This is the third volume in an ambitious project to analyse the history of the Indian Freedom Movement in the metropolitan country, Great Britain, from the late twenties to the attainment of Independence. The first two volumes dealt with Krishna Menon’s evolution as a social activist and intellectual through various phases—boy scout leader, voluntary theosophist, and a very young probationary political activist in Britain. These volumes take us upto 1932, a few months after the Second Round Table conference, in which Gandhiji played the major role. That volume was most memorable for Krishna Menon’s personal contribution to supporting Gandhiji in London at a difficult moment.
It is rare to come by a book on the ‘art of cinema’ anymore. With cinema itself becoming increasingly a product of divergent traditions, and the study of the medium given over to local specializations, one would today perhaps not venture to train one’s sight on such an object. B.D. Garga himself called his informative book on Indian cinema So Many Cinemas (1996) as if to record his wonderment at the impossible array of tongues that the medium has spawned within a single nation, not just verbally, but in form and language.
Vijay Tendulkar is very special to Indian theatre. For one, he is not afraid of being accessible. His language, his themes and his craftsmanship do not scare theatre people away. I like this quality in him. Vijay Tendulkar always knew that it was essential for his plays to survive as popular theatre texts, in order that he emerge as a major Indian playwright. Today Tendulkar’s literary merit is well established, even beyond the boundaries of Marathi drama.
There are two problems with ‘Indian theatre’. One is that it is theatre. The other is that it is Indian. This has curious implications for the scholar. Of all the arts, theatre has resisted mechanical – and now digital – reproduction the most. In this, it is not only the very opposite of cinema, the quintessential mass art of the industrial age, but even the plastic arts and music have adapted to the industrial age rather well. Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code is a runaway bestseller, even though only a tiny fraction of its readers would have seen Leonardo’s works in the original, because the mass reproduction of the paintings makes it possible for us to follow the clues in the novel.Theatre has resisted this tendency.
The editor of this periodical has a wry sense of humour. She requested Girish Karnad to review the Oxford Companion to Indian Theatre, edited by me. Now she asks me to review Karnad’s Collected Plays, also published by Oxford University Press. Readers will appreciate the subtle trap in which she has placed me, not unlike those we typically encounter in Karnad’s drama. If I praise the set (which naturally I should), wags will nod their heads knowingly and joke that we belong to the Mutual Back-slapping Society. Therefore the only face-saving option for me is to criticize, so as to earn the tag of fairness.
Mr Iyer Goes To War is the first novel written by Ryan Lobo, who is essentially a photographer and film maker. His films have been shown on channels like Animal Planet, National Geographic amongst others. His writings have been carried by Boston Review, The Wall Street Journal, Caravan and others.
In his novel Ryan Lobo writes about the escapades of an individual who has a vision of what he was in one of his previous incarnations and decides to take up the task of completing, in this life, what remained incomplete in his previous one.
Bhagawandass Morwal has carved a niche for himself in the domain of contemporary Hindi literature. His memoir is a captivating creation because of its novelty of theme, deft narrative stroke, element of storytelling, a transparent world-view, elegant point of view, a tendency to give importance to ‘mirror-narratives’ in opposition to ‘grand narrative’, a unique blending of different perspectives of a life lived. With the onslaught of postmodernism in literature there came to the forefront a tendency to distrust ‘meta-narratives’—what Lyotard calls ‘incredulity towards meta-narratives’.
In 2013 the Aleph publishing house brought out a wonderfully put together book, A Pleasant Kind of Heavy and Other Erotic Stories was a collection of tales about Indian women and sexual desire. The book was written by ‘Aranyani’—a nom de plume as at the time the author chose anonymity (for review see The Book Review January 2015).
Rakesh Satyal’s No One Can Pronounce My Name is a positivetale of transition and discovery which the negation in the title does not really disclose. When one starts reading, one expects another anxiety-ridden tale of culture conflict and identity issues of Indian immigrants. Satyal’s book is all these but significantly much more.
The novel set in Cleveland, Ohio is a complex weave of stories of disparate individuals caught at a time when they are struggling to make meaning of their existence. Ranjana, a middle-aged receptionist at a doctor’s clinic and an aspiring writer, suspects her husband of having an affair with a white woman. As such there seems not much left in the relationship. Her husband, Mohan, seems to be content with his chemistry lessons in college and tennis sessions in the evenings. Their marriage has gone through the predictable phases of honeymoon, child rearing and the drudgery of parenthood. Now that their son Prashant is at Princeton, despite the usual social gatherings and temple visits Ranjana’s life is steeped in ennui. Her only real relief in life seems to be her pursuit of romantic supernatural stories. Ranjana’s character is etched with a lot of interest by the author. She holds in her a child-like openness to wonderment.
No city reveals itself easily; Delhi even less so. For, as Mir has said: it is not just any other city, it is Delhi (Pagdi apni sambhaliyega ‘Mir’/Aur basti nahin ye Dilli hai). Even those who ambled in its nooks and crannies and became its cobblestones—how much did Delhi show itself to them? So begins Intizar Husain’s Dilli Tha Jiska Naam (Once There Was A City Named Dilli), a cultural biography of Delhi. In posing that question, and in making it clear that he is not one of the cobblestones of Delhi, Intizar Husain is absolving himself of knowing Delhi intimately. Although, remarkably, very few other books on the city reveals to us the cultural and folk milieu of Jahanabad (or Shahjahanabad), as this one does.
No city reveals itself easily; Delhi even less so. For, as Mir has said: it is not just any other city, it is Delhi (Pagdi apni sambhaliyega ‘Mir’/Aur basti nahin ye Dilli hai). Even those who ambled in its nooks and crannies and became its cobblestones—how much did Delhi show itself to them? So begins Intizar Husain’s Dilli Tha Jiska Naam (Once There Was A City Named Dilli), a cultural biography of Delhi. In posing that question, and in making it clear that he is not one of the cobblestones of Delhi, Intizar Husain is absolving himself of knowing Delhi intimately.
In the third chapter of Abigail Williams’s wonderful book, we encounter an extract from soldier and journalist Alexander Somerville: ‘My father and mother had a window (the house had none) consisting of one small pane of glass, and when they moved from one house to another…they carried the window with them and had it fixed in each hovel into which they went as tenants.’ That portable window was the only means by which the Somerville family could afford the luxury of reading indoors.