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Author Topic: Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay  (Read 7419 times) Average Rating: 0
 
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« on: June 19, 2007, 07:54:57 PM »

"My literary debt is not limited to my predecessors only. I'm forever indebted to the deprived, ordinary people who give this world everything they have and yet receive nothing in return, to the weak and oppressed people whose tears nobody bothers to notice and to the endlessly hassled, distressed (weighed down by life) and helplesss people who don't even have a moment to think that: despite having everything, they have right to nothing. They made me start to speak. They inspired me to take up their case and plead for them. I have witnessed endless injustice to these people, unfair intolerable indiscriminate justice. It's true that springs do come to this world for some - full of beauty and wealth - with its sweet smelling breeze perfumed with newly bloomed flowers and spiced with cuckoo's song, but such good things remained well outside the sphere where my sight remained imprismed. This poverty abounds in my writings."

[Author's comment in the acceptance speech in a meeting organised in his honour - to celebrate his 57th birthday at the Calcutta Town Hall on 2nd Ashwin, 1339 BY (15th Sep 1933).]


Poverty Sarat Chandra Chatterjee knew very definitely. Both in the limited materialistic sense and in its psychosomatic dimensions. His short stories and novels often present both in great depth. Almost with pathological accuracy. In his carefully crafted, if not freighteningly real, characters and events he captured the late nineteenth to early twentieth century Bengali society. But in no sense did he get his materials from the history. It was his encounters with life as a country youth that provided him with the inspiration, ingredients and storylines for his life-like characters in the (often) uncomplicated rural family settings. He plucked characters for his stories and novels from his life experience and created them in his own unimitable style. The distinctive features and the essence of purpose that he added to them made them more attractive and perhaps larger than life. This is why his stories had such universal appeal - a reason which may explain why such a large number of them were translated to other languages.

Working in parallel with - remaining at a safe distance away from the burning sun of the Tagore genius in Calcutta - Chatterjee's work was unique and not overshadowed by Tagore. His best contribution perhaps was the use of simple, unsanitised (i.e., unsanscritised) and very familiar Bengali vocabulary - a welcome break from the literary tradition of the time. This new wave of desanscritisation started with Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay. Sarat Chandra who had a lot in common with Bankim as they had similar middle class upbringing and shared the same socio-economic background, was greatly influenced by Bankim's writings. By contrast, Sarat Chandra (which means the Autumn Moon) hardly if ever was dimmed, diffused or influenced by the powerful rays of the Sun (meaning Rabindranath Tagore). According to Dr. Sukumar Sen, Sarat Chandra (arguably) did not much appreciate poetry and hence deprived his work a little of the vast wealth of the Tagore literary ocean which could well have enhanced the texture and depth of his masterpieces. Having said that Sen, however, recognised that in terms of popularity, the Autumn Moon was brighter than the Sun.

Sarat Chandra was very popular as a story-teller - more so than either Bankim or Tagore. His sketeches on the social canvas had a very subtle reformist twist to them. His critique on social norm was only a message and never an agenda. He refrained from value judgement. He felt that his duty as a writer was to raise awareness about social malice and not to reform the society. The latter was a reformer's work. Nevertheless, he faced uphill battle with conservative sections of the Hindu social leaders (refer Pally Samaj). He was not particularly liked either by the Imperial representatives for his Pather Daabi. It was banned for alleged preaching of sedition from 1927 to 1939 and again in 1940 under Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code and under the Dramatic Performance Act respectively.

Sarat Chandra Chatterjee (nickname Nyarha) was born in Devanandapore - a village in West Bengal under the district of Hooghly on 15th September 1876 (31 Bhadra 1283 BY). For a time his father was employed in Bihar - the rest of the family lived in Bhagalpore with his maternal grandfather. Changing family financial situations resulted in a sequence of school changes for young Sarat. In his own words:

"My childhood and youth were passed in great poverty. I received almost no education for want of means. From my father I inherited nothing except, as I believe, his restless spirit and his keen interest in literature. The first made me a tramp and sent me out tramping the whole of India quite early, and the second made me a dreamer all my life."1

After passing the Entrance Exam in second division in 1894 Sarat was admitted to the Tejnarayan Jubilee College. Freshly in touch with the English literature, he read such novels as Dicken's Tale of Two Cities, David Copperfield and My Love by Lord Litton. The literary giant claimed that his real inspiration was his own father's unfinished and unpublished literary work:

"Father was a great scholar, and he had tried his hand at stories and novels, dramas and poems, in short every branch of literature, but never could finish anything. I have not his work now - somehow it got lost; but I remember poring over those incompleteness. Over again in my childhood, and many a night I kept awake regretting their incompleteness, and thinking what might have been their conclusion if finished. Probably this led to my writing short stories when I was barely seventeen."

With the creation of Bhagalpore Sahitya Sabha (literary group), a handwritten children's magazine called "Shisu" was published. The stories Kakbasha and Kashinath were first published here (1894). In 1895 his mother died. The following year Sarat had to leave college forever due to dire financial stress in which his father had to sell off their Devanandapore home for a mere Rs.225. They moved to Bhagalpore once again. In Khanjanpur (a suburb in Bhagalpore) he came in close contact with a number of people who would play a significant role in his literary career. Notable are Anupama (later changed her name to Nirupama Devi - author of the Annapurnaar Mandir) and her brother Bibhutibhushan Bhatta and Rajendranath Majumdar (Raju). Raju is said to be the famous Indranath character in his masterpiece Srikanto. In the Bhatta household there were literary get-together quite regularly in which Sarat (was the Chairman) would take part along with his young uncles Surendranath, Gireendranath and Upendranath (later editor of the monthly literary magazine Bichitra) Ganguli. Here he came in contact with writer Sourindra Mohan Mukherjee - who at a later date got the Bardidi novel published in the Bharati - one of the most influential literary chronicles of that time. At this time, the inexperienced and untamed creative talent in Sarat was bursting out in short stories or novels like Abhimaan, Bojha, Anupamar Prem, Sukumarer Balyakatha, Bardidi, Chandranath, Debdas and Pashan. Abhimaan was based on East Lynne - the 1861 English novel of the English middle-class life by Ellen Wood (better known as Mrs. Henry Wood, 1814-1887) which sold over half a million copies in those days and was dramatised repeatedly. Pashan was written following the theme of the then spectacularly popular English novel Mighty Atom by Marie Corelli (1855-1924). Corelli's novels were said to be extravagantly romantic. Can one consider Debdas in the same light?

Young Sarat had talents other than writing. He could not only sing and act, but played instruments such as the flute and tabla. He was a good sportsman too. His acting in the female roles in Mrinalini, Bilvamangal and Jona - which were dramatisation of Bankim Chandra Chatterjee's novels - during this impressionable years perhaps allowed him to be more fully influenced by Bankim's writings. The Kunri Sahityik - Budding Literateurs - group was formed comprising those frequenting the Bhatta's published their first hand-written magazine Chhaya in April 1901 which included Sarat's Aalo O Chhaya and later Chhaya published a few other stories noted above.

Meanwhile, in 1900 Sarat started work in Godda's Banali Estate in Bihar and later in Santhal district settlement - both he disliked and gave up. Young Sarat was very sensitive and fragile. He left home following a disagreement with his father. Alone, unhappy and indifferent, Sarat lost purpose and lacked motivation. Referring to his natural love for and obssesion with writing stories, he later told us:

"But I soon gave up the habit as useless, and almost forgot in the long years that followed that I could even write a sentence in my boyhood."

He felt dejected and for no apparent reason would walk around crematorium grounds at dead of night. Later he joined a party of Naga Monks for a while and came to Mujaffarpur (1902). For a brief period he came back to Bhagalpore on his father's death and on completion of his father's last rites went to Calcutta and was employed as a translator for Hindi paper book for a meagre salary of Rs.30 per month.

In 1903, soon before his departure for Rangoon in search of a better financial future he was convinced by uncle Girindrandranath to send his short story Mandir for the Kuntaleen literary competition. It would appear that Sarat Chandra was least interested in that and on others' insistence finally agreed to send the story in the name of Surendranath Ganguli. From amongst one hundred fifty odd short stories Mandir was selected to be the best of the year (1309 BY) - judged by the veteran editor of the Vasumati, Sri Jaldhar Sen. Mandir was published in the name of Surendranath - and was incidentally the first ever printed story by Sarat Chandra. This, however, was not the last time someone else's name was used in publishing his own writings. He published regularly in the Jamuna magazine in three different names - in his own name and in the name of Anila Devi (his elder sister) and Anupama.

According to the author's own account Jamuna was the clatalyst in reviving his literary career whilst he was in Burma. He said:

"A mere accident made me start again, after the lapse of about eighteen years. Some of my old acquintances started a little magazine, but no one of note would condescend to contribute to it, as it was so small and insignificant. When almost hopeless, some of them remembered me, and after much persuasion they succeeded in extracting from me a promise to write for it. This was in the year 1913. I promised most unwillingly - perhaps only to put them off till I returned to Rangoon and could forget all about it. But sheer volume and force of their letters and telegrams compelled me at last to think seriously about writing again. I sent them a short story for their magazine Jamuna. This became at once popular, and made me famous in one day. Since then I have been writing regularly. In Bengal, perhaps, I am the only fortunate writer who has not had to struggle."

Whilst in Rangoon after a number of temporary positions, he was employed permanently in Accounts department of the Public Works Department - where he served until his return to Calcutta in 1916.

In his own time Sarat Chandra practised Homeopathy, opened a primary school and formed a party of Keertan music. His first wife Shanti Devi to whom he was married in 1906, died of plague in 1908 along with his one year old son. To fill the void in his life, he studied sociology, politics, philosophy, health sciences, psychology and history borrowing books from the Barnerd Free Library. In 1909 due to health problems due to heart related complications he had to cut down his study hours and started to paint. His first painting was named Ravan-Mandodori. Chatterjee was married in 1910 the second time an adolescent widow named Mokshada - who he renamed Hiranmoyee.

Since his return to Calcutta the Author's writings appeared in all magazines of note and his popularity grew from strength to strength. Adaptation of his Viraj Bou was first staged at the Star Theatre in 1918 under the direction of Amritlal Bose. Viraj Bou was also his first novel to be translated to Hindi by Chandrashekhar Pathak in 1919. A year after that Datta was translated into Marathi and into Gujrati in 1921. In 1922 Oxford University Press published the English translation of Srikanto - Part I by Kshitish Chandra Sen and Teodosia Thompson. Srikanto was translated into Italian in 1925. Here on, many other stories and novels started to appear regularly in many Indian and other languages.

The first (silent) film Aandhare Aalo based on the author was screened at the Rasa (Purna) Theatre - was directed by none other than the Stage King Sisir Bhaduri (with co-director Naresh Mitra) who was also responsible for making film of the author's Pally Samaj in 1932. The first film (with sound) based on his Dena Paona was directed by Premankur Atarthi - released in 1931.

Calcutta University honoured him with the Jagattarini Gold Medal in 1923 and Romain Rolland recognised him as one of the best novelists of the world in 1925. Dacca (now Dhaka) University bestowed on him the honourary D. Lit. degree in 1936.

Sarat Chandra was actively involved in Indian freedom movement and became the President of Howrah District Congress at the request of C. R. Das and wrote regularly in Narayan edited by the latter.

Sarat Chandra Chatterjee, who is belovedly known in Bengal as the Immortal Wordsmith, died of cancer of the liver on 16th January 1938 at 10:10 am at Park Nursing Home in Calcutta. Bengal lost one of its greatest sons - one that loved her from the core of his heart.

Source: http://bengalonline.sitemarvel.com/saratchandra.html
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« Reply #1 on: June 19, 2007, 08:23:40 PM »

Inspired by Bankim Chandra Chatterjee's writings, it was novelist  Sarat Chandra Chatterjee who brought modern bengali literature to the masses. His piercing analysis of human love, faith and frailties is unparallel. His intimate understanding of the social goings-on and the sympathetic albeit affirmative way he portrayed the unpriviledged and the women in his stories testify his paramount love and affection for the deprived. His lovingly and masterfully crafted words, used by ordinary people of the street, and immaculate writing style made him easily one of the world's best loved novelists.

Like Bankim Chandra, he was a common man; he understood the common person's dilemas with life and living conditions. His novels appealed to people of all walks of life. His mastery on this branch of the Bengali literature was so complete that it is not at all surprising to note that remaining under the full glare of Tagore's creative genius, Sarat Chandra was never to be influenced by it. On the contrary, Tagore has been so moved by his stories that even he could not resist from the occasional forray into the latter's familiar territory.

Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay's Works

    * Bardidi
    * Viraj Bou
    * Parineeta
    * Pundit Mashai
    * Pally Samaj
    * Chandranath
    * Baikunther Will
    * Arakshaniya
    * Shrikanto
    * Debdas
    * Nishkriti
    * Charitraheen
    * Dotta
    * Swami
    * Grihadaha
    * Bamuner Meye
    * Dena-Paona
    * Navabidhan
    * Pather Dabee
    * Shesh Prashna
    * Shesher Parichoy
    * Vijoya
    * Roma
    * Shorashi
    * Taruner Vidroha
    * Swadesh o Sahitya
    * Narir Mulya
    * Bipradas
    * Shuvda
    * Bindur Chheley o Anyanya Galpa
    * Mejdidi
    * Kashinath
    * Chhobi
    * Harilaxmi
    * Anuradha, Sati o Paresh
    * Chhelebelar Galpa


Source: Internet
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« Reply #2 on: June 19, 2007, 08:45:29 PM »

Devdas: from the story teller to the film-maker


 
"Devdas"... a theme tackled with intensity and passion.

THERE WAS a recent press report on a possibility of the Bhansali film of `Devdas' being nominated for the Oscar. Sarat Chandra Chatterjee (I follow Humayun Kabir's spelling) was the storyteller of the film. Sarat Chandra was born in 1876 and passed away in 1938. In this span of life, he wrote 25 novels in Bengali. Hooghly and Burdwan districts of West Bengal were his Wessex. His men and women spoke in the dialect of these districts. Yet his novels, short stories and his essays (some under a pen name - Anila Devi) were translated in all the major regional languages of India and in English.

There was much translation into Urdu in Lahore, which has been the centre of Urdu language in this subcontinent. Prem Chand (not the Munshi) was a leading translator. There were a number of Muslim translators. Such love for the Sarat Chandra fiction makes one realise that despite religious differences, there was something common to both Hindu and Muslim social contents, especially to the deprived womenfolk of this part of the world.

"Devdas" itself was purely a love story. After having written it, Sarat Chandra did not like it. It is said that the storyteller did not want its publication. He was overruled by his literary friends; Devdas came out. He was overruled also by the film world; Bansali's is probably the fourth or the fifth film version of the story. (I have seen in my teens only the Promothesh Barua version of the film. Director Barua played the title role).

Sarat Chandra himself has said about his father that he was a restless traveller and a storywriter who never finished his tales. Sarat Chandra grew up in terrible poverty. Therefore he had to finish his stories for money. He was totally professional. Many of his novels were published in monthly instalments in Bengali magazines - as Charles Dickens wrote in English.


Also like Dickens, Sarat Chandra had a bag of wonderful tales. Dickens, however, was a creator of a great number of fascinating characters. Sarat Chandra created a number of fascinating situations. His novels did not depend so much on personality clashes - as on clashes between social conservatism and social change. While developing his main themes he kept lighting up the landscapes and the portraits of his literature; sometimes also perhaps of self-portrait.

While reading his novels, I was reminded of the flat-bottomed barges steaming in total darkness, while lighting up for a careful pilot, the banks of the mighty Ganges/Padma immersed in inky blackness.

Early in my life, I was told that Rabindranath Tagore wrote for the classes, while Sarat Chandra wrote for the masses. This is a facile comparison. The fact, however, is that Sarat Chandra's fiction was read by a larger number of readers - not all of whom had the mental training for understanding the poetry of Tagore. It will not diminish Tagore's greatness if it is said that the itinerant storyteller's prose poems attracted a large number of Indians - some of whom are now Pakistanis. Tagore has not had his novels as widely translated in the Indian languages as Sarat Babu has. The two greats admired each other. Tagore wrote a preface for the translation of a novel of Chatterjee; one of his most powerful poems, "The ordinary girl," was written in the form of a long letter to Sarat Chandra. I came across while reading Sarat Chandra's novels only one reference to a Tagore lyric - "The Southern door is open".

Sarat Chandra, however, must have made himself disagreeable to the followers of the Brahmo faith; such people called Brahmos (arising out of the Sanskrit word "Brahman") did not like Chatterjee's novel called "The Betrothed" in which he told a tale of clash between Hindus and Brahmos (the latter had dismissed the priestly caste and the caste system). Tagore was a devoted Brahmo; there was deep in his mind a black mark for Sarat Chandra. A very reputed Bengali monthly magazine Probashi, edited by a top Brahmo Samaj leader, did not publish Sarat Chandra's works; none probably was offered.

To measure the social relevance of Sarat Chandra it will be convenient to group his fiction in two parts. The first group of numerous novels and some short stories display the core of Hindu orthodoxy. In most of his books he is toiling without fatigue against the prevailing social system. Men and women emerge out of the system with hunger in their mind and body - hunger for a new dispensation. Some characters stand out; the women amongst them are often the dominant personalities without in any way losing their femininity. The men are heroic in the expected "Gotterdammerung" of the Hindu society. The themes are tackled with agony, passion and intensity and with utmost command over words; in consequence the stories do not bore and are read without getting the appetite dulled.

The second group is of great fascination for the Hindu mind. The important thing in the Srikanta Quartet is the collision between social vision of purity and of rebellion against such concept of purity and impurity.

Rajlakshmi, Srikanta's lover, in order to undo her past (technically of fallen status) and the present (her relationship outside the marital state with Srikanta) goes through the entire gamut of purity rituals. She continuously plays the thrumming notes of background music - against which other characters sing of freedom. In the first book of the Quartet, Annadadidi, a very properly brought up middle class woman, revolts against propriety, and runs away with a Muslim snake charmer. In the second part, Abhoya, deserted by her husband, breaks out of her social environment to live in sin with a man she accepted.

In the third, Sunanda, a scholar, is also a rebel against the poverty imposed upon the peasant by the land tenure system. In the last book, Kamal Lata has walked out on her people and joined a Vaishnava sect based on total surrender and devotion. These gripping stories were told in a style of easy flow. The novelist does not pass any judgement himself; he lets the men and women he has created to speak for themselves. Sarat Chandra himself was unaware of the purity concept in the Hindu Social culture. He wanted only to raise the standard of revolt against the social cults, which debased and degraded humanity.

Devdas is an exception. After he finished the story (which he did not want to publish) he was sorry to see what he had done. Standing over the denial, the disease of Devdas, the storyteller turns to the spellbound audience, and begs them to have pity on Devdas. When Parvati, however, hurls herself on the closing iron doors of society, he leaves the matter to the filmmaker — Barua, Bimal Roy or Bhansali.

RANJIT GUPTA

(The writer was a member of the Indian Police Service (IPS) and Inspector General of Police, West Bengal)

Courtesy: http://www.thehindu.com/thehindu/fr/2003/04/18/stories/2003041801030500.htm
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« Reply #3 on: June 19, 2007, 08:46:36 PM »

The man behind Devdas, Parineeta

Indrani Roy Mitra | June 20, 2005 17:35 IST

Sarat Chandra Chatterjee's Parineeta, Vidhu Vinod Chopra's newest production, was set in the 1960s. But today's audiences have embraced it and made it one of the multiplex hits of the year.

One can't help comparing it with Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Devdas, starring Shah Rukh Khan, Aishwarya Rai and Madhuri Dixit.

Ever wondered what the USP of these films is?

While critics may allude to Chopra's production finesse, Bhansali's directorial artistry and SRK's famed glamour, I would like to credit the writer -- Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay, one of the greatest figures Bengali literature has produced.

Known as the master storyteller, Sarat Chandra, like many of his contemporaries, was much influenced by Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay.

Some of his novels Devdas (written in 1901, published 1917), Pareenita (1914), Biraj Bau (1914) and Palli Samaj (1916) are cases in point.

   
However, Sarat Chandra, unlike the older Bankimbabu, struck a chord with his readers by lending a modern touch to old themes and replacing the verbose bankimi style with an easier, matter-of-fact flavour.

For great souls, it is said, the going often gets tough. Sarat Chandra was no exception.

Born at Devanandapur, Hooghly, in 1876, death separated him from his parents early and he was brought up at his maternal uncle's house in Bhagalpur, Bihar.

In 1903, Sarat Chandra went to Burma (now Myanmar) and found employment in Rangoon (Yangon) as a government clerk. He borrowed his uncle Surendranath Ganguly's name while submitting a short story for a competition, called Mandir. It won the first prize and was published in 1904. Later, he wrote Badadidi, a novella published in two parts in a local magazine called Bharati in 1907.

A still from ParineetaThe soaring popularity of the writer, who died in 1938, caused much heartburn. Some detractors went to the extent of saying even Rabindranath Tagore was jealous of his contemporary's recognition.

Without fanning such a controversial issue further, I would like to mention how Tagore in one of his poems (Sadharon Meye) appealed to Sarat Chandra to write a poem on a simple girl.

Was that a hint that Sarat Chandra's women were too complicated?

Let us leave that to critics and focus on Sarat Chandra's women instead, who stand out for their kindness, empathy, affection and a stoic acceptance of the uncertainties of life.

Be it Roma of Pallimangal, Bindu of Bindur Chhele, Vijaya of Datta, Sabitri of Charitraheen, Chandramukhi and Paro of Devdas and Lolita of Parineeta, each character exemplifies how life is to be lived.

Sarat Chandra's women are eternal optimists amid a sea of despair.

Agrees novelist Samaresh Majumdar, "Women are the centrifugal force of attraction in Sarat Chandra's novels. It is their optimism and positiveness that have kept the magic of Sarat Chandra alive even today."

Majumdar feels Sarat Chandra's works have an aura of the unreal which makes them dear to readers. "Saratbabu's novels create a world of fantasy and wish fulfillment, a world one dreams of and rarely gets a chance to live in," he adds.

Having seen Parineeta recently, the writer feels, "It seems wee bit clichéd in the present context with mobiles and Internet ruling our lives."


A still from DevdasThe genesis of Majumdar's thoughts, perhaps lay in what the late writer Gajendra Kumar Mitra had once written, 'Saratbabu was to adult readers what Hans Christian Andersen was to children. He created a fairytale world where a neighbourhood girl could take out money from your locker (Parineeta), your sister-in-law could bring your child up as hers (Bindur Chhele) or a sex worker Sabitri could be a sacrificing angel (Charitraheen). Saratbabu was a deft magician who had his readers spellbound in a jiffy.'

What about the men he created? Were they the weaker lot?

Remember how one drunk oneself to death for a girl?

Sunil Gangopadhyay, another prominent Bengali writer, won't agree. "Saratbabu's men are not weak but indecisive. His women are pillars of strength men like to fall back on in crisis. They may seem anachronistic, but that is exactly what the writer wanted them to be. Lolita of Parineeta may seem to be a figment of one's fantasy but she also happens to be the woman a man dreams of."

Asked to comment on the success of films based on Sarat Chandra novels, Gangopadhyay says, "Sarat Chandra is an amazing storyteller. He spins a web of relationships in his novels and lets the story evolve by itself. A master creator that he is, he has the readers fall for his simple style and spontaneous approach with effortless ease."

More simply put, if Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay's novels are complicated trigonometry, Sarat Chandra's novels are algebra simplified and explained using simple formulae.

If you ever get lost amid Bankimbabu's complicated Durgeshnandini, turn to Pather Dabi. Or in the present context, you could head for the next show of Parineeta. It will be like having a long and relaxing bath after a harrowing day.

Courtesy: http://in.rediff.com/movies/2005/jun/20mspec.htm
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