It is only very recently that the popular Hindi film has acquired academic respect¬ability as a subject for scholar¬ly attention. Today, one might call it an almost fashion¬able concern. But this mam¬moth effort mounted by Aruna Vasudev and Philippe Lenglet is to be commended as the first serious attempt, on this scale, to grapple with the phenomenon of the Hindi film —truly a supermarket, a some-thing-for-everybody one-stop-shop, that has given to the vocabulary of Indian English that new and evocative cultural adjective, ‘filmi’.
The decision by the Progress Publishing House to take up the translation of major Soviet literary critics is a very wel¬come one. Recently Viktor Shklovsky’s well-known book on L. Tolstoy appeared in the Indian market, and now we have a work by an eminent Pushkin scholar, Blagoy. This move is all the more welcome as interest in Russian and Soviet literature is on the increase.
Unlike the social sciences, the study of English Literature in India seems likely to dimi¬nish gradually into a waste¬land. While we produce an increasing number of eminent sociologists, historians and economists, our literary critics—with a few notable but little noticed exceptions—are mostly a demoralized or desic¬cated lot. One reason for the withering of our literary criti¬cal landscape is the difficulty of finding a use for literary studies in a predominantly utilitarian ethos which allows little room for something as ‘useless’ as literature; a second may be the Leavisite refusal to study literary texts as aspects of cultural history rather than as autonomous moral bodies and timeless verbal icons; a third is perhaps a growing recognition of the relative alienness of English literature; a fourth is undoubtedly the abysmal condition of our libraries which makes access to source materials, and in Eng. Lit.
I have come to the bitter con¬clusion that if Hindi writers are treated like poor relations of English ones, they have only themselves to blame. Why on earth do distinguished Hindi novelists allow their work to be hastily translated into clownish and farcical English? Is it impossible to wait till a reasonable translator comes along? A couple of years ago, Bhisham Sahni’s brilliant novel Tamas was, so to speak, done for in the translation. It is now the turn of Mannu Bhandari’s Aapka Bunty.
Mahadevi Varma occu¬pies a unique position in the world of Hindi letters today. She is almost the solve sur¬vivor of the pre-Independence, the ‘heroic’ generation, a relic from a distant, simpler past—a past remembered with increasing nostalgia as we sink deeper into the mud of the present. The grotesque efflorescence of the national movement still lay in the womb of an ironic future; it was, it appeared to be, it appears to have been, a time of innocence and dreams of possibility.