the way he moved his camera and took so many long shots and it's cinematography was top notch. Let's not even talk about the music, dialogues, costumes and other stuff. As I was reading the book a day prior to us watching the movie, I actually pakaoed my family with so many lines that I wanted to read aloud with full emotions, fortunately they let me do my theatrics and as we watched the movie, every time those legendary lines came alive from the mouth of an actor they both were looking at me with smiles on their faces. Not one line that Bimal Roy missed in the movie which was there in the book, this movie without doubt is The best adaptation ever that I have seen which satisfied the reader in me to no end that someone actually made a movie like that without missing almost nothing from the book. Yes, he did take a few cinematic liberties but that much benefit of doubt I will let him have it. After watching Bimal Roy's version we tried the 2002, Sanjay Leela Bhansali's movie too and within 20 minutes into the loudest, shrillest, brightest (almost made me go color blind), exaggerated and the most comical movie ever, we all jointly decided that is better to remove it from our database, not worth it at all.
PS: The most poignant scene of the movie which actually never happens in the book that stopped my heart for a few seconds is such a big spoiler that I wouldn't like to put it here, ask me and I will tell you about it, if you have read the book and seen the movie too.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Parineeta (Hindi) - Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay (Book)

Parineeta (Hindi) - Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay.
There comes a time in life of everyone when after one huge achievement you want to take a break and just relax  its like once you climb a mountain, all you want to do is to do nothing and enjoy the few, simplicity is the key here. I reached that point in my life (say reader's life) that I just wanted to pick up a very simple book and enjoy it without putting much pressure neither on my heart nor on my brain. Usually this happens when I either read a horror from someone of King's caliber or hard hitting literature types from someone like Joyce  And when I am in the search of simplicity, I don't look too far but get a PGW or a Satyajit Ray or a Premchand or one of the only six from my favorite author Nuala O Faolain  but at this point of time I was totally out of stock from any of those and me the miser wanted to keep it cheap hence was on the lookout for books selling under 100/- a piece. Guess what, I got two terrific classic Bengali Literature books in Hindi and both from the great Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay. Now that name, the moment someone tells my mom that I read and blabbered about a Sarat Chandra classic, she will own me back saying "Whose son is he after all?" and I hardly give her any opportunity these days to do that, so there was no better time for me to pick a few from Bengali Literature in Hindi, give them a read and repair my own mother tongue a bit too. You may not believe me when I tell you this that the book was hardly 120 pages, I thought it will be a breeze to read but with chaste Hindi, it wasn't a cake walk for me as I expected. Yes Yes! before any of my Bengali friends jump in and shoot me, I regret to say that still haven't learned Bangla hence I had to make do with the translation but let me tell you that this was a simply brilliant translation and I am totally sure that it doesn't miss out on anything from the original (so is my wish actually).
Parineeta (The Married Woman) is a very straight forward and simple story of a teenage orphan girl Lalita. Who lives with her father's friend who himself is a very poor man who is totally hand to mouth and with the load of four of his own daughters and fifth is recently born at the very start of the story. The sorry state of affairs in her uncle's house is so heart-touching and with Sarat Chandra's pen it sounds even bleaker with no hope of a future, their rich neighbor and their son Shekhar comes as a respite in her life. Lalita and Shekhar are more like an elder brother and sister from the very start of their life, she has a free hand in his life, can visit him anytime, be in his room, even uses his pocket money for her own expenses and her uncle's too. Shekhar never questions her, even as they grow a few years and the life changes around them, they do not change. The story has a twist when a third person comes in their subtle lives and changes it once and for all. Who is that person and how the equation changes is why you should read the book. Also, how a teenage girl becomes a Parineeta without officially getting married is the high-point of the novel, being a hardcore romantic from heart, it worked so beautifully for me and I kept cursing Shekhar throughout for not listening to his heart and give up so much in the name of stupid ego. But that's what this story is all about, a man's foolish ego, a woman's self respect, commitment, sacrifice, love and so much more. Fortunately with these masters the best part of the story is that there are no villains, it is rather the situations which play a spoil sport and no story goes straight anywhere. And that is the best thing about these classics I believe.
It will not be an exaggeration if I say that I have read a lot of classics from Hindi Literature in the past but no other story comes any closer to this one, when it comes to understand what goes inside a woman's heart (and head too). I was totally floored by the simplicity of it all yet the way Author decides to make it more complex, leaves no stone upturned in keeping the reader hooked in a huge dilemma asking "Why O Why, spare them please". On top of that the timeline of the story is early 20th century, on one side we have the Lalita and her uncle at the rock bottom of the economical chain and then we have Shekhar belonging to a super rich family, the severe divide yet the strong connection. How it all pans out in the end is what you have to read the book for. And please do not tell me and make me more jealous if you have already read the original Bangla version  I will be super jealous of you. But if you haven't read it, I suggest you take a break and get it ASAP.
One special thing that I noticed for the first time by any Author, I have never experienced this kind of scenario ever in any kind if literature. There is this situation where a funeral is taking place and the author decides to say "No point getting into the details of the funeral as you can very well assume what all will take place, I will save a few pages by not going into details"  and he does the same while his characters attend a typical Indian wedding  I was in splits by his simplicity and confidence that his audience will know what he means hence he saves his as well as our precious time too . Have you ever read something like this in any books that you have read in the recent past?
Movie adaptations: Unfortunately I just couldn't lay my hands on the Bimal Ray classic from 1953 with Ashok Kumar as Shekhar and Meena Kumari as Lalita. May be this weekend I will try a little harder and get the movie on Netflix or Amazon prime. I watched the 2005 film directed by Pradeep Sarkar with Saif Ali Khan, Sanjay Dutt and Vidya Balan in lead. Individually it was a good movie but when it comes to adapting the Sarat Chandra story, they changed it so much that no point comparing it with the book (in other words - it's a heartbreak). a

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

The Hindus - Wendy Doniger (Book).

The Hindus - Wendy Doniger.
When it comes to picking up books that I want to read, I usually have a weird way of choosing what to read  starting from a terrific looking book cover to a never heard Author (that happens a lot) to an unbelievable title to a too cheap a book by the looks of it  and so many more such unbelievable reasons. But there is another superb way that I get my books (where the book picks me) through Author / Publishers or from friends and family as Gifts. Last year our kiddo gave us a shock by declaring that she wanted to convert to Christianity as soon as we came back from a long vacation covering parts of Gujarat and Rajasthan. Her reason for doing the same was that she was being pushed out from all the Temples we visited but no one bothered her when she was sitting and praying in a church even on the eve of Christmas day. Her first choice was Islam but unfortunately my father in law is a devout (read Hardcore Extremist) Hindu, she dare not go against him . At that stage I wondered how he would react to her Christianity stand. And while all this was going through in my household and my wifey was looking for a book to gift me, she couldn't find a better one than "The Hindus" as she thought this may enlighten me about our own roots and I may share some of the enlightenment with our kiddo . So, I got this book as a gift in 2018 and last night (on the eve of my birthday) I finished it looking forward to another equally entertaining gift from her yet again. Let's see what she gets me this time. Oh! and before I forget to mention, "The Hindus" is a solid entertainer when it comes to Hinduism as it is typically an American perspective of an Indian religion and written exactly the same way they make movies on our part of the world. If you know what I mean .
The book is a mammoth 700+ pages with Introduction running to some 25+ pages and the glossary in the end about 150+ pages strong. It took me a little over a month to finish it, although I thoroughly enjoyed Wendy Doniger's commentary on Hinduism which was more on India than on the religion. And it would have been better if she had titled it "Indians or India" (in last 50 million years till now). I have no doubts on her research or the efforts she has put in putting this incredible work together but it is heartening (or rather laughable) to read that as per her Indian mythology especially Ramayan and Mahabharat are now a cult all thanks to the 80's TV series' based on Amar Chitra Katha Comics. She goes on to the extent of saying that the Indians believe and follow what these comics have told the so called stories of both the epics as there is no concrete evidence so far that they ever took place in real time. As per her, Bollywood too has a huge impact on how the History now is told in our part of the world, especially after someone like a SRK plays a violent king Ashoka in one of the epic movies of India. It is unbelievable to read (her opinion) that whenever a movie is made in our part of the world from a historical chapter, it holds the power to change the facts. A majority of the book is commentary on India and Hindu Muslim relations in last few centuries than Hinduism, its inception, progress or current state. Through her research and disclosed sources she even claims that we are no Aryans, we are rather descendants from South Africa. And as per the geographical movements of the tectonic plates, we got cut off some 50 million years ago from the African continent and our part of continent physically moved to where we are today . I have no idea of her research or its authenticity or even its critical or literary acclaim but one thing is for sure that she presented it all in a very interesting manner and I had a jolly good time reading our own history especially from the last 2000 odd years to the current date. She has covered previous 50 million years to 2009 in this book before it got published.
One thing that I totally loved about Wendy Doniger's Hindus is that a major of her work is inspired or I can say is in awe of amazing authors like Rudyard Kipling (a huge lot), Konrad, Voltaire, George Orwell, William Dalrymple, Shashi Tharoor etc, even JK Rowling gets a mention in her account of our History. Also, a majority of the book as I said is a commentary on what was going in India in those many years that she covered based on her research of material available. 50% of the book is based on Manu Smriti and Kamasutra (Shocking and surprisingly). I am now totally intrigued to lay my hands on both the original (translations of-course) at the earliest as she has totally piqued my interest in them as well a few of Kipling's as multiple mention of few of his works and how that was relevant to Hinduism or Indian culture was totally rocking stuff (I mean entertaining in a good way). Also, she has credited Romila Thapar and her work so much in the same field that I believe it will be a great idea to pick up her book and read it ASAP. Co-incidentally I gifted the same book last week to a very dear friend of mine as I was reading the Hindus . This is one of those few books that one (Indian) may read out of sheer curiosity to know about our own roots and culture from the eyes of an American. If I may be allowed to say, I will go on to say that "The Hindus" is actually Wendy Doniger's "Satanic Verses". If we Hindu's had something called a Fatwa (Hindu sentence) she would be running for her life from all of us . She is actually too brave to write so much about Hindus, Hinduism, Muslims, Indian Christians, Sikhs, Congress Govt VS BJP Government, RSS, Hindu Muslim relations, Authenticity of Babri Masjid, Taj Mahal, Ramayan, Mahabharat and so many more sensitive topics in her own way. It is pretty offensive at times to read but then we live in a free world and she has her own right in writing the history as she / they know or feel it.
I can go on and on about the book but I will stop right here although I am now very curious to know if she wrote the history of Christianity too, I would love to know her views on her own religion (assuming she is a Christian) or if she wrote anything on Islam (that would be very interesting and a Fatwa would have followed for sure). Have you read "The Hindus"? If you have, do let me know if you like it (for any reason like me), if not, I suggest you stay away unless you really need something funny which may take a lot of precious time but will certainly give you some superb food for your thoughts.
PS: That blurb by Amartya Sen is such a heart-break especially after I have finished the book. Wonder if he really read the book before endorsing it.

PS2: I will be looking forward to Authentic Translations of Manusmriti and Kamasutra (literature), do let know if you have any recommendations on the subjects.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Gone with the Wind - Margaret Mitchell (Book)

Gone with the Wind - Margaret Mitchell.
Another epic that I wanted to finish last year but just couldn't, again all thanks to Joyce Uncle and Margaret Aunty for their never ending sizes and let me be very clear that I am not complaining here. Gone with the Wind, as long as it actually is for whatever version you read, it is indeed worth it. Although it took me quite a while to read but with an average of 40-50 pages a day, I was still on tenterhooks as which way the story will go and what next is Ms Scarlett O'Hara going to do as her histrionics never actually end till the Author justifies the title with full style. I am 200% sure that I have read this earlier (guess in teenage) as I am a sucker for love stories but was super glad that I had no memory of this one other than that it was a perfect love triangle wherein I was in love with the fourth character by the time it ends. For people who have read this, they will shout on top of their voices saying "Melanie" isn't it guys? She is one heck of a character which totally stands out and try as much as I might, no ways that I wasn't falling in love with her.
First time in my life I will confess that I was actually in love with a man (OK! Not exactly first time but lets make it a third time considering my love and admiration for Atticus Finch and Ove in no particular order) but Rhett Butler has surely won my heart one big time in this one. More than Scarlett, more than Melanie or Mammy  Rhett is my man and I totally hated Ashley (for no fault of his own actually) but to not have a backbone mostly  Also this was one of those very few books and stories where my loyalty kept shifting from one character to another up-to an extent that I was about to give up on them but they always bounce back with a bang. First it was the girl born with a silver spoon Ms. O'Hara who considers the waist size of 18 inches a little too fat and even after having a few babies of her own she tries to fit in those dresses and calls her self too fat (20 inches at the most) I had a riot of a time reading her histrionics. But the way she goes from riches to rags and back to riches in her own way is one heck of a story. Her love for her father, awe for her mother and equation with her sisters was something which kept a permanent smile on my face. Especially the way she keeps imagining how her mother will not endorse what she was made to do because of the situation always going out of her hands. A class act. Scarlett's never ending love for Ashley and struggle to keep up with the man had me in tears, shock, awe, frustration and so many more emotions which are hard to put in words. To what extent she goes to get the man of her dreams and how it all turns out for her is simply heart-touching.
Rhett Butler's vanishing character that too always at the wrong time and bouncing back had me on the edge of my seat. The 1300+ page epic's high point is the scenes between Rhett and Scarlett. The way he reads Scarlett like a book, the way he calls her "my pet" (at times I hated it but mostly loved it) and the way he drives her (mad too) was totally the high point of the novel. I can bet my life that even Margaret herself was in love with her own fictional character big time especially the way how she has carved him out. That I guess is one the reason why she makes him vanish for so long at times, keeping the readers hooked expecting so much more from him. I so much want to talk about Ashley the love of Scarlett's life but that will be like giving out so many spoilers . You've got to read the book to know more of the amazing characters. I for one am definitely going to read this one again for sure before meeting my maker in very near future as one can never get enough of these amazing characters.
The book is indeed an epic not only for the amazing love story but for the way it touches and covers up so much from the times. Slavery, Social division, Civil War, Freedom for African Americans, North and south divide and the brutality of war. The way character's lives change due to the war and its repercussions was simply mind-blowing. The coming of age story of Scarlett and how she changes from what she was to what the time makes her was simply unbelievable (short lived though yet commendable). And It throws so many terms some 100 years old that I had to actually Google to understand their meanings . Full marks to Author for using the authentic accents of the Afro-Americans, especially the way Mammy talks throughout the novel, totally loved it. I guess I would have finished the book a few days earlier if I wouldn't have spoken those sentences in my mind the way Mammy was delivering them to Scarlett  but that actually was super fun.
I am sure my Dad and Mom have never read this classic but they always admired the Clark Gable classic movie which totally didn't work for me. Although to my relief it was almost four hours yet it leaves out at-least 70% material from the book and works like a good thriller as it is too fast and the viewer just doesn't develop any feelings for anyone unless of-course he or she has read the book. But I won't deny that it was super fun seeing the amazing characters in flesh.
Have you read Gone with the Wind? If yes, do tell me about your favorite character.
The next epic that I am planning to pick up shortly is "A Suitable Boy".

Thursday, February 13, 2020

The Purgatory of Half Forgotten Riddles - John A Raju (Book)

The Purgatory of Half Forgotten Riddles - John A Raju. Last week while I was reading a mammoth book gifted by my wife on my last birthday (almost a year ago) which turns out to be a very interesting account on Hinduism by an American Author, I came across this book. Although "The Hindus" is a superb book but its size and the million year long history of the culture and country did take a toll on my fragile mind. And all thanks to Author John A Raju and the deal I signed up with him :) that I actually abandoned Hindus for his book and my kiddo was totally shocked and surprised that I could really do that :). With the book almost 70% done I picked this one up and what an amazing story this one turns out to be. A breath of fresh air with terrific bookdotes (as in anecdotes) spread across the narrative with so many awesome book mentions and characters that I have loved in the recent past. Author's dissection of some of my loved characters and a few mentions of those that I haven't read totally left me intrigued. Undoubtedly a well read person like him is bound to become a superb writer as he has so very well proved with this book. Fortunately my taste is a little weird when it comes to reading, I love when an Author takes liberty of pausing his own story for his own random ramblings which in this case turns out to be superb analysis of human mind, philosophical but never turn preachy. I had a solid connect with the story because I too share the similar background like his characters and now I am finding it very difficult to talk about it without getting very personal. Superb story of three friends, Peter, Alex and Alice :). Yes, you can call it a love triangle but it isn't as straight forward as it sounds in that simple sentence. Told in (my favorite) flashback mode when Peter takes a yearly break from his usual life and goes into seclusion for a few days, ends up writing his own life story. He keeps sending the reader hooked to his past and keep moving them back and forth into the present too. So many questions kept popping in my mind and he takes his own sweet time in answering them one by one not in any particular order as it was superb engaging right from the very start. Like I must mention that the way his own father commits suicide and leaves him a four word note which turns his life upside down. What were those words and how he takes them and how it not only changes his life as well they all come full circle by the time his story (the one he is writing?) comes to an end. The entire book is full of so many amazing characters and and the story of his love life, his best friend, lost parents, totally amazing and loving aunt, the book store owner (all from past) and his wife from present, his kids and so much more is so intriguing that it kept me hooked beautifully to it all. Although I stretched it to full 5 days as that is the longest I could keep myself in suspense of what to expect from it and wanted to rush to the end too. The reader in me was totally thrilled to see the story being carved right in front of me as the story progresses day by day and let me go on the liberty without giving out anything that it swept me off my feat by the way it ends. Totally unpredictable. Another thing that I loved and will never forget about this lovely book is its title :). The way it keeps coming up in the story, it was totally awesome to decode it and understand its real meaning. Also, I will go on to the extent of saying that If I ever write a book which will come any closer to my own life, it will sound exactly like this one. And a big huge reason why this book put a smile on my face was on its back cover :). A superb blurb by an Author whose books I totally loved. Have you read The Purgatory of Half Forgotten Riddles? Do let me know how you like it and I will be eagerly waiting for his next as and when it comes out.