Published by Niyogi Books, Saanvri: the story of a concubine; is an appalling novel by the filmmaker Vinod Pande. Use of the prefix ‘filmmaker’ before the novelist’s name is intentional. The very tale of Saanvri appears more of a filmmaker rather than of a novelist. The story of Saanvri unfolds much like the narrative of a film script, which seems bound to be converted for the silver screen in future or the idea of its conception as a film might have come before its commencement as a novel.
Bold and explicit in nature, the dominating aspect of this novel is its storyline. The novel’s plot is adapted from the real life account of Bhanvri Devi – a Dalit midwife in Rajasthan, whose brutal murder in the year 2011 shook the nation to dismay. Pande was vigilant about the incident and he wanted to document it in any form. Known for showing real mirror to society, Vinod Pande chose the medium of novel writing this time.
Told in a racy style, the novel does not demand much of expertise from its readers, as the language is effortless, however, effective. It scathingly represents the struggle of a young girl who instead of numerous exploitations, rises to strength in her womanhood and makes sure to live according to her own choices. Once a victim – Saanvri transforms herself into a dreadful exploiter and turns the system upside-down. However, deceived by the patriarchal structure, she destroys herself in the process by the hands of high-profile political mafias.
The constant employment of slangs and abuses in the novel seem unnecessary at times, and hence, make it a perfect Bollywoodized script. The folk elements give a rustic overtone to the novel and bring it more close to the Indian readership, especially those familiar with the Rajasthani culture and dialect.
Romi Mittal, a film journalist and columnist calls it right,
“Pande’s book is a scorcher!”It is, indeed.
About Vinod Pande
Vinod Pande has walked many a path: a civil servant with the British Government, a broadcaster with the BBC, the maker of several documentaries and ad-films, he helmed one of the popular TV networks launched during the late nineties and ran his own advertising agency in London. After his foray into Bollywood, he was a member of the jury for important award ceremonies and chaired the selection committees for the Indian entry for the Oscar Awards on two occasions. He is, however, most well-known as the producer, writer and director of the Hindi film Ek Baar Phir; other notable ones like Yeh Nazdeekiyan and Sins; and acclaimed TV serials Air Hostess and Reporter.
He lives and works as a filmmaker and author in Mumbai. After Don's Wife, a story on forbidden love, born in the crucible of crime, this is his second novel. His next novel, Destiny, is soon to be published.
Reviewed by Varsha Singh
Managing Editor, Reviews