Thursday, 26 March 2015

Uraalpankhi - A Bangla Novel by Humayun Ahmed/ Anyaprokash Publication

Reviews, Vol I, Issue III

Gurudev  Rabindranath  Tagore  had  once  said  that  a  bird  does  not  fly  in  the  sky  merely  for  delight,  its  main  purpose  lies  in  the  searching  for  food.  Eminent  Bangladeshi  litterateur  Humayun  Ahmed’s  Bengali  novel  ‘Uraalpankhi’  (Flying  Bird)  (2002)  reminds  the  saying  of  Tagore  to  a  great  extent.  Ahmed  has  told  here  the  story  of  birds  like  human  beings  who  are  always  flying  that  is  running  after  terrestrial  comforts  ignoring  all  emotions  and  sentiments  which  have  provided  the  supremacy  of  human  beings  over  others.  In  today’s  world  one’s  ability  is  judged  mostly  by  the  mundane  achievements  he/she  has  made.  Family,  friendship,  love,  trust,  humanity,  fellow  feeling,  all  such  valuable  emotions  are  gradually  taking  back  foot.  People are  becoming  impatient.  Moreover  the  problem  of  unemployment  is  making  the  well  educated  young  generation  hopeless  and  intolerant  which  adds  fuel  to  all  the  social  unrest.  The  novel  though  deals  with  such contemporary  themes,  at  last  shows  that  feelings  and  emotions  are  not  dead  among  whole  mankind  completely;  that  it  is  love  and  sympathy  which  conquer  all.

The  novel’s  story  mainly  revolves  around  Muhib,  a  middle-class,  highly  educated  but  unemployed  well  behaved  young  man  who  lives  in  the  city  of  Dhaka  with  his  bachelor  uncle,  mother,  and  two  married  elder  bothers.  He  is  greatly  liked  by  all  for  his  good  nature  except  his  family  members  who  often  rebuke  him  for  not  doing  anything  for  financial  independence.  Muhib  has  become  like  an  unpaid  house-help  who  is  always  ordered  to  fetch  flour  from  the  grocery  shop,  to  postbox  others’  important  letters,  to  go  the  market  to  buy  Hilsa  fish  for  his  brother  and unmistakably  return  the  change  to  his  sister-in-law  etc.  He  has  already  sat  before  many  interview  boards  but  surprisingly  has  not  been  appointed  anywhere  so  far.  His  father  Shamsuddin  Saheb  lives  separate  from  his  family  for  any  unknown  reason  related  to  a  girl  Jamuna.  All  the  family  members  except  Muhib  have  cut  off  relations  with  him.  He  loves  Muhib  very  much  and  the  latter  comes  to  meet  his  father  at  intervals.  Muhib  has  a  group  of  friends  comprised  some  equally  educated  but  unemployed  young  men.  They  often  sit  together  and  have  a  little  drinking  and  smoking  session  to  temporarily  forget  their  agony  and  despondency.  Muhib  joins  them  but  he  is  freed  from  any  such  addiction.  He  shares  a  special  friendship  with  a  girl,  Nora  who  is  a  singer  and  only  daughter  of  a  rich  father.  One  fine  day  he  again  goes  for  an  interview  and  to  his  surprise  this  time  he  cracks  it.  He  gets  appointment  letter  of  a  multinational  company  and  is  asked  to  join  it.  Later  he  decides  to  leave  it  when  he  comes  to  know  that  Nora’s  reference  has  brought  him  the  job.

In  the  mean  time  one  member  of  the  friends’  group,  Haroon  suddenly  decides  to  set  his  body  on  fire  in  front  of  the  Press  Club  of  Dhaka  to  protest  against  the  govt.  and  attract  the  notice  of  the  mass  to  the  severe  problem  of  unemployment.  He  pitches  only  an  umbrella  and  sits  under  it  before  the  Press  Club.  At  first  all  the  members  took  the  matter  lightly  and  join  the  fun.  They fix the time of 12 a.m.  for Haroon’s  self-sacrifice.  They even put up banners and posters to publicise it.  They  try  to  contact  famous  persons  to  come  and  support  the  cause.  The masses too take interest in such an unusual matter. But  gradually  the  course  of  event  starts  to  take  u-turn  and  it  gets  serious.  The  electronic  and  press  media  come  to  cover  the  issue.  They  take  interviews  of  Haroon.  But  all  the  efforts  fail  to  attract  the  notice  of  the  govt.  and  even  the  opposition  parties.  Gradually  more  people  start  to  gather  around  the  place  to  see  the  fun.  Situation  gets  worsen  as  public  start  demanding  the  fire  incident  to  happen  at  any  cost.  At  this  point  of  time  heavy  rain  comes  to  their  defence  and  disperse  the  public.  The  group  members  straightaway  shift  from  the  place  with  sick  Haroon  to  the  apartment  of  Khayerul  who  is  a  restaurant  owner  and  an  admirer  of  Muhib.  All  of  them  decide  to  go  for  ‘hibernation’  until  people  get  cooled  and  forget  the  incident.  They arrange for a drinking session.  After  sometime  they  get  heavily  drunk  and  to  the  stupor  of  intoxication  they  suddenly  set  the  whole  third  floor  apartment  on  fire  and  come  downstairs.  At  the  very  moment  Muhib  discovers  that  unwell  Haroon  has  been  left  alone  inside  the  burning  apartment.  He  at  once  moves  towards  the  third  floor  to  save  Haroon.  Next  day  all  the  newspapers  release  on  the  front  page  the  death  report  of  a  rebellious,  brilliant,  and  unemployed  young  man  who  set  himself  on  fire  to  protest  against  the  govt.  and  one  of  his  friends  has  seriously  been  burnt  in  his  effort  to  save  him.  Muhib  is  admitted  to  a  hospital.  His  father  and  all  his  well-wishers  come  there  to  pray  for  him.  The  novel  comes  to  an  end  here.

Humayun  Ahmed  (1948-2012)  was  a  professor  of  Chemistry  in  the  University  of  Dhaka,  Bangladesh  up  to  mid  90s.  Then  he  resigned  from  his  post  to  devote  all  his  time  to  writing  and  film  making.  He  is  popularly  known  among  masses  as  an  author,  dramatist,  and  filmmaker  and  considered  as  the  ‘cultural  legend’  of  Bangladesh.  Ahmed’s  claim  to  fame  was  his  very  first  novel  ‘Nondito  Noroke’  (In  Blissful  Hell)  in  1972  and  after  that  almost  all  of  his  books  remained  in  the  list  of  best  sellers.  The  characters  of  ‘Himu’  and  ‘Misir  Ali’  are  his  two  such  creations  which  have  gained  popularity  not  only  in  Bangladesh  but  also  to  all  modern  Bengali  literature  lovers.  Some  of  his  books  have  also  been  translated  in  many  other  languages.  Ahmed  was  conferred  with  ‘Ekushey  Padak’,  one  of  the  highest  civilian  honours  in  Bangladesh  for  his  substantial  contribution  to  the  field  of  art  and  literature  along  with  many  other  national  and  international  acclamations.

Ahmed  is  best  known  for  the  representation  of  middle  class  lives;  its  values  and  sentiments  in  his  works.  His  tremendous  popularity  mainly  rests  in  his  use  of  easy  and  lucid  prose  and  this  very  novel  is  no  exception  of  it.  He  wrote  the  novel  some  thirteen  years  ago  but  its relevance  is  still  very  much  there  in the  society.  The  severe  problem  of  unemployment  in  a  country  always  make  educated  young  generation  frustrated.  Though  the  place  of  the  event  is  Bangladesh,  it  has  transcended   the  place  in  its  appeal  as  we  can  easily  notice  today  such  problem  hence  youth  unrest  everywhere  in  the  sub-continent,  sometimes  in  abroad  too.  The  neglectful  treatment  towards  Muhib  and  his  friends  by  others  is  a  known  picture  to  us.  It  depicts  society’s  growing  irresponsibility,  inhumanity  and  indifference.  At  the  same  time  it  also  reminds  that  impulsiveness  takes  us  nowhere  but  to  more  hopelessness  and  destruction.

Lucid  prose  though  provides  an  easiness  in  reading,  sometime  loses  compactness.  This very thing has happened here also.  Over lucidity  brings  ennui  and  we  find  if  some  otiose  episodes  and  characters  would  have  been  eliminated  from  the  text,  it  would  get  more  solidity.  Actually  the  novel  holds  the  content  of  a  brilliant  short  story  but  Ahmed’s  unnecessary  elongating  of  the  narrative  has  made  it  only  a  good  novel  alleged  with  some  nonsensical  detailing.

Reviewed by Prosenjit Ghosh
A  Teacher, Creative Writer, Independent Researcher,  Book  Reviewer from West  Bengal,  India


Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Scaling Heights: An Anthological Milestone of the Contemporary Indian English Writings/ Authorspress

Reviews, Vol. I, Issue III

Scaling Heights is a representative anthology of contemporary English poetry dealing with a vast gamut of themes. Well edited by Gopal Lahiri and Kiriti Sengupta, the anthology has a short but beautiful foreword by Anna Sujata Mathai who underlines that “poetry is the language of intimate soul, the secret language of the heart, the language of relationship” where “the self may discover itself”. Scaling Heights is indeed a literary "platform for young, unheard, promising poets from diverse backgrounds and established poets" showcasing “the kaleidoscopic nature of poems emerged in day to day struggle of living a life and the relentless uncoiling of action that endures torment and uncertainty” with an universal appeal. Put it simply, Scaling Heights is a flight of fancy in the literary firmament of the world literature.

To begin with, Aju Mukhopadhyaya provides the stepping stone to climb the literary height. In his poetry he deals with the themes of life, humanity, nature, spirituality including transience of life. He touches upon various facets of life from love, romance, and joy to spirituality. His are thought provoking and insightful poems, shaped up with deep understanding of human life faced with myriads of problems. He believes that with one’s persistent patience and unflinching faith in oneself ‘the turbulent sea would thaw’ at last. He boosts up readers with his motivating and encouraging poetry.

The world looks beautiful with variegated nature and immense love for the people. With his inner sense a man realizes the pitfalls of life's each moment in ‘action or in thought’ and regains inner succor in deep silence.  Anup Datta’s poems portray such a world very vividly. Love, human relationships and hope despite all pessimism play a significant role in the poems of Anupam Naskar. His “In Hopes Of” record sustained endeavors with varied moods.

The poetic world of Atreya Sarma U. is dominated by chains of life like pain, relationships, intimacy, flora and fauna and romanticism. At the same time, paradoxes in human life and the sense of contrasts and paradoxes are also dominant in his poems.  His poems evoke and kindle varied emotions in readers. He expresses his yearning to transcend ‘time and space’. Chandra Shekhar Dubey’s poems portray the picture of beautiful nature with vivid and excellent imageries; they also have a veiled satire on the political conditions. His poems are also soaked in past memories with realistic portrayal of the society. The world, where ‘a meal prefixes a deal/ and a deal suffixes a meal’, is in helter-skelter, everything being topsy-turvy. He longs for making it up with peace that ‘comes from within’. His political satire is very pinching in Parliament of Owls.

Anupam Roy’s poems are replete with tender feelings for the one he loves so much, and whose smiles soothe him in his ‘deepest heart to the brim full’. His love for siblings and children is reflective with deep touch. On the other hand, to Aparna Pathak, ‘Longing is beautiful’, ‘leaving trail of love’. The poet has a quest for introspection to quench the thirst of life here and beyond. She is of the view that carrying on the spiritual pursuits is ‘never a waste’. A sense of enthusiasm and human dignity is felt in her poem when she proclaims-“Even the blind did not lag behind’. She also expresses her bewilderment at the hectic life in the rapid world.

In the poems of Chitra Banerjee, continuous flux of time with its unending problems, its powers, evolution of humanity predicament of human life and various other issues pertaining to contemporary society find an excellent expression. Love is also an important theme of her poetry. She finds 'the pleasure of union of love', ‘happiness’, and 'bliss of achievements' and this is all possible due to eternal time. She also laments the loss of 'compassion, commitment, cohesion' and sense of 'coexistence', as 'corruption, coercion, caucus, cacophony' has taken their place. Her poems also elucidate upon the human existence with a metaphysical quest to know the genesis of life and the destination of death, with ugly turns of adverse circumstances. The naked truth is reflective in her poetry. The indifferent attitude of man to understand the ultimate reality also bothers her.

The growing commercialization and materialism has gripped the whole world. There is an alarming threat to ecological balance and to humanity that is losing the touch of heart. All the emotional, social, natural values, trust, fellow-feelings and love are receding at a faster pace. The poems of Diwakar Pokhriyal are testimony to this realization. He cries over 'detached humanity', as “We eat animals leaving nature stun” due to “Prioritizing money over life”. Very heavy-heartedly he accepts – “From golden emotional heart,/ We write 'Irony of humanity'. He is all praise for the beauty of his beloved, love that keeps him “away from misunderstanding and lies”. However, his loving heart is pained to see “Selfish love raping trust” and traumatized souls groping for the relief. There pervades a sense of realism, with melancholy, throughout his poems.  Almost the same theme also echoes in the poems of Gayatri  Majumdar who gives a wonderful vent to her random thoughts from the corridors of her consciousness. Desires, aspirations and dreams underlie unfulfilled and shattered. Her poems are soaked in sadness and frustrations. She has nostalgia for her love, now no longer with her but the sudden remembrance of her lost love comes up and that finds a tragic mention in her poems.

In the poems of Gopal Lahiri we find vivid hues of love and life, despite losses, sadness and inevitable setbacks are aglow with profound thoughts and ideas. As a lover of nature, he expresses his anxieties about man-made pollutions resulted from urbanization process, that are emitting toxins  everywhere, that have defiled the true beauty of nature. He bemoans the loss of good things from our society. Silence speaks louder than his words in his poems with tormented soul. Colors used in his poems paint various pictures of the contemporary world. They evoke emotions in the readers to grasp the dignity of humanity. His poems present “a rare spectrum” with elusive words “in emptiness” flooding his emotions “on unstable crust of silence.” The vivid description of beauty also finds its due place in his poems. In short, he is a poet full of potentiality and possibilities.

Simplicity has great attraction in our life. With it comes a large number of good things that bring great joy and pleasure for us. Jagdish Keshav is all praise for its importance in our life. However, with the change of time and trends, true values of simplicity are being eroded and this erosion has saddened the poet. The poet calls simplicity his ‘friend’ and ‘companion’. He expresses his dissatisfaction with the present life styles followed in cities. For this chaotic situation he holds the people responsible- “But that came from men and not the beasts of the jungle.” Exploration into the unexplored aspects of life, into the beautiful aspects of the unseen and the hidden is yet another theme of his poetry.

Love, life, existential concerns, the plight of the underprivileged and dalits, naxalism, human predicament form the basic core of the poems of Dr Jaydeep Sarangi. Different patterns of thoughts with musical echo beautify his poetic style and impressive creativity. Living in “Lonely corridors” of the metro he is concerned with “threat to my (his) native links.”  To him a city life is too disturbing as he metaphorically remarks- “Like any metro tunnel/ where life heads for a blind end.” Further, very honestly he accepts that “Love is rather a skinny matter/ I collect somebody’s leftover.” In his poetry his silence speaks loudly, realizing “full circle of things”. To him time is all that matters. As a strong voice of the marginalized, he is consciously concerned with the sad plight of the downtrodden being subjected to atrocities and tortures not only by  highhanded police but also by their own leaders  who “cut down your (their) throat/ they take your (their) land and bow.” For betterment of their life, he is hopeful “Indian Maxim Gorky can save a race.” His poetry is a realistic depiction of “our Alice-moments in dramatic life.”

In his poems Jubin Ghosh confesses his Platonic love and deep longing for Deblina. His poetry is like “a note written with sand on a snail’s tail.” His personal thoughts and feelings run through his poems, “with ease and personal purity.” He believes in permanency of love, hence despite sea-changes in “villages and the towns” his love for her is unchanging.

Jyothsna Phanija’s poetry presents the Golden Twilight in the extended night of life with dreams, hope and happiness. She also takes up the theme of superstitions prevalent in our society and in ignorant people. Childhood days still tempt her to their glorious phases of delight “like lambent moonlight”. To her a child is the prince or the princess of “enkindling light” in the “river of happiness, mountainous innocence”.  She yearns for returning “to the shells of memories childhood seashore site”. There is a pervading sense of loneliness and nostalgia in her poems. Intensity of love with sensuousness is reflective of hers as well. Moreover, like a true poet of women, she takes their side. Through the poignant portrayal of miseries of Sayori, she brings home the point - even today we find the Sayori in many other women of the nation.

Kiriti Sengupta's poems advocate “spiritual pursuits” and quests in life. His poetic endeavor lies in unclouding our souls to “Reach the void, and see the cage”. In his poetry we find the ways to unravel the mysteries of the unexplored facets of human life. However, he holds the view that “defining soul is difficult.” His thoughts on metaphysical aspects of life veer around the “Nucleus” of mysticism and spirituality- “Whatever you wish, darling; remember, the limit is half of a thousand.” As a spiritual insightful poet, he perceives the invisible presence of the Invisible.

The poetic world of Madhumita Ghosh is replete with love and romance, in addition to the beauty of nature all around. Symbolical interpretation of the subtle meaning of Goddess Kali is testimonial to her firm faith in the feministic principle of creation, destroying the evil “racing across the universe/ to usher in the good.” The most striking feature of her poetry is her bold expression of revolts against the age-old stereotyped social norms. With her feminist sensibility she challenges social taboo and the restrictions imposed on women desirous of tasting the ‘forbidden fruit’. On the other hand, the poetic garden of Mary Annie A.V. is dotted with beautiful portrayal of variegated nature with butterflies of thoughts, humming around smiling flowers, whistling winds, vast sea while singing songs of life, realizing the power of destiny, making compromise with predicament in life. She emerges the best with her striking expressions like “Wheels that move on/ birth life and death./ Moments of peace/ sandwiching.” There are several beautiful images that depict life with its ebbs and tides. Pessimistic elements found in her poems show the positive side of her poetic writings. She remarks- “I am ripped open / left to bleed.”

Mohini Gurav’s fascination with theme of love is remarkable in her poems. Through the ‘Magic of Love’ she wishes to establish an amicable empire of peace and harmony in the world ripped off by the commercial onslaughts. Nostalgia is an important tool that racks up the romance and love in her.  As a poet of love and romance she believes that the romantic smiles have the capability of uplifting soul to a blissful height. In her poems she talks about the beautiful relations and formation of strong bonds. She puts more emphasis to live a life of love and joy, as the ‘Time flies’, ‘Leaving the memories behind’. She is aware of the hard reality of life and hence suggests that love alone can resolve the problems of life- “Language is misused to/ Create misunderstandings,/ Quarrels and rivalries many/Which can be solved with love/ Care and concern only.”  She expresses her anguish over killing girl child. With true motherly pathos she pleads-“Save female foeticides./I wish to see them bloom/ Like the way I do.” She is also kind to animals and requests through her poems not to resort to animal butchering. As a lover of peace, she reiterates to establish harmony in the world. Her poetry is really a brilliant expression of her thoughts on various universal things of life.

Moinak Dutta’s poems are his poetic outbursts. He opines that true poetry is born in the loving heart of a tormented mind, bringing smiles on his/ her face, and it provides peace to their soul. A poem deals with outer world and the innermost. It has an eternal promise. It is a thoughtful reflection of beauty of nature. A brilliant and apt use of elegant similes and metaphors, and personifications to convey his message is another beauty of his poetic technique.

In her poems,  Monika Pant deals with several themes from life, world, desires and lusts, joy and pleasures, pain, dreams, illusion, transition, nature, beauty, philosophical quest, juxtaposing of ethereal and earthly, and most importantly the renunciation and emancipation. Her poetry is “A kaleidoscope of dreams/ emotions distilled in a cup of poison” on “a painted picture” of life, in the “perfect world/ like an elusive dream.” She muses over the futility and transitory of dreams and world, and desires. She believes that the emotions pursuits are obviously painful. With a very beautiful commentary on the Indian landscape made during her train journey, she describes the beauty of pied nature and then she questions philosophically- “What is this journey, if at all?/ Who goes where? And who stands still? “. Further, she reveals her assumption- “Am I the viewer and you the viewed?/ Or is it you who is watching over me still? “ Attachment and detachment are one of the real concerns of the poet.  She has firm faith in dignity of man. “A born heretic, an enlightened man,/ A man nevertheless”. She makes eye-opening remarks- “Lust for gold, or for the flesh,/ The deep dark desires within,/ Who knows how to dislodge a vice?” She sarcastically underlines- “Steeped in worldly pleasures-/They are no worse than/ His Holiness desecrated.” And this summarizes her thoughts at one place.

Payal Pasha expresses her love for the animals, children and natural objects. She is moved to see the plight of beggars. Her poems lie in proper redressing of their problems which find full expression in her poetry. She appeals to the people to have kindness for each one here in the world. Sometimes, she turns philosophical and perceives ‘invisible arms’. She believes ‘after all,/What goes around comes around.’ Her ‘Crusade’ is a triumphant of her thoughts on love and life. She rightly says that ‘my love is much stronger/ than your hate ever will be.’ In ‘Friends’, she prays for warmth of closeness between two friends as to her ‘a friend is a mirror that tells the truth.’ However, in absence of ‘goodwill’, ‘ego rides in the driver’s seat’.

Ananaya S. Guha has great feelings for October as it has his “winter of longing” and at the same time, ‘wistful’ ‘nostalgia’. “Me, You” is a beautiful poem with beautiful ideas about ‘memory“. He is the best in his shortest poem 'Childhood' with his striking lines. “We sell our souls/and she sells her childhood” contains a scathing satire and also compassion for penurious children, bereft of happiness of their childhood. Angad Singh Saluja deals with many universal facets of life, evil practices of untouchability and vices polluting human life, subjugation of women being tortured. His portrayal of caste discrimination and rape of virtues is haunting and touching.

Nitin Soni seems to be a poet of realism, who has heart of gold for the poorer sections of society. His faith in human values is reflective in his poems to a larger extent. Like “Trees are lamenting the separation of leaves”, he is saddened to see that miseries and sorrow of the world mocks “at the state of happiness”. However, there prevails “Naked Silence, naked reality” everywhere. His is poetry of protests and revolts against the social systems, a pinching satire on the coldness of the people.  As a poet of the underprivileged sections of society, he is sympathetic to their plight with all his generosity and compassionate heart. Absurdity of human life, and all our so-called charitable acts is another theme that his poetry deals with a great sense of realism, for “We are tormented creatures of a ‘Silent-burdened-clock’,/ Frustrated by the cycle of life.”

Perugway Ramkrishna‘s poems are the realistic portrayal of human predicament, social realism optimistic zeal and advocate for the global unity in the interest of humanity as a whole. On the other hand, Prabir Roy is aphoristic in his brilliant expression of his ideas. His poetry not only reflects existential concerns but also weaves pearls of wisdom with philosophy of life. The element of cosmic divinity is sparkling also.

In his poetry, Pradipta Kumar Mohanty presents a comprehensive overview of human life with all varied moods and vivid vision. His longing for the reality, hope in despair, dreams, love all find a brilliant expression. There is a perfect blend of romanticism and spirituality culminating into ecstatic bliss. He explores the ‘novelty/ by crossing every possible boundary’.

With his ‘twinkling, sparkling’ poems of love, Prahallad Satpathy recalls his ‘girl poem’, the poetic muse and goes on to the extent of his own subjectivity. His beautiful description of ‘the geographical territory’ leads him to the subtle realm, where he perceives Death as a silent ‘Intruder’. He is alive to the realization that ‘life continues in this earth/ and death continues in this earth’ and that we are mere players in ‘the celestial drama’ till the end.

Ram Sharma’s poems are ‘sweet lull echo of music’ wafting from deep ‘darkness’ with ‘vibrations of positivity’. He takes his readers to a soulful sojourn ‘Beyond seeing- beyond mind’ dipping their soul ‘in the vast ocean of celestial light’. Further, he rightly remarks that ‘relations become foggy/ when words become wounds’. He satirizes modern people with no touch of spirituality- ‘men are drinking petrol and diesel/ eating their heart and soul.’ His poetic creed is to ‘revive the life’ and ‘concrete soul’.

The poems of Ramakanta Das revolve around human life with vast envelope of celestial light.  He prescribes the ‘praying words’ of divinity to heal the hearts writhing in pangs of loneliness on their ‘allotted spot’. He highlights the fact of life that we are born with 'a transitory existence on parole/ in the thickness of harsh realities’. Only the divine force recharges our life and redeems us. Spirituality and aphorism are the hallmark of his poetry.

In the days of high-tech age everything is being translated into a virtual reality. Love, emotion, poetry are all there with their warmth that the techno-savvy feels and this feeling has found a brilliant expression in the poetry of Dr Ratan Bhattacharjee. He presents a world of dreams where love provides ‘warmth of home’. Love remains forever from the cruel clutch of Time. That’s why he woos his beloved to spend some precious times with him, enjoying to the fullest each and every moment of life. The apt use of metaphor and the diction add beauty to his poetry.

The poetry of Sunil Sharma is a beautiful tapestry with a fine portrait of life and diurnal activities being executed in Mumbai. From pictorial description of the monsoon to the sad plight of the begging people, all these are wonderfully reflected with a human touch. His appreciation of God’s 'wonderful sky’ is quite noteworthy. His poetry is the heartfelt outcome of his keen and minute observation of objects of nature that provides the reader with aesthetic pleasure.

Tapeshwar Prasad expresses his love of nature with all its constructive and destructive power. Influenced by pantheistic idea of P B Shelley, he finds immense significance of nature in life. Celestial beauty of nature appeals to his soul. Imagistic, aphoristic expressions captivate the readers with their subtlety and fluid movement of thoughts, draped in the “Universal language of love.’ Despite ‘the worldly tricks’ and the ‘broken man’ in him, he tries his best to search for the meaning in life. His poetry is noted for a wonderful expression of the inevitability of death and transience and futility of life.

Varsha Singh, in her poetry, sings the glory of unification of love in proper harmony with the thought and imagery. She believes that ‘love is utmost / without a rule/ which keeps alive/ the sense of life’ and it’s the sectarian people ‘who made the world/ fractured from within.’ The vivid description of the earthly beauty is at its best with ‘grandeur covered with elegance’. Her poems are aglow with ‘sublime radiance’. Her English translation of Hindi poems is also much more beautiful that exhibit her special translation skills.

Vihang A. Naik’s poetry is a manifestation of his poetic creed, his creative vision and beauty, intensity of strong emotions, philosophy of life, sense of realism, eco-socio-political concerns, and existential dilemma. His poetry has several features, both thematically and technically. Love for native places, personal love, ecological concerns, ambiguity, beauty of nature, quest for the meaning in life, poetic vision are some of the recurring themes that find a brilliant and frequent expression in his poems.

Vivekanand Jha’s poems are all soaked deep in spirituality and profound philosophy which, in perfect blend, provide ‘a true meaning of life’ despite ‘a cascade of complexities’. His poetry deals with his insightful thought that form ‘a shelter and shadow’ for the tired travelers from ‘heat wave’ of the world. His contemplative soul has a quest to ‘illumine’ his darkness. Also, some elements of satire find a corrective expression.

To sum up, Scaling Heights provides succor to the soul, joyous beauty to mind and heart, deep insights and vision to the people, by scaling down the height of ever elevating poetic skyscraper. This comprehensive anthology of 202 poems by fifty six accomplished talented and emergent poets from different parts of the country is very pleasant and enjoyable and a must read book for all the lovers of poetry across the world.

Reviewed by Bhaskaranand Jha Bhaskar
Bhaskaranand Jha Bhaskar is a trilingual poet (Maithili, Hindi and English ), short story writer and a reviewer, based in Kolkata. He is regularly published in various national and international magazines, both printed and online. Email - 

Monday, 23 March 2015

Birth of the Bastard Prince by Anurag Anand/ Rupa Publications

Reviews, Vol I, Issue III

Birth of the Bastard Prince by Anurag Anand is one of the most beautifully written book I have ever read. The book is a sequel to Anurag's earlier novel by name The Legend of Amrapali. Unlike Mahabharata and Ramayana, though people have heard of Amrapali, her story is little known to them. This works in favour of Anurag. The book keeps you intrigued. It is a daunting task to write a book based on history. There is fear of being accused of distorting the history. However, Anurag adroitly weaves the story while sticking to historical facts. The story has all the elements to form an epic – there is love, betrayal, loss of dear ones, friendships broken and finding the ultimate calling of life.

Amrapali was the bride of the city. Yet Anurag portrays her not as a prostitute but as a modern woman who yields high influence in the affairs of the State. Yet, she comes across as an ordinary woman with ordinary desires of having some one whom she can call her own, wanting some one who will love her and whom she would love back. Such is her misfortune that both her lover and her friend fail her at the same time. She is heartbroken, but still stands up and follows the voice of her heart. Conventionally Amrapali's tale may seem to be a tragic tale of exploitation and failure but for her it turns out to be exhilarating and liberating.

The writing is simple, crisp and engaging. Vaishali being a democratic State Anurag makes the writing contemporary with references like the young king wanting to induct fresh ministers. He brings to life the times of Amrapali. The way in which he has written the war scenes show his prowess as a writer. You can see the battle happening in front of your own eyes, you can hear the sounds from the battle field and even feel the pain resultant from the massacre. All the characters including Bimbisara, Ajatshatru, Prabha have been etched well. However, I felt that the character of Devdutt was underused. His character some how doesn't get well with the narrative. The characters, their relationships and conflicts inter se are high point of this drama and remind you of the greatest epic of all times Mahabharata.

However the reference to tea vendors selling tea on Ganga ghats sounded out of place. The same stands true for use of the word Magistrate. The Britishers introduced Magistrates in our system. I feel Dandadhikari would have sounded better. Also on page 234 the word leant is incorrectly used. The line is “ it was only through the commander who had carried out the Emperor's orders he leant of it.” I feel it should have been learnt and not leant.

Still the book is highly recommended. If you are fed up of reading Dan Brown inspired thrillers and wish to read a gripping thriller set in the Indian soil, this is the book which will leave you satiated. You will never repent buying this book. 

Reviewed by Mahesh Sowani

Miles to Run Before I Sleep by Sumedha Mahajan/ Rupa Publications

Reviews, Vol. I, Issue III

In Miles to Run before I Sleep Sumedha Mahajan documents her 1500 kilometers run from Delhi to Mumbai which she undertook in April 2012. This was no ordinary feat for any person whether man or a woman. Moreover Sumedha was born with asthma. She was required to be hospitalized countless times when the ailment attacked her.

She was never an athlete. She took up running at the age of twenty eight just for the sake of it. She had no plans to win gold or silver at any tournament. The best happens to you when you least expect them. This is how the opportunity came to her way to be a part of the greenathon run. The team comprised of ordinary people except one – supermodel Milind Soman. Sumedha was the sole woman in this team.

Sumedha has mentioned  in the book not only her physical run but also her emotional run. Such a long run is not as glamorous as it appears to the outside world. So we have even Milind Soman tending to his bruised body. Sumedha too has had her share of misfortunes during the run. The crew members of the channel which was covering her run were leaving no opportunity unturned to dissuade Sumedha from giving up the run. The doctor accompanying them was not equipped with even the basic stuff. The pollution was causing her bouts of asthma. She was emotionally drained too. But still this brave woman completed the run. Even after completion of the run there were no words of appreciation for her. Rather she was criticized for her speed or rather lack of it. But she had gained her inner steel out of the run and went out to start her own business against all the opposition. Needless to say she succeed in her business.

The writing is simple. What makes Miles to Run before I Sleep special is its sincerity. Every word is dipped in honesty which easily makes its way to the reader's heart. You enjoy the run with Sumedha. You can feel her ups and downs. When she emerges as a winner even you feel victorious. All her emotions including the genuineness in her tone are easily palpable.

The book encourages you. After completing the book I sat idle with the closed book in my hands. The book was throbbing with energy. This book exhibits that to reach your reader's heart you do not need flowery words or jargons. All that you require is honesty and sincerity. It also tells us that all is not rosy when it comes to such great events which are etched on the reel of time forever. But winners neither complain nor do they quit. The book is highly recommended for every one. It has the potential to change your life for good. 

Reviewed by Mahesh Sowani

Film Review: Dum Laga Ke Haisha: A Feministic Tour de Force

Reviews, Vol. I, Issue III
George Sand, a nineteenth century French novelist asserted way back in 1872: “Art for art’s sake is an empty phrase. Art for the sake of truth, art for the sake of the good and the beautiful, that is the faith I am searching for.” Chinua Achebe, a postcolonial African writer in a trenchant way, goes to the extent of hailing ‘art for art’s sake’ as “just another piece of deodorised dog shit.”

Art demands a lot of ingenuity whilst being assertively alert to socio-cultural maladies. Truly it is an artiste’s prerogative to conceive cutting-edge expressions to voice it to as many souls as possible- a multitude of emotions that abode a human heart; and the prejudices of the degenerate society. A gargantuan task indeed- which engages the artists’ in commingling a variety of techniques : concocting newer crafts to laundry the system’s rot and affiliating it with aesthetically tailored recital of events, aimed at enchanting the senses of the viewers in sync.

The winning dialogue of The Dirty Picture (2011) – “Filmein sirf teen cheezo ke wajah se chalti hain... entertainment, entertainment ...” garnered a lot of applause in the contextual framework of the movie but falls deflated and dispirited when assessed scholastically beyond the precincts of the movie. Not only it puts at risk  the wisdom of the cine-goers, who are no more infatuated with Bollywood masala movies but instead prefer to judiciously spend their time and money on issue based cinema. It also confines the critical acclaim and commercial success of a movie to its ‘entertainment quotient’ only brushing aside the thematic concerns and social relevance of ‘substance cinema.’

The Dirty Picture triumphed in ‘stirring the souls’ of its audiences by inviting them to view in all nakedness; and live outrightly through the oculus of cinema – an assortment of splendour and pathos in the lives of the so called ‘sex-symbols’ of the film industry, be it Silk Smitha of Kollywood – the Tamil language film industry or Marilyn Monroe of Hollywood. The fictionalised biopic initiated newer debates pivoted around many a feministic discourses. Borrowing words of Rajat Aroraa- the dialogue writer of the movie, the film dared to raise questions on how in a patriarchal society: “women are held up to judgement more easily in roles men have gotten away for ages.”

In the recent past Bollywood is engaged in churning out with élan and finesse, a banquet of issue based cinema. The list is long but a few references like Chak de India, Taare Zameen Par, 3 Idiots, Fashion, Queen, Mary Kom, Mardani, Haider and PK are suffice to define the canon. Dum Laga Ke Haisha (2015) is the latest entrant to the bandwagon. The romantic comedy under the production aegis of Yash Raj Films and adroit and foxy direction of sophomore director, Sharat Kataria; zip codes a number of termini in one go, to name a few: the Indian obsession with English language, the topsyturviness of youth under overreaching patriarchal authority, and the issue of envisioning female bodies as erotic objects only.

The plot of the movie introduces us to Prem Prakash Tiwari (Ayushmann Khurrana) - as a 25 years old, school dropout, courtesy his disabling lack of talent to qualify his tenth-standard English exam. Viewed as a loser by his family especially his father, Prem is invariably exposed to his father’s ridicule and bullying. Marooned in his father’s audio cassette-repair shop, hearing to Kumar Sanu’s timeless melodies comes as a refreshing breather for Prem. A dialogue from the movie pertinently describes his state of mind and his status quo too:
“Teen Cheez hai koi kuch karle meri aankhon se assu tapakne se na rok sake. Ek to angrezi ka prashn patra, dusri Kumar Sanu ki awaaj, teesri papaji ki chappal.”

Undeterred by his dilapidated realities; Prem -doused and sodden in the film world, would not happily settle down with a bride, having even a speck less than the sculpted look of a cinestar- lithe, taut, and svelte. Film critic Laura Mulvey’s treatise of ‘cinematic spectatorship’ is quite plausible in stating ‘the standard operative procedures’ adopted by conventional film makers. Conventional cinema pitches men as ‘emissaries of voyeuristic gaze’ in both the story and the audience while the female characters hold an “appearance coded for strong visual and erotic impact.”

Waylaid and entrapped in this psyche, Prem’s inflated male ego is shattered to smithereens when his family takes a utilitarian decision of marrying him off to the twenty -two years old, amply qualified, (aspiring teacher) plus- size but fun-loving and confident Sandhya Verma (Bhumi Penderkar).
After an inaugural pandemonium Prem and Sandhya’s ‘marriage of unequals’ mutates into a mushy, lovey-dovey affair. ‘Love comes in all sizes’ as the tagline of the movie comes alive when Prem gazes at the true worth of Sandhya. He starts taking pride in consorting- the educated and intelligent Sandhya. Not only the ‘couple compatible’ dares to participate in “Dum Laga Ke Haisha” contest which entails the male partner of the duo to shoulder his female chum and run a race. The joie de vivre of Sandhya goads Prem to backpack his 85 kilos damsel like a trophy. Celebrating his newly-found love, Prem stretches the race way beyond the winning post by blithely and buoyantly taking Sandhya around the entire town in the same posture.
The film manages to denounce and deconstruct unrealistic images of women’s beauty assuaging both men and women out of its constrictive tutelage to live wholesome lives. The movie echoes- bereft of all sermonising and in all subtlety, the eternal feminine tiding- “Look at us beyond our bodies.” 
Who said- Art is not functional.

Reviewed by Manjinder Kaur Wratch
The writer is an academician-turned- research scholar who is having a gala time pursuing her literary interests; her recent stopover being reviewing literary works and penning homilies on the arty-crafty realm of ‘substance cinema.’

Saturday, 21 March 2015

In Conversation with Olivier Lafont

Reviews, Vol I, Issue III
Interviewed by Himanshu Shekhar Choudhary, Editor-in-Chief, Reviews

Olivier Lafont who garnered lots of attention for his role in 3 Idiots as Suhas Tandon is showing more of his talent with the publication of his novel 'Warrior' by Penguin. We are glad to feature an interesting conversation with him in our magazine.
Lafont is a multitalented and versatile personality who writes fiction, feature film screenplays, and editorial pieces, but also acts in feature films, endorses some of India’s most popular brands on television, and lends his voice to many media in many languages. A French polyglot, Lafont pursues his eclectic interests at the highest standards having worked with some of India’s most acclaimed directors on films like 3 IDIOTS, Guzaarish and two Hollywood films, and continuing in the same vein with his new novel coming out with Penguin India. He is a familiar face due to his work in over 70 adverts on television.

HS: Actor, model, screenplay writer, voice over artist, director, producer and now an author. How did you recognize all of them in you? 
Olivier: For me the common thread in all these is being a storyteller. I started writing at a very young age, although I think my passion for stories preceded even that. I developed a passion for acting a little later. In university I did my BAs in English Literature and in Acting, and from there I moved back to Mumbai, where I was able to cultivate this large variety of interests professionally.

HS: Living a hectic life, playing so many roles; writing was not something new to you, but how did you think of writing a novel? How did the idea come to your mind?  
Olivier: I’ve been writing for quite some time, and writing a novel was a very natural part of my creative life. ‘Warrior’ was originally a feature film script I wrote when I came back to India from university, more than a dozen years ago. I wanted to write an Indian film that would be on the same scale as the special effects blockbusters that were coming out of Hollywood then. So with that canvas in mind, I created a story that delved in Indian mythology but that would be new, modern, and authentic.

HS: You have been in India since the age of 7. How Indian is your recently released book Warrior? 
Olivier: It’s completely Indian in its setting, culturally and geographically, but universal in theme and structure.

HS: Why didn't Warrior happen in French, your mother tongue? Are you planning any translation/s of this novel? 
Olivier: I learned French and English at the same time in my home, so both are my native tongues. My family moved from France to Delhi and I attended the American Embassy School there, so the majority of my education was in English, both as a young writer and actor. I just continued in that vein, since I’ve lived mainly in English-speaking countries.
I’d love for ‘Warrior’ to be translated into French and other languages. As of now the focus is on ‘Warrior’ in English in India.

HS: Which of your roles relaxes you the most, although, all the roles you live in, are of your choice?
Olivier: Writing is the most relaxing, since I do it privately, in an environment of my choice, and as and when I like.

HS: It would be intriguing to know the meaning of life from such a multidimensional being alike you.
Olivier: The meaning of life for me is passion. That means, for example, being with people I love, doing the things I love. I systematically avoid anything that doesn’t have passion in it, whether it’s my work life or my personal life.

HS: What is the first next treat for your fans and followers coming from your side just after your novel?
Olivier: I’m still deciding what’s next, but I’ve just written a feature film script, the first one with myself as the main character. It’s a really fun comedy, and I’m looking for a producer to partner with on it. It could be an Indian film or an international one, so the producer could also be Indian or international.

HS: Multiculturalism is not a new term to you; it has touched your life very closely. Did this made you a better human or was it disturbing?
Olivier: I think my multicultural background and experiences have been mostly constructive. The move from France to India when I was seven years old was difficult to deal with, naturally, but that’s circumstantial - the positive effect of moving to this amazing country that is India cannot be overemphasized. Multiculturalism, when embraced, can only make you grow.

HS: Do you agree, we write with a purpose? What has been your purpose of writing; entertainment or something more? 
Olivier: I don’t think there’s such a thing as purposeless writing. All writing has some purpose because it’s expression, and all expression comes from a need to say something.
My purpose in writing is varied. I have a great desire to entertain, of course, which is why ‘Warrior’ has adventure and drama and heroism. That’s my external purpose. Internally, however, I write to live the stories, to learn through my writing, to grow intellectually and spiritually.

HS: Your novel Warrior was recently shortlisted for the Tibor Jones South Asia Prize. It would have been thrilling, of course. But what thrills you the most?
Olivier: Success and winning in all its forms. Knowing your readers got exactly what you intended, or watching your audience laugh or react at the precise place you want them to, that’s thrilling.

HS: At last, we would like to have few words from you for the budding and struggling talents around us. 
Olivier: Perseverance without purpose is useless and frustrating - know exactly what you’re aiming to do, and why you’re doing it.

HS: Thank you very much for being with us. We wish you tremendous success in all your journeys. 
Lafont at his book launch

Connect with Olivier Lafont on Facebook | Twitter | 
Buy Warrior via Amazon