Sunday, May 11, 2014

Book Review - 14: Stories That Inspired Satyajit Ray

Title: 14: Stories That Inspired Satyajit Ray 

Edited and Translated by: Bhaskar Chattopadhyay

Publisher: Harper Collins

ISBN: 978-93-5136-193-0

Genre: Fiction

Price: Rs. 350/-


This paperback edition is an anthology of English translations of 14 short stories that Satyajit Ray, the renowned filmmaker requiring no further introduction, adapted into his movies. Now, on one side of the book, there is Satyajit Ray with his hallowed presence and on the other side, the short stories -on their own merit standing tall in Bengali and Hindi literature. With due respect to both sides, in the middle, there is Bhaskar with his pen, bringing these stories to a wider horizon of literature loving community and the new generation - more comfortable in the language.

It was very tempting for me to get carried away to talk about Ray, the enigma of Indian Cinema -his movies and neorealism thoughts etc. but I kept reminding myself that the subject of this review is not him but Bhaskar and his book. So let’s focus there.

To start with, I commend this initiative of Bhaskar and Harper to introduce the 14 choicest stories in English and the adapted movies to a wider audience taking interest into the movies of Ray as well as the rich literature heritage of Bengal by eminent writers like Rajsekhar Basu, Prabhat Kumar Mukhopadhyay, Narendranath Mitra, Rabindranath Tagore, Tarashankar Bandyopadhyay, Premendra Mitra with Munsi Premchand delivering in Hindi. In the words of Sharmila Tagore – one of Ray’s actresses, “A wonderful way to introduce readers not only to some superb stories, but also to the genius of Satyajit Ray, who, from these very stories, created great cinema.”

Coming to the works of Bhaskar, a budding writer of three books so far, the spirit of the original stories is very exquisitely preserved ,through and through, in the translations. While we all know that literal translation is not possible, the choices of appropriate wordings and sentence formations have upheld the situational mood intact in each and every occasion.  As far as text is concerned, they flow in nicely and lucidly with the messaging of the original stories coming out clearly and distinctly.

Be it religious dogmatism in believing  the daughter-in-law to be an incarnation of Mother Kali in The Godess  or the business of cheating people claiming acquaintances with Chirst, Buddha and Tutankhamen by self-styled Godman, Birinchi Baba or the humane relation between Ratan and his Babu in Postmaster - all are delivered well with required finesse.  While on one side the translation of Gupi Gyne Bagha Byen by Upendrakishore Roy Chowdhury is at its hilarious best, the tussle of family life and male –female relationship are aptly captured in The Prologue and The story of a coward. Sadgati dealing in caste system- a blot on our society and Satranj Ke Khiladi on two chase aficionados – both by Munshi Premchand remain the same old treat as in their original versions.

There are two of Ray’s own stories – The Guest and Pikoo’s diary. Ray has used both print and cinematic media to deliver his messages through these stories and adaptations. 

The size, weight and compact paperback packaging of the book with the majestic picture of Ray on the cover makes it comfortable for the reader to remain glued to the book and help to hop from one story to another in no time. 

Those who are familiar with Ray’s films know that his deft deliverance of situations, in the form of change of contexts, references, backgrounds between frames through colors, movements, symbols and alike more than mere conversations, stamped his signature in his creations. He made necessary changes in the stories while adapting them to the movies to suit his way of expressions in that medium.

A must read in my view, the book very well serves as the first time read of the stories not being familiar to the originals. The efforts towards the book will be fulfilling and find a meaning if they evoke any interest on Ray’s cinema in the young and old generations. 

16 comments:

  1. Placing an order for this book right now! My husband was just talking about this book yesterday. But somehow we didn't get around to ordering it... A very well written review of the book, Jayanta but do write sometime about Ray's films too, would love to hear your thoughts on that too :)

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    1. Thanks, Ma'm. Appreciate your comments. Request to share this review so that people know about this book :-). I don't have any other interest other than popularizing the subject :-).

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  2. Making changes in the stories while making movies to suit his way of expressions must have changed a lot in the actual stories. The very fact that such a great legend was working with their stories must have been enough for the writers, I think. Great review, must read and then come back to share my thoughts here :)

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    1. Hi Sulekha, The writers were also great in their own standings.. One of them was Rabindranath Tagore :-). Thanks for your time.

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  3. thanks for this... I too have noticed its arrival in the market but had not got a review yet of it.. sounds as worthy as i hoped it would be. excellent review.

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    1. Thanks, Roshan. Hope you would like it...

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  4. Oh, that seems interesting! Did not know about this book, but your well-written review made me curious now Jayanta:-) Thanks for sharing:-)

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    1. Thanks, Eli. You are truly getting into everything Indian. It gives me a good feeling. In case you get time, see some of Ray movies. Hope you would like them.

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  5. This sounds very interesting! Hope I am able to lay my hands on it! Thanks for sharing about this book :)

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  6. Interesting review. Ray's genius is of course undisputed. Would love to read these stories. Thanks for this :)

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    1. Thanks, Vaisakh. Hope you like them:-).

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  7. That is good to hear about the near translation done well.
    Thanks for the good review.

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  8. Nice to know about this book Jayanta.....a nice review ...have read almost all works of Rajshekar Basu , Prabhat Kumar Mukhopadhyay and others...
    Just a bit curious ..is there a mention of Bibhutibhushan Banerjee and his work " Pather Panchali " which inspired Ray's most blessed work ..The Apu Trilogy ? ..or perhaps the writer has avoided it for it is a novel.. :-)

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    1. Hi Maniparna, Thanks for your comments. As you guessed rightly, Pather Panchali is not there due to the very reason you mentioned.

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