Edited and Translated by: Bhaskar Chattopadhyay
Publisher: Harper Collins
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.